By Lori Powell
If you ever see me in the grocery store I am the one who looks like I am having an OCD moment, picking through the produce aisle to find that one perfect-looking apple or trying to find that pear with personality.
Yes, that is what I get paid for and being slightly OCD or a perfectionist is actually a prerequisite and desirable in my occupation as a food stylist. No kidding!
I cannot tell you how many times the fruit pyramid at Fairway or Whole Foods has crumbled under my searching touch to get that perfect-looking specimen that is unfortunately stuck in the pillar position of all that fruit. You might say that the produce staff is not a huge fan of me.
The upside is that it makes them a bit more eager to seek out fresher produce for me in the back of the store. It seems that it requires less effort than having to build the Olympic tower of fruit once again.
So why all that perfection? Well, it is pleasing to the eye and we eat first with our eyes. Then, of course, food has aroma and taste. Until we can figure out smell-a-vision, we have to rely on the picture on the page to be oozing with deliciousness and flavor.
Sooo how to create your own bit of stylin’ food at home?
The more simple the plates and platters are, the more the food will stand out and be the star. Do not be too messy and also not too neat…it needs to look like you want to dive right in.
Adjectives that describe delicious-looking food are crispy, golden brown, moist, juicy, creamy, crusty, cheesy. So if you are making a mac and cheese, make sure it is a lovely golden brown and is oozing with cheese, yet crispy with golden bread crumbs on top. Who does not want to eat that??
What we really are talking about is texture and color in your food. If it has layers of texture, the food will be more interesting to your palate. It could also be a play on temperature…such as hot apple pie served with vanilla ice cream that just melts onto the hot slice creating a crème anglaise sauce to drag your bite of pie through. Or a dollop of freshly made whipped cream.
The other side of style is the presentation, such as what shape and color of platter, bowl or plate will compliment your food. Round items on square plates, saucy foods in shallow bowls to show off all of that creamy goodness and grilled vegetables overlapping on a long rectangular platter are some examples.
I think some of the yummiest looking dishes are baked items that go from oven to table with all their baked-on goodness, such as gratins or baked pasta such as lasagna…who can resist that?
As far as color, what makes that particular dish pop? Since there isn’t any blue food, almost everything looks great on that color. Also everything just about looks great on white. Too much pattern on a dish and the food is not the focus; the pattern is…you get the idea.
The garnish on the dish should tell you something about what is in the dish. Red Pepper Basil Soup could be garnished with a small dice of red bell pepper and a few leaves of basil.
Lastly, add some color and texture to your dish with some simple touches. Try a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of flaked sea salt on pasta. A sprinkling of herbed bread crumbs. Toasted bread and fresh tomatoes. Parmesan shavings or toasted nuts on a salad. Fried sage leaves on vegetables, meat, fish or pasta or pretty much anything, since they are divine.
Having said all that, I think that rustic peasant-like dishes are some of the most desirable looking dishes on the planet. Keep in mind that not everything has to be a masterpiece painting – it just needs to look, and for sure, taste delicious. You deserve it and so does your company.
Gotta run and get something to eat after all this deliciousness speak……Yummmmm!
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