May 11, 2008

Tips of the 'Plating' Trade

I'm glad to finally have an insight into the art of plating. For the majority of diners out there, plating a dessert may seem like a fast and easy "Whack-it-on-there" type activity; little do we know how significant it is to how we end our meals. It is a reflection of the pastry chef's palate; his creativity, style and talent...and to a chef; that's everything!

Making a slice of pie or chocolate sundae presentable with 3-leaf-sprigs of mint plugged onto a mountain of whipped cream isn't exactly rocket science....and in my opinion should be discouraged when serving a well made dessert composition. I feel deeply passionate about presentation of food; but the Notter School has also taught me how not to make it a primary focus. Food is meant not to be 'eaten', but to be 'tasted'. Taste should always be what a dessert is built around. Meaning the garnishes and components placed artistically around the item should accentuate and compliment it's taste. It really is beyond just placing contrasting colours and awkwardly shaped components all over the place to create a crazy concoction! The thought process that goes behind creating every individual plate should be acknowledged. I will never be able to look at a plate of dessert the same again!

I really think my passion for food has made me a snob. My unfortunate friends who dine out with me have to bare with my opinionated and critical self. It's a constant flow of analysis at the dinner table...they have my permission to roll their eyes and throw sarcasm at my remarks. *laughs* I'm incredibly outspoken and can sometimes come off as whinge-y.. I can't decide if it's better to not voice opinions at all at times. Fellow you feel it comes from the habit of writing? I was never confident with speech as a kid; and am still insecure about many things about myself every day... could it be possible that blogging has built my ability to voice my opinions? .... ....
Enough self reflection for the morning...let's track back to our topic on plated desserts.Each dessert should be carefully composed to appeal to all our human senses- sight, hearing, taste and touch. The first glimpse of our plate gives us an immediate impression of the dessert and an expectation for how it should taste.

Past trends to build architectural structures with components have been abandoned in favour of compositions that, while attractive, are easy and accessible. The colours on a plate play a big role in our perception of flavour and it really is important that the colour of garnishes and sauces reflect what they taste.
Sound plays a smaller role in desserts but is just as important. Adding elements of crunch to a plate provides both texture and sound. For example; when you spoon into a creme brulee, the sound of the breaking sugar coating adds to the anticipation of the creamy and crunchy custard.
Successful plated desserts balance flavours and textures. Contrasts (warm/cold, creamy/crunchy, sour/sweet) add to the enjoyment of a dessert; e.g a warm molten chocolate cake with a scoop of coffee icecream over the top. Similar flavours and textures can also work together. It's important to remember that components need to be balanced and harmonious. Contrast can provide a pleasurable element of surprise; however, too much contrast causes elements to compete with one another rather than work together as a whole. Similarly, too much of the same elements can make the dessert heavy and unpleasant.
It is safe to say, most plated desserts contain the following components;
  • primary dessert (star item)
  • sauce
  • decoration
  • Crunch
However, there are those which feature more than one pastry item on the same plate.
I've done this in my Plated Desserts final composition.
Our class was fortunate to have the talented and knowledgeable Chef Susan Kolman;assistant Corporate Pastry Chef of Albert Uster Imports as our instructor for the second week of our subject. I really enjoyed my time spent with her as our Chef; she gave us very helpful insights on the industry and helped us with extremely thoughtful critic. She has inspired me to improve in many ways as a student and as an individual. She carried out our practicum examinations and allowed us to create our own composition with a couple of required components she had specified. They were chocolate mousse, chocolate biscuit, creme brulee and a sorbet.I decided to give Japanese savoury bento lunch boxes a chocolate-y twist!
This was lots of fun to make, I ran over to Izziban sushi in the morning to borrow a bento box for my presentation. I'm happy Chef Susan loved how fun it was too!
I wanted to create a dessert tasting platter to share between 2.
The nigiri's were done with chocolate mousse on the top and biscuit at the bottom, topped with pistachios and strawberry slices. To the side of that, there were sushi rolls filled with chocolate mousse, gianduja feuilletine, raspberries. I made a little knob of wasabi from white chocolate and a couple of thinly sliced strawberries as pickled ginger to go with my tiny bowl of warm chocolate and raspberry compote as a dipping sauce. My creme brulee was baked in a ramekin resembling a noodle bowl. The tiny chocolate chopsticks and tuile spoon went well to match the theme too.
For something cold; I had a raspberry sorbet quenelle sitting on a bed of toasty salted macadamias, all nestled comfortably in a delicious pecan crisp.What's the little yellow flower? oh~ that was a tiny pineapple chip I swirled together.


Anonymous said...

I love your idea of doing dessert bento, that was beautiful.

meatbag said...

I've been admiring your food for AGES now through one of my friend's website links and only now have i felt the need to comment.

It's 10.54pm in Newcastle, and i am so hungry and there's nothing to eat, i clicked on your website as a means of procrastination and there they were, the most gorgeous set of desserts in a Bento box! Why lah!???? ... I am soo hungry now. :( Wish the laptop screen produces scents, tastes n addition to colour lol!

Keep up the good work, and i can't wait for you to open a shop, be a star chef somewhere so i can come taste your food.

P.S - I've got a sudden hankering for Nasi Lemak. Mmmm..


thanh7580 said...

Su, I loved the description about how to plate a dessert. I'm going to try and apply these principles. I've started baking in the past year but I've always had troubling presenting the cake so that it looks great. Insteads, its usually just slopped onto a plate and a dab of cream besides it.

I love cracking the sugar on a creme brulee, just like Amelie Poulain said in the movie Amelie, it's one of the pleasures in life :-).

I think you should voice your opinions about food. I do that too and my friends call me a food snob or whinge-y. But I just tell them that I'm passionate about food and that I expect it to be done well, and if I don't like it, I'll say it.

As for the part about being more confident from the blog, I think that has some merit. It's easier to write things in text that say it personally, but I'm sure that confidence has rubbed off in real life too.

Bean Sprout's Cafe said...

The desserts looks so amazing...and Japanese savoury bento lunch boxes...wowwww...incredible !

last nite i just went through ur cooking post...cuz wanna cook something easy for myself much fun reading ur blog..

Unknown said...

This is really nice! I've been hearing chocolate sushi here and there lately so its neat to see this.

Carla said...

Non so se riesci a capire l' devo irtiche sei bravissima!!!!
Carla di lettoemangiato

Anonymous said...

I just fell in love with your blog. I'll be coming back for sure. ;)

Anonymous said...

That was beautiful, I give you an A...tell your teachers I said so.

Anonymous said...

i love your blog! its great that you get to go to culinary school and stuff.
i really miss your recipes tho! they were my fav.

your the best!
-bitni joi

Yan Lim said...

Oh Sue,

It looks so good. So tempting.


Anonymous said...

su yin....i love ur bento's amazingggggggggggggggg!!!!

Su-Yin -D├ęcorateur said...

linda: its always nice to hear from ya; thanks for that :)

meatbag: heyhey! thanks for leaving such an awesome comment.... filled with heartwarming reminders of Malaysian-ess to boot! haha do drop by more often to say hi next time Shean :)

thanh: hiya~ I love how responsive you always are to my posts.. haha it really makes a difference to know people arent just scrolling to the photos and actually stopping to read what I've written! haha It's so good to have you around to keep me on my toes!

beansprout: So what did you make? :P

j: hmm.. i bet there are many out there who have done a better job than I have.. chocolate bento's really aren't my speciality~ hehe. thanks though :)

carla: hi carla.. i wish I understood Italian.. *LOL*

anapires: hi ana~ would love to hear from you soon.

heather: hehe.. I don't know if shes going to do that. I hope so though!

bitni: Hmm.. i'm going to try to work on putting on more recipes in weeks to come kay :) I promise!

The juicy bunny: Hi bunny! I'm kinda tired of sweets recently.. wish i was making pizza or baked potatoes in class at times..haha I have savoury food cravings with chocolate covered fingers ALL the time! it's weird..

pinky: ode to my baby pinky~ hehe

Sushers said...

Hi su yin! i've been reading your blog for a while now and its been so inspiring for me to read all your recipes and experiments. :) i think this bento dessert platter is just amazing. i'd love to have that on a menu

been using a few of your recipes (which have all turned out superbly) for my own baking pleasure here at uni for my friends. for me, baking is a major way of de-stressing and well, the eating part is great too! ;)

i have a girlfriend from UNSW who said she knows you too.

its 2am here in the UK and i'm starving and itching to bake. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Su! How are you doing? We haven't heard from you in a while and we all miss you at Izziban.

I hope you are doing alright over there and having lots of fun. Update us on how you're doing sometime. Alright, take care now!


Dan, YuJeong, Diane, Jae & the Izziban Crew...

Unknown said...

Ironically, I came across this blog entry with the same kind of idea for the same kind of class at a different academy. I have to thank you for sharing this with the internets. Seeing this take on the same base idea really helped me get my head around the idea from a different angle. I hope to find the time to read through the rest of what you've got here, because you make beautiful food art, lady.