So you're not a pro with a paintbrush or an expert sketcher—maybe you just haven't found the right medium for your artistic expression. Plating food is a great way to stretch those creative muscles, and Masterchef Canada star Eugene Cheng has all the dirt on plating like Picasso (or whatever artist you aspire to be).
Check out Cheng's five tips for food styling like the master you are below—and if you're in Edmonton March 19th to 22nd, you can check out Chef Cheng at the Edmonton Home and Garden Show.
1. Plan Like Michelangelo
Not all artists plan out their masterpieces beforehand—but when it comes to plating, you'll want to know exactly how your metaphorical marble will transform into your metaphorical David. "List out the components in your dish, then draw your plan until you can visualize in advance where you want each component, and the overall composition of the plate," suggests Cheng. He also stresses the importance of having all your eats ready to go at the same time, and using warm plates for warm dishes: you don't want cold food to spoil your vision.
2. Know Your Oils Like Munch
"Foods typically contain oil and liquids that start to leak onto a plate if you place them straight from the pan," says Cheng. Instead of going straight from pan to plate, he recommends placing prepared foods on a paper towel-lined tray just before plating. Keep those dishes clean—and your dinner guests from looking like this guy.
3. Work Fast Like Banksy
Once you've decided exactly where that perfect prawn or single leaf of cilantro should be, you go for it. "Plate confidently and quickly," says Cheng. You heard him—plate like a vandal. Besides making you feel like a plating pro, being speedy ensures your food stays toasty. Cheng says not to plate a whole dish at one time, but rather to plate each component separately, building up the dishes like an edible assembly line.
4. Use Restraint Like da Vinci
There's a fine foodie line between being swift and being sloppy. "Try not to rush, as mistakes take longer to fix," says Cheng. Using restraint is also important. "If you need to ask yourself should I add more, most times the answer is no," Cheng says. Should the Mona Lisa have eyebrows? Maybe. But would we still be talking about it now? We'll never know. Remember that your dinner guests should still be able to see the canvas behind your masterpiece.
5. Get Saucy Like Pollock
What can't a great sauce do? Cheng notes many sauce superpowers: sauces can change the texture/moisture level of a dish, introduce a new flavor, bringing the food's temperature up, and—of course—open up plating possibilities. Like Pollock himself, embrace imperfection.