Mylène Bergeron Francoeur
A good introduction to plating food
Reviewed in Canada on 27 November 2010
I bought this book because I wanted to start learning about food presentation. It is one thing to make outstanding dishes, but if you mush everything in the same corner of the plate, it's bound to look terrible, and terrible looking food does not, by any means, look apetizing.
One of the better points of the book, is that it's very well illustrated, to accompagny the clear instructions given to you. It makes understanding everything so much easier.
The book starts by telling you a few basics about food presentation, and what will affect it. It gives a few guidelines for the choice of a serving vessel, some equipment you'll need to achieve the techniques (nothing complicated), they discuss about different table settings and give you a few easy tricks, talk about ligthing, etc.
Each page is constructed in the same layout. You'll have the name of the item on top of the page. Then, the left column will show you what is needed to achieve the technique, suggested presentation and a tip section. Sometimes, you'll also get alternatives to the technique or ingredients used (for exemple, for a purée, they also suggest using potatoes, turnips, broccoli, etc.). On the top right portion of the page you'll find a quick description of the item, along with a small diagram indicating the preparation time, and the difficulty (indicated by chef hats). The space below that is dedicated to the steps of the technique (along with the pictures).
You'll have a few basic sections to choose from for your garnishes and / or presentations, which are: Pastry presentation, Purees and strips, Vegetable garnishes, Fruit garnishes, Baskets, boxes and croutes, Leaf garnishes, Dairy garnishes, Sugar garnishes, Chocolate garnishes. One good thing, is that the index shows a small picture of each technique (simple to spot !) and show the diagrams for time and difficulty with it too. The highest ranking for difficulty is three chef hats. The most common seem to be the intermediate difficulty. Most of the savory dishes garnishes tend to be easier and more forgiving, when the chocolate and caramel ones almost all score the highest difficulty.
For example, something they rate as being one chef hat, are the "vegetables bundles". Basically a long vegetable such as green beans, cut to the same lenght, and linked together in a bunch by something else, like a long herb such as chives.
An item which is classified as being two chef hats, are the "parmesan baskets". Those consists of grating parmesan, making disks with them, to cook. Once the cheese fused together, you have to push the disks in muffin pans, so that they will take on the form of a basket.
An item which is classified as being three chef hats, are "chocolate cups". You have to melt chocolate in order to paint small individual muffin cups, forming chocolate cups to present desserts in.
Some items seem to be a bit repetitive (like parmesan basket, and potato basket), but I liked the book in the end. Showed me some techniques, tricks, and gave me inspiration. It's not Ritz-class garnishes, but so much more than you'll be encountering nowadays. Your guests will be impressed !
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