7 Food Plating and Presentation Tips From The Experts


Whether you’re hosting a fancy dinner party for some of the most important people in your life or setting up a treat table for your kid’s summer pool party, food plating and presentation are important. To ensure you’re ready to impress your guests, make your food more enticing, and create stunning displays, check out these top plating tips from the experts to instantly transform any meal or treat.

Choose the Right Plates

When it comes to plates, serving bowls, and platters, everything from color and size to shape and style will matter. Your plate is the canvas on which you display your food. It must make an impressive backdrop without overwhelming what you want people to eat.

Your dishes should be a size and shape that make it easy for guests to eat or serve themselves while allowing vibrant food to stand out. Most professional chefs like white plates when serving colorful food to ensure it stands out. However, if you have a particular theme or aesthetic, you may want to make sure your plates follow suit — whether it’s patterned Italian crockery or metallic pieces that glitter and shine.

Work Vertically

Another important presentation tip is not to separate the food trying to fill the plate. Build your arrangement from the bottom up with a little bit of structure, and leave plenty of white space to draw the eye to the meal. You can use ring molds or other structural assistants to ensure your food stands up in a perfect tower. 

Some other vertical plating tips include:

  • Using bright and colorful salad leaves as a bed
  • Create a lasagna-like display by layering the different elements
  • Brace dish elements against each other to stand them up

Play With Texture

While you may have the main parts of your dish all set up, that doesn’t mean you’re done! There are many other elements that can help highlight or contrast with the main event. Consider sauces, foams, and gravy to add texture and color to the plate. You may even want to invest in a few squeeze bottles to ensure you can control your designs with a specialized tip.

Present Smaller Portions

You want to serve enough to satisfy your guests but not overwhelm them, so portion size is incredibly important. You also don’t want to spend too much time and money making food that nobody will eat. Smaller portions are more affordable, easier to style, and prevent your plates from looking overcrowded.

If you’re serving a multi-course meal for a seated dinner, definitely keep everything small and petite. But, if you’re hosting a buffet-style affair with food out over the course of the day, you should put out larger portions so people don’t feel shy about taking the last bite.

Use Edible Decorations

One of the best plating tips for fine dining is garnishing your food with appealing and edible decorations. Herbs, edible flowers, and colorful spices can add a lot to your dish visually as well as flavor-wise.

Make sure you taste your garnishes before using them to ensure the flavors meld well with your main dish. There are a few obvious options, like candied rose petals for desserts, cilantro for Latin-inspired foods, and parsley for Italian dishes. A few other common options for garnish include:

  • Mint for salads, desserts, water, and juices
  • Pickled veggies for Asian meals
  • Citrus for salads, fish, and drinks
  • Fried or crisped onions for BBQ
  • Fruit for cakes, gelatins, and other desserts

Express Yourself

While these plating tips are all pretty technical, there is one thing you should never dismiss: personality! Let the plating help you express yourself and be creative. Cooking and plating are an art, and you should carefully consider your ingredients and how they look together before designing your final menu. Every single ingredient you use must have its place on the plate!

Keep It Simple

When in doubt, keep your plates simple. You don’t want to crowd the plate with unnecessary oils, spices, or sauces. What you leave out is just as important as what you put in. If you’re debating between adding one more thing, the safest choice is to leave it off. Let your food and cooking skills speak for themselves, and highlight your technique with simple plating tips.

Wondering how you can experiment without having to cook up a whole dinner? You can explore images of plating tips online, draw out your meal plans on a piece of paper, or edit your final plate together on a computer to achieve the perfect look without wasting any food.