Skip to main content

Article content

All dishes will appear more appetizing and certainly gain more ooohhs and ahhhs if effort has been put into the presentation.


Check out these plating tips and quick decorating hacks, then test your friend’s and family’s reactions.

Don’t forget to take a photo before it’s devoured by them and tag us #westgoldnz.


Start with a plan

If you are getting really fancy you could sketch up the layout and have a practice plate.


Choosing the right dish

The color of plate matters! It is what your masterpiece sits on.  Think about whether the plate color is natural. If your food is vibrant, perhaps white is better for it to stand out on. Also check that the dish is functional – is it easy to eat out of. This obviously depends on whether you are eating it or just photographing it!


Small portions are easy to style

We are told that the formula is no more than six elements on a dish to prevent it looking overcrowded. And while you want to serve enough to satisfy your guests, some space on your plate looks stylish and is easier to make look good.


Giving the dish height

Building a dish from the bottom up is a good technique. You can even buy those ring molds and use them as a base, packing in some food i.e. potatoes, kumara, rice, pasta to provide the height to build on. Another way to do it is if you are plating something that has density to it, place it on the plate holding the spoon vertically. If you are placing greens – use tongs and put the food on in three additions, stacking them in a criss-cross as you add them.


Slicing meat

It always looks great when meat is sliced horizontally and fanned out on the dish. Or go free form and lay the meat sliced on its edge or on piped potato.




 Adding Texture

The addition of sauces in sweeps or droplets, or foams if you want to get fancy, add texture and interest to a dish. Try a dollop of puree spread across the plate with the back of a spoon. Pipe the potatoes, add a leaf of lettuce or other greens or some dotted oil.


Using colors that contrast 

In a perfect world these would be natural yet bold, and you can use a variety to catch the eye. Ideas are beetroot, matcha, berries or green vegetables. Select colorful ingredients for your dish; some come in a range of colors such as carrots, or beans or even cauliflower. Make that plate striking. You can also use complementary colors for your table setting.



What you use to finish your dish should be edible. This could be flowers, herbs, spices and make sure the flavor of these garnishes elevate the dish flavor versus detract. It needs to be multipurpose; look good and add to the flavor. A good tip is to garnish with an ingredient that is already in the dish.



Keep it simple & balanced

Don’t over crowd the plate, nor add a multitude of flavors. If you watch those cooking programmes so many novice chefs add too many elements and get reprimanded. You want people to taste the food you have spent time preparing. Let it be the showcase. It also makes sense to select one ingredient to highlight making sure not to clutter it.



And now the decorating hacks that will wow:

  • Have sifted freeze dried berries or icing sugar on part of the plate – first cover a section of the plate with a small saucer or cup and then shake the sieve of powder over the rest of the plate. Remove the small saucer or cup and place the food in that white space.
  • An alternative to the above is to place a piece of paper over half the plate and then shake/sieve a colored powdered food over it – then remove the paper so half the plate is undecorated and place the food on that plain side or on the dividing line.
  • Smear of sauce – squirt a large dollop of sauce toward the upper side of the plate and use the back of the spoon to swipe it downward, then stack the food to the side of that (not on the sauce).



  • Place mashed potato or kumara into a piping bag and pipe swirls on the plate beside the meat (and beside the smeared sauce)
  • Squeeze sauce in a horizontal line across the bottom third of the plate and then hold the plate up tilting away from you so that the sauce runs away from the line in drips then place food on part of the horizontal line
  • Squirt wee drips of sauce (sweet or savoury) in circles around the plate or in a line on one side of the plate then get a skewer and drag it through the centre of each sauce droplet turning it into a continuous line of almost heart shaped swirls.


Previous blog Next blog

Sign up for a taste of the West Coast