Looking Good

Artful presentation makes food and drink taste even better. Other benefits? Careful placement and attractive containers add value—whether customers are paying top dollar for a 5-course meal or just a few toonies for a bar snack.

Note that many savvy chefs use a unique garnish for each and every dish. Yet simplicity, seasonality and “looks homemade” is an easy rule to follow.

All Arranged

Why make the French fries face the same way? Or fan slices of meat? Or ladle sauce in a nice circle underneath the fish? Because it says “we care” and takes only a couple of seconds to achieve. Offsetting items on the plate rather than centreing is one of the latest trends. Also, placing an uneven number of items on the serving dish is often most pleasing. Then there’s scattering, stacking, spreading— spend a little time on sites like Pinterest or La Belle Assiette* to see what looks fresh today.


Mason jars, crocks, baskets – even teacups, to serve a chai-flavoured pudding – can surprise and delight. Mix things up!

Think Small

Many chefs prefer a microplane to shred savoury ingredients like cheese, garlic, onion and horseradish for attractive garnishes. Or try grating nutmeg, citrus, ginger—it’s easy to add visual appeal along with a touch of flavour. Powdered spices and leafy herbs are lovely accents, too, not to mention inexpensive—just use what’s already at hand. Place in dots, lines or swirls; combine colours and types for even more interest. Drop two or three croutons atop a soup or stew. Decorate vegetable purees and soups with a drizzle of flavoured oil or specialty vinegar. One chef’s array of additions to Chilled Corn Soup (per the Toronto Star): dots of pesto, tiny tomato dice, a splash of sherry, and a confetti-like toss of coarse salt and pepper.

Slice & Dice

Yes, you’ll still see the classic lettuce leaf and bit of parsley. But chopped green onions, chive stalks and cilantro (coriander) sprigs are more contemporary ways to add greenery. Using a vegetable peeler to make a few “ribbons” to beautify a plate is also up to date. Want to go with other colours? Try a small mound of chopped tomatoes or a swirl of golden creamed corn. Another idea: Julienne or slice vegetables to garnish their counterparts, e.g., half a small red potato tucked alongside red-skinned mashers. Chutneys and compotes dress up dishes as well.

Tasty Technique

Grill and char marks give proteins and sides extra oomph. Like the Blistered Shishito Peppers with salt and olive oil served at Supply & Demand (Ottawa, Ont.). Other strategies? Skewer almost anything, and it already looks delicious. Slice off a couple of bites of entrée sausage at the end of the link. Cut long veggies, like carrots and green beans, on the diagonal.