Chefs labor over their food for countless hours to create a moment of pleasure for their guests. Plate presentation is the final step that showcases their creations.


A plate should engage the senses and draw the diner into it much as a painting will draw in the observer. The dish should be carefully planned to balance tastes, textures, colors, and cooking methods. Intertwine the components to bring a sense of composition and harmony. The process begins by incorporating the best and freshest ingredients, executing accurate knife cuts, and using precise cooking techniques that highlight the quality of the food and the talents of the chef. The dish is pulled together by the sauces and other complementary ingredients. The final touch is the judicious use of garnishes. Each element should be there for a reason, adding dimensions of flavor, texture, and color that is in harmony with the finished plate. 


Classical plating places the three primary elements of the dish in specific parts of the plate:

  • Main protein: between 3 and 9 o’clock
  • Starch: between 9 and 12 o’clock
  • Vegetable: between 12 and 3 o’clock


  1. Emphasis: The primary ingredient in the dish should take up the most space on the plate and attract the eye.
  2. Balance: Think about the plate as a whole and avoid weighting one side heavier than the other.
  3. Contrast: Place contrasting shapes and colors beside each other for visual appeal.
  4. Color: Choose complementary colors or create a focal point with a single burst of bright color.
  5. Texture: The various textures of the dish should be visible in the components of the plate.
  6. Simplicity: Avoid overcrowding by using as few elements as necessary for the dish to feel complete.
  7. Plate: Choose a plate that fits the size and arrangement of the dish without leaving too much empty space.


  • Garnish: Choose an edible accent that provides extra color and texture throughout the dish (rather than in one spot only).
  • Sauce: Get Creative—Plate sauces beneath your main protein, drizzle across the plate or create drops that provide visual interest.
  • Shape: Sculpt the elements of your plate to create height, structure and organization.

Tools for Plating

There are a broad variety of tools that are used for plate presentations including squeeze bottles, spoons, thin-offset spatulas, and brushes for applying sauces on the plate. Tweezers and chop sticks assist in placement of components and delicate garnishes. Slotted, flexible fish spatulas work well for delicate fish and similar items.  Stacking rings and geometric molds help to keep the food contained and add height to the layout.   Although tongs are useful for sturdy items like steaks and chops, small serving spoons should be used when plating delicate foods including vegetables.

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