Art of Entertaining: Food and Plate Design
I have the honor of working with a great team of chefs each and every day. Our kitchen is filled with amazing and talented people who teach me new things about the art of food. I’m lucky that the Executive Chefs, Nardo and Sam, understand Kahn’s Catering reputation for excellent food. They put their heart and soul into each plate, much like an artist would their canvas.
Few people understand what happens in a kitchen of our size. So let me pull the curtain back and try to give you a sneak peek into the philosophy behind Kahn’s Catering’s fine cuisine and how to apply it to cooking at home.
What I can tell you first, is to buy the best and freshest ingredients that you can. Each day I see amazing provisions, fresh vegetables, seafood and poultry being delivered along with exotics for special menus like lotus bloom, purple heirloom carrots and imported cheeses from around the globe. Whether simple or exotic start with great ingredients; you will get a better finished product.
When cooking at home, don’t undertake more than you think you can handle. It might be best to try a new recipe on family or friends before using it for an event where you want to impress. In our kitchens, when our chefs create a new item, the recipes for each of the components that comprise it are taste tested by our executive team. Only after this does an item ever appear on our menu.
Of course, good food should never be rushed. If you were to pop into our kitchen, you would see just how many steps are required to make each item. Hors d’ oeuvres are especially an art form. To prepare even a simple item like our fingerling potatoes, which are stuffed with camembert cheese and topped with a bias-cut chive and drizzled with truffle oil, requires the following steps: cutting, roasting and hollowing out the fingerling potatoes, chopping the chives at just the right angle, filling the piping bag with the softened cheese and piping just enough into each one. Each is then garnished with the chive and drizzled with rich olive oil. Our chefs can prepare thousands of menu items just like this and most are much more complex. I mention this only because unless you are passionate and have time for the details, when entertaining it is important to think about what you can accomplish in the time you have.
As to how food is presented, whether on a plate or buffet, our Executive Chefs Nardo and Sam would always suggest thinking about color, texture, height, shape and the serving vessel. A few years back, I learned a great trick to entertaining, which was to pull all of the dinnerware and serving platters the night before and place a post-it note on each with the item name. In our kitchen, when preparing for special tastings, like the tasting for the Grand Opening Gala for the new Eskanazi Hospital, our chefs and I discussed in detail each component and how it was to be presented. We used a dry erase marker to sketch the placement of the items onto the plate that we planned to use. Of course, the day of the tasting, after having talked about where the tomato stack would sit relative to the crab salad, what garnishes would be used and where, and how the sauce would be lightly drizzled around the plate, everything looked perfect. You can do the same thing at home, thinking through how things will look on the plate or in a serving dish. Contrasting color, textures and heights will always give you the best results.
The same concept can be applied to how you present items on a buffet table. Not everyone wants to the formality of a plated meal a home, and most home cooks when entertaining groups present food buffet-style. Choose serving dishes that complement the food item. For example, choose a flat rectangular plate when serving flat rectangular small bites. And don’t worry about matching all of your dinnerware. It should coordinate, but doesn’t have to match. Also, consider adding height. Use sturdy baskets flipped upside-down or other items you may have around your home to elevate platters or bowls. Varied heights create interest on a buffet. Likewise, a buffet doesn’t have to be just food. Add interest by grabbing accessories from around your kitchen that are in keeping with your dinner theme.
Choosing the best ingredients, taking time to plan and check, thinking about the final presentation will make all the hard work you put into the cooking really pay off. You can be sure your party will be great. And, of course, for those instances when you just don’t have the time, or you know it is more than you can want to tackle you can always call Kahn’s Catering. Our team of chefs is ready to help.