While food needs to look stunning, and chefs go super creative with their presentations, does style take over content and end up confusing us?

From clockwise arrangements to elaborate formations the presentation of food on a plate has come a long way. Gone are the days when food could just be piled up on a plate and served. Today’s restaurants take the time and effort to make their food a holistic sensory experience. But have they gone too far with it? Has overemphasis on presentation come at a cost? Has the argument of eating with your eyes won over what is eaten? MetroPlus raises these questions to some of Bangalore’s gourmet experts and asks them what’s the big deal about plating anyway?

Chef Paul, the executive sous chef of Leela Palace, Bangalore, believes plating has everything to do with the ambience, concept and convenience. “In a brew-pub, more people are walking around so the chef will focus on speedy delivery. In fine-dining, this traffic is not there and more focus is given for plating.”

He points out that the latest trend is the main course goes on the plate whereas the side orders go separate. The customer knows what he pays for is on the plate while the side orders are an added surprise. “Hence there is value of money too.”

Chef Paul says in this part of the world where we don’t have this cultural background, plating is often mis-interpreted. “Chefs go for plating to impress people. They focus more on weird shapes, colours and formations. They forget that the essentials added to the plate must contribute to the entire dining experience. Getting the right elements together – that is what plating actually is.”

Ruth Prabhu, a blogger says plating adds another dimension to the creativity of the chef. “In terms of Bangalore, there is a lot of competition among chefs to entice people to come to their restaurants. I’m more likely to remember a pretty looking plate of food that tastes good rather than a sloppy dish that may also taste good. Some people even love to tell stories on a plate.”

She recalls that some people do try to overachieve. “More than food it’s drinks that has gone that way. From tiny bottles and jars to smoke in a glass presentation has gone very creative. But it often backfires.”

However, Ruth doesn’t think the consumer is really taken into consideration in the plating process. “It’s more of the chef’s vision for the dish and hopefully he keeps in mind that not everyone is going to perceive the dish the same way he does. I would say it’s 90 per cent chef and 10 per cent consumer.”

She agrees that plating will continue to be an important part of a chef’s ability to serve something. “There is a constant evolution.”

Zhang Hao, the executive chef of High Ultra Lounge, believes he puts his personality on the plate. “The customer first looks at the food. If they don’t like what they see then they won’t eat it.”

He adds that especially in his Asian cuisine, there is a lot to play around in terms of colour, shapes and presentation. “As the Japanese say - people will say eat with their eyes rather that their mouths.” Chef Zhang says many overdo the presentation. “Some chefs make it so complicated that the customer is confused. Simplicity is the key. The simpler the dish, the better its appeal will be to the customer,” he adds.