How to Garnish a Plate Like a Restaurant Chef

By Deb Barracato

Trained chefs acknowledge the adage, "We eat first with our eyes." Take a clue from them and go beyond the typical three-point landing seen on home dinner plates -- a hunk of meat, a pile of vegetables and a scoop of potatoes or rice. Garnishing a plate like a restaurant chef doesn't require an eye for composition or even a particularly steady hand. A few flourishes and tricks of the trade can transform any meal into a feast for the eyes.

The three-point-landing plate design puts the food in disconnected piles.

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Sauce Design

Step 1

Pool a spoonful of sauce slightly off-center on the plate. Set a scoop of potatoes or rice adjacent to the sauce. Lay the protein across the starch and into the pool. Pile the vegetables against the protein so they stand up: for example, asparagus spears pointing to the sky. Drizzle additional sauce from the squirt bottle in small amounts around the rest of the plate.

Step 2

Squirt a pool of sauce on one side of the plate. Squirt a pool of a second, complementary sauce next to it, touching but not overlapping. Drag a toothpick back and forth across the sauces to commingle them in a zigzag pattern down the center of the plate. Layer the protein, starch and vegetables on top of the sauce, covering part but not all of the design.

Step 3

Arrange the protein, starch and vegetables in an attractive manner on the plate. Overlap the items wherever possible: for example, stand the vegetables up against the protein. Hold the squirt bottle slightly off to one side of the plate. Apply a slight squeeze to the bottle as you simultaneously wave it back and forth across the plate. Rotate the plate 90 degrees and repeat the wave, creating a checkerboard pattern with the sauce on top of the food and extending to the edge of the plate.

Flavor Flourishes

Step 4

Chop spring onions into 1/8-inch-thick rings and sprinkle them across the food.

Step 5

Sprinkle red pepper flakes or cracked peppercorns around the plate, allowing some to settle on the rim.

Step 6

Cut sprigs of fresh herbs and tuck them in between the protein and starch so they stand up, or cross chive stems across the protein.