We’ve all heard the expression that people eat with their eyes first. A beautiful plating presentation can turn a good meal into an excellent one. And while you may think that plating isn’t as important at a healthcare facility as it is at a high-end restaurant, that’s not true.
Good presentation is important at your facility because your residents are eating multiple meals and snacks a day. Great plating will turn eating a meal into an experience rather than just something your residents have to do. Plus, studies have shown that better meal presentation can increase food intake and reduce hospital readmissions.
When the food you serve to your community looks amazing, your residents will feel better about eating it and have a happier dining experience (which improves their quality of life overall!).
Taking plating and presentation seriously is your chance to put the “art” in Culinary Arts. Here are five easy ways to improve meal presentation at your facility.
Color can impact a dish in many ways. When you put bright fruit or vegetables on your plate, that signals to your resident that the fruit is fresh. Would you rather eat a bowl of bright red strawberries, or dull, brown-spotted ones? Most people would say the bright ones because the color tells you that the fruit is fresher. You can also use color to make monochromatic dishes more appealing. A garnish of fresh, green herbs, like parsley or chives, can take a plain, beige potato dish to the next level. Another way to add color to the plate is to change out a common ingredient for a more colorful counterpart. For example, if you typically use white or brown rice on your menu, swap it out for red rice or red lentils.
One more way to bring more color to the plate? Change the actual plate itself. Instead of serving every meal on a white, circular plate, find different dishes of all shapes, sizes, and colors to keep meals interesting for your residents.
According to the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, you can determine how to arrange food by viewing the plate as an analog clock, where the top of the plate is 12:00. They state that the space at the bottom of the plate (from 3:00-9:00) is where your main protein, like chicken, should go. Then, you can accentuate that protein by placing a starch, like potatoes, between 9:00 and 12:00. Lastly, place any vegetables between 12:00 and 3:00 to complete the perfect plate. It’s also important to make sure that the actual dishware you chose fits the meal properly. You don’t want there to be too much extra space, and you also don’t want the plate to be so small that the food is hanging off.
We’ve all seen the plates from fine dining restaurants that have a drizzle of sauce around the edge. This is something that you can easily do at your facility too. Getting creative with saucing adds a little bit more pizzazz to each dish. You can use a squeeze bottle filled with your desired sauce to create circles around the food or to dot the edges of the plate. Another method we like is using the back of a spoon to create an abstract smear underneath or next to the food on the plate. We recommend doing this for thicker sauces, like purees. Just put a dollop of the sauce on the plate and then quickly drag the back of a spoon through it toward the edge of the plate to create a smear (think about making the shape of a comma).
Playing with textures allows you to create more of an interesting, complex dish. The textures you choose to add should be visible when your resident looks at their plate. If you’re making soup for dinner, try adding a few croutons or seeds to the top to add some texture and to amp up the presentation. For other dishes, you can add crunchy textures (and some extra color!) by adding raw vegetables, like carrots, to a dish.
Finally, by adding some contrast to a plate, you can create a more multi-dimensional meal. Look for ingredients that are contrasting colors (colors that are on the opposite side of the color wheel). You can also add contrast to your plate with shapes. If everything on the plate is the same size and shape, the meal might look boring and unappetizing. One way to play around with shapes is to use an ice cream scoop for foods like rice. Rather than just putting the rice on the plate in one, flat blob, a scoop gives it a more polished look.
Applying the tips above will help you improve your plating, but it might also help for you and your food service team to look at nice plates regularly for some more inspiration. To do this, get on social media and scroll through the #foodie hashtag on Instagram. Take notice of what types of plates people like to take pictures of and think about how you can recreate them at your facility with the meals you serve.
And if you need some more help when it comes to presentation, bring in an expert. Our team at Culinary Services Group can work with your food service team to ensure you’re serving beautiful plates and creating a better dining experience every time your residents sit down to eat. Contact us here to learn more.