Sunday, November 14, 2010

Garnishing: Less is More

Would you like to know one of the most important discoveries I have learned during my adventures in culinary education?  

I should preface this revelation by saying that ultimately I believe the beauty of being a passionate contributor to the stadium of culinary artistry means that we start by understanding this: if there are rules of any kind to this craft, we must obey the proven regulations that apply to the integrity of flavors.  Said another way, the number one rule of fantastically prepared food depends on the ability to appeal successfully to the sensation of taste.  Yet anyone that has ever prepared or eaten food of any kind or type will agree that looks and first impressions are equally important- if anything to get the patron to agree to take a first bite from the plate!

I have been taught that an important and expected component to the majority of the dishes I have prepared has been an appropriate garnish in the final plate presentation.  This is the final definitive compliment to all the creativity, skill and consideration that has been put into the main components of the plate.  The key word being compliment.  The last thing you want is for your garnish to outshine all the hard work and skill you put into creating the main entree.  This discovery became very apparent to me over the course of the first couple of dishes I prepared during my first weeks of my culinary internship.  Heavy handfuls of parsley, generous sprinklings or diced red pepper and one too many blades of chive draped over breakfast entrees and platters of appetizers were my rookie attempts at decorating the plate.  Extreme embelishment or an adornment without careful consideration defeats the truest definition and purpose of a garnish.  Simply stated, in the beginning my plates had way too much garnish.  The purpose of the garnish is to add flavor and decoration, yes, but if too much is present it overpowers the more important parts of the plate.  In the necessary instance of using a garnish I have been taught "less is always more."

 Over garnishing happens.  Sometimes without even realizing it we pile too much on without using more careful consideration and imaginative envisioning of the final plate up or outcome.  We slice and dice and choose all different varieties of shapes and sizes and colors to trim the plate.  All the while thinking only about enhancement we lose the main course at some point and may be left with nothing but a plate of garnish.  If only you had taken a step back for a second and really looked at what you have.  It is OK to have some or even a lot of white space around the central object.  Balancing out colors can be achieved with only a pinch.  FLavor components can spark with the smallest hint of a complimentary spice or seasoning.  Keeping it simple really is the solution... K.I.S.S.  "Keep It Simple Silly!

A very similiar connection to all of this can be made if you compare the dinner plate to your life.  The main entree becomes the things of your life that are most important to you.  The accompaniments like side veggie and starch, sauces and garnish all become the things that you add to your life to compliment the most important and central part of your life's "plate".  Maybe this is where the saying "my plate is too full" came from?  If you let the garnishing additions outshine the  most important parts of your life's "plate" it probably will feel too full and overwhelming to consume.  What you present to the world from your plate becomes confusing and people all of a sudden don't know what to expect from you or what is important about who you are.  So before you decide to add new components to your plate carefully consider if they will be complimentary to who you are or not.  Will it help you shine or leave you feeling bogged down and overshadow the most important parts of who you are.  Accent your life's "plate" with only the best and forego the rest.

Clean, Simple, and with Emphasis on the Most Important Main Parts equals one attractive and appealing presentation.  Your garnishes are meant to accent, never to ever take the spotlight.  If you can remember that, it will help you to measure twice and apply once, successfully!  Your food will look fantastic on the plate.  Your priorities on your life's "plate" will be better organized and more satisfying.  Overall you will impress your patron's, draw them in and if you have successfully balanced the rest of your masterpiece you will leave them enchanted and talking about your plate and you for years to come!

Whoa Parsley!!
Over Garnished in my opinion :)           

Ahhhh, this is more pleasing to me and simple.  Love those edible flowers!