Maybe you have been guilty of this at least once in your life: buying food from a restaurant and passing it off as a home-cooked dish for a party. No one can blame you. Every day life keeps us so busy; sometimes, it’s more convenient to leave the slaving over the kitchen stove to the experts.
So you’ve bought the Dinuguan, Lechon paksiw, or Beef caldereta to serve for dinner. But just dumping the contents of the take-out packs into the first available dish simply won’t cut it.
How do you add your touch to a dish at this point? You need to get into the art of plating (aka, how chefs arrange and present their food on plates). Here are some tips to present your packed take-out food into something that looks more home-grown.
1. Consider the plate. Choose a serving dish that will not only hold the food but also complement it visually. The safest bet would be to use neutral-colored china. This complements almost any color and texture. If you must use china that has design, make sure the design isn’t too loud; otherwise it might clash with other prints.
If you plan on using colored serving platters, consider the color of the food you’re putting in them. Do their colors clash? If you’re going for the complete effect, check, too, whether these complement the tablecloth or placemat they’re on.2. Add color. If your viand looks drab and monochromatic, garnish it with some herbs, fruits, or vegetables. Sprinkle some chopped spring onions or celery on top or add a large, fresh sili to brighten it up. But remember not to overdo it. You need to highlight the dish, not overpower or over-decorate it.
3. Food arrangement. As mentioned earlier, you should put more effort than what’s involved in just transferring the food from the take-out plastic container to the serving dish. Scoop out the pieces of meat carefully and arrange them with some “ordered chaos”, so to speak. You may choose to line up the pieces of meat or pile disparate shapes on top of each other. Just show some visual harmony and care.
4. Add support. Use other props to further complement the dish. Use a nice serving spoon with an elegant design. Also, use a nice napkin or a doily on which to place your serving dish—this will give more texture to the overall look of your dish.5. Keep it neat. If you’re working with a dish that has a sauce, make sure to wipe away excess sauce. Don’t ladle the sauce all over the dish.
6. Balance it out. Add something neutral on the side for a dish that has a strong flavor; for example, for dinuguan, you could surround the serving bowl with the favorite puto. For pizza, don’t forget to serve it along with a bottle of Tabasco, or even the packets of hot sauce that are taped to the pizza box.