Plating versus Plates

“We’re talking here about plating, gastronomic jargon for how a chef arranges the food before it is served. Naturally, every cook has to think about that, whether at Le Cirque or the Cheesecake Factory. But some think about it more than others,” writes Jeff Gordinier in his amusing, well-researched and illustrated piece at the Food section of the NYT.


Coming back from a trip to Japan, this piece forced me to make the connection between what I experienced there and the widespread trend, which in some cases–and not just in the United States and Europe–has gone to extremes; beautiful, often stunning plates or trays that offer very little or no taste when we get down to eating these magnificently executed edible ‘works of art.’


In Japan the beauty of the multi-course traditional meals relies heavily on the unique ceramic bowls and plates, the exquisite boxes or baskets that hold the various bites served at breakfast, lunch or dinner.

I found that on many occasions the actual food was much less interesting than its presentation; furthermore I discovered that in many cases the different morsels of marinated fish and seafood, the vegetables and the sauces that filled the unbelievably beautiful little dishes served to us were just canned or frozen foods, probably industrially pre-cooked or marinated.


Traditional Japanese restaurants must have a large cellar filed with round and square bowls of all colors and sizes, plates in all shapes, and serving casseroles that took my breath away and I couldn’t stop photographing them.


The actual food that filled these amazing serving dishes was in some cases mass produced; all the work done in the tiny kitchens was to just take the items out of their packages and put them inside truly unique pieces of pottery!


The work takes much less time than American and European chefs need to create their elaborate dish on plain white plates. Alex Stupak “…enrobes a white plate in dark sauce, then lets it dry; it rehydrates when it touches the moisture from food put on top.” The result looks almost exactly as if it was served in a magnificent, one of a kind stoneware dish regularly used in traditional Japanese restaurants…


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