Every day I learn more about what makes pretty food. Colors, positioning, plating — so much goes into creating an edible visual delight. If you are like me, and you aspire to make and serve pretty food but you’re still learning how, do what I do: Deconstruct.
When you see something (in a magazine, a cookbook, on tv, in person) that fits your definition of pretty food, perform a visual dismantlement. Take it apart with your eyes. Identify the elements that are contributing to the overall presentation. Try to understand why each one is important and how each factor contributes positively to the finished product.
Here is an example. On the club level at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco, guests are offered an assortment of tasty salads and small sandwiches for a late afternoon snack. During a recent stay, this Asian Beef Salad caught my attention. It was the first thing I grabbed.
Alas, you know I’m a picky eater, so I might as well confess that my first perusal of the container was performed merely to ascertain whether there were any heinous ingredients lurking about. Not a problem. I plucked it off the treat-laden table and headed back to my table. It was so good-looking, I wanted it to be my prom date.
The question is — what made it so attractive? To figure that out, dissect it into its components, then examine each one in detail.
So, what can we point to as the elements of success for this dish?
- Great mix of color. Bright orange carrots, green-skinned zucchini, pink beef, yellow pepper strips, cream-colored jicama, black sesame seeds.
- Wonderful mix of textures. Lots of crunch, but of different types, mixed with the meaty pieces.
- Interesting shapes. Even the way the zucchini is sliced has an oriental flair to it.
And it tasted good, too. We don’t care how good it looks. That’s the ultimate test.
Try to deconstruct some pretty food yourself. Here’s an Asian Burger from Weber Grill in Chicago you can start with.