How to style your food like a professional

Is your plate looking insta-worthy?

Food doesn’t have to look beautiful to be delicious, but if you're using the phrase, "It tastes better than it looks" too often, then take some advice from an expert. 

Alicent Wong from Home Cook Love knows how to plate up and create a visual feast for her guests. "I see a plate as a canvas about to be transformed into something utterly stunning, breathtaking, and in the case of a culinary canvas, delicious," she says.

Alicent has taken the guesswork out of food styling. All you have to do is follow these six simple tips:

#1 Play with colours and textures

Colours and textures go hand-in-hand. Do a little preparation, thinking about the foods and colours you have to play with, and avoid monochromatic tones. Use brightly coloured fruit and veggies such as tomatoes, carrots, radishes, figs and citrus to create a delectable colour palette.

A refined, vertical slice makes a big difference to how fruit and greens look when plated. To look after texture, pay attention to how your food is handled just after it’s been cooked. Pasta, for example, should be kept in water, or tossed in a bit of oil to avoid clumping.

#2 Contrast tones and flavours

Like a painting, a little contrast adds a lot of interest and dimension to a dish - just like combining chopped salted pistachios with a chocolate truffle. That salty, crunchy texture coupled with the heavenly, velvety taste of cocoa makes your tastebuds dance and creates a visual feast.

#3 Focus on small portions

One of the simplest ways to make your food look pretty is to limit portion sizes. When a plate is crowded, there’s little space to create a visually appealing dish. Fill only about two thirds of a plate, the rest of the plate should be kept empty. Plating should start in the middle of the dish, working outwards.

#4 The rule of odds  

An odd number of elements on a dish is more visually appealing than an even number as it creates a pretty visual frame. Keep this in mind when serving different types of food or more than one piece of the same food. If you're serving scallops, serve either three or five instead of four.

#5 Garnish it nicely

While parsley is a safe option, there are altneratives that can make a dish more interesting. Fresh basil is a lovely herb that I use a lot, and can be teared over a spicy curry or a pan fried fish dish. Freshly grated lemon, orange or lime zest adds instant pizzazz to any dessert. Submerging your fresh garnish herbs in an ice-cold water bath plumps them up instantly.

#6 Select the right plate 

When in doubt, use white plates as they don’t compete visually with the food. White plates provide great contrast to make colours pop and textures more interesting. If you’re experimenting with colours or patterns, make sure that they complement the food instead of vying for the consumer's attention. Don’t forget that a lovely set of cutlery, fine glassware and napery enhances the overall appearance of a meal served upon the table.

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