Huxtable head chef Daniel Wilson reveals how to plate up like a pro

Spent hours following a complicated recipe, only for it to look a mess once you’ve got it to the table? Daniel Wilson, head chef of Huxtable, a restaurant at the forefront of Australia’s gastro renaissance, shares his top tips for making your home-cooked meals look worthy of The Wolseley

The plate as a canvas

Plates are the canvas on which we paint. Interesting plates can really enhance and shape the way a dish looks. Lighter colours stand out on black plates. People see food before they try it, so if it looks good, then our brain gets excited and the juices start flowing.

Look around you

Chefs' presentation skills take influences from everywhere. Traditionally, we could learn on the job, in books and eating out. Now, people posting pictures of their meals on Twitter and Instagram has made it easier to see what other people are doing. Some chefs really follow trends on plating as they come in and out of fashion.

Size matters

They say that in multi-course degustations, the dish should be enough to make you want just one more mouthful of the food. Deciding on the size of the dish depends on the number of courses, or number of dishes if sharing. It also depends on the richness of the protein or main component . Sometimes a dish is better with one less component, rather than one more.

Fix up, look sharp

Cleanliness and care are paramount: wipe off errant sauce with a damp paper towel.

Chic techniques

The sauce 'smear' is a common technique. To do one, place a spoonful of thickish sauce or purée on one side of the plate. Then turn the spoon over and place the back of the spoon into the middle of the sauce, then drag to the other side of the plate, or curve it like a comma in a quick but controlled manner. Also, try not to clutter up the plate with too much stuff, it will look busy. Another handy tip is to drizzle oil slowly: just put your thumb over the top of the bottle and release slightly to drizzle a thin stream.

 

Scales of success

I really like plating seafood dishes. Fish comes in great colours, especially king salmon and tuna. Curing fish reduces moisture and intensifies the colour. One of my favourite dishes is the smoked kingfish with horseradish cream and baby beets (see previous page). The cream is put on the plate using the 'smear'. The kingfish is twisted to give it more shape and size, then placed with decent gaps so that the cream can be seen. All of this white is asking for colour, so placing the baby beetroot along each side really stands out and teases the eye. The pear matchsticks add more height again, and a different shape. The red sorrel cress adds a certain cuteness, and the shaved kombu adds a very interesting textural look.

And finally...

The best dishes are always the ones that come back empty!

Now, take a photo

Now you've learnt to plate up, here's how to capture your dishes for posterity on your smartphone. Andrew Scrivani is the photographer for the New York Times' dining section. Here are his tips for food snaps good enough to eat

Use natural light

"Never use a flash, ever. The definition of photography is 'the manipulation of light'. You need to train yourself to see great light first; then set out to create or capture it. Using cards (even menus) to reflect and deaden light, and add shadows, is a good start."

Shoot from above

"A lot of chefs and stylists like to style plates from an overhead perspective as it gives the food a graphic, symmetrical look."

Use your smartphone to the full

"Their quality has become such that even professionals have published pictures taken with smartphones. Remember, they focus close-up pretty well – don't be afraid to use their features."

Choose the dishes you snap with care

"As a professional, I can't say that there are some dishes that never look good. But, that said, dark browns and greens need special attention, because they absorb light and have a tendency to look dull and lifeless."

'Huxtabook: Recipes from Sea, Land and Earth' by Daniel Wilson is out on Monday (£25, Hardie Grant)

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week