The importance of plating

A new study from Oxford University shows that artfully presented food really does taste better. This is useful information to online culinary school students as they progress through their studies. Techniques and ingredients are only half of the story, and how you present them on the plate can often be the difference between a classic dish and one that is just “meh.”

Scientific evidence
The research team at Oxford relied on experimental psychology research practices to gauge diners’ reactions to salads with different preparations. Each of the 30 male and 30 female participants was given a salad with the same ingredients in one of three platings. The salad was either arranged in the style of a famous painting, as a common tossed salad, or in a “neat” preparation with all the elements separated on the plate.

Upon being served one of the three versions of the salad, each participant was asked to rate their dining experience on a scale of 1 to 10. When rated on individual taste factors such as saltiness, sweetness and bitterness, all the salad preparations received similar rankings. And yet, when the participants were asked to rate their meal on the more holistic scale of “tastiness,” the artfully prepared salad consistently outranked the others.

Why plating matters
Not only did diners who were presented with the artful salad indicate a higher level of tastiness, they also said that they would be willing to pay more for this salad despite the fact that it was comprised of the same ingredients that were in the other preparations. This result isn’t entirely unexpected, however, since an artful plating indicates higher effort was put into the dish. Diners recognize this attention to detail and are willing to pay a premium price for it.

As new student chefs begin developing menus for dinner parties or restaurants, they would do good to remember this study. Making your food look good is just as, if not more, important than making it taste good. As a matter of fact, it would appear as though a significant part of the latter relies on the former. In this world of Instagram and Snapchat, every diner is a potential food photographer. As such, serving food that photographs well is extremely important, as one attractive picture on a popular social media site has the potential to reach an audience of thousands.

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