Raise your hand if you’ve ever beheld a dish that looked too pretty to eat. Hit me with an amen if you agree that a plate of food done right is a full-spectrum sensory experience that transcends your taste buds. Holler if you love and appreciate beauty as much as you do flavor — and finally, raise both arms up way high into the sky if you’d like to know my personal secrets to mastering all of the above!
Enjoying food is about so much more than simply eating. Granted, as mammals we must consume a certain amount of calories per day as a matter of primal existence — but as human beings who thrive not only on subsistence but also on our innate sense of creativity, I like to believe we must also do so with a certain degree of grace. And for me, one foolproof way to make this happen at each meal is to honor the five C’s when it comes to plating food:
First and foremost, I believe we must imbue our meals with intention and love; to treat each plate as a testament to living, a salute to our humanity, a moment of homage to the pleasure of serving.
Nothing irks me more than a plate of grey-looking food. To that end, I always lean on the bounty of Mother Nature’s palette to turn each dish into a chromatic feast: the fresh green-to-yellow gradient of a perfectly ripe avocado. The bright shock of magenta that comes with a raw beet. The deep red hue of sustainably sourced salmon from Alaska that’s fed on wild species like shrimp and other free-floating crustaceans. These are just some of the colors that can instantly take a plate of food from drab to delightful.
I don’t believe there are any hard rules when it comes to composition — more than anything it’s a matter of having fun. The main idea isn’t to simply slop food onto a plate, but rather, to put some thought into the layout. Just the tiniest bit of design-y thinking will go a long way at a dinner party. If a fillet of wild-caught fish is the star of your plate, for example, flank it with sides in portions that don’t overshadow it.
Consistencies like crispy shallots, toasted sesame seeds, breadcrumbs, and crushed pistachios not only give a fillet textural character, but also lend a layer of visual intrigue and dynamism to your plate.
If you ask me, this right here is the crux of a great plate. There’s nothing like some good old-fashioned playful, individualized, fun-loving imagination to spruce up even your most run of the mill Wednesday night post-workout dinners.
Bottom line: by keeping the five C’s in mind each time you cook and serve, you can master the everyday art of transforming consumption into creation. The point is to have as much fun making your plate as you do eating it, thereby turning mealtime into feel-time.
Live wild...and stay inspired!
Pictured above: a crew of seared scallops gathered ‘round a bonfire of pureed kabocha squash that's finished with diced avocado, Japanese furikake and edible flowers.