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Landscape of colour and flavour in your plate



Landscape plating is a style that takes inspiration from landscape gardens and has chefs from India and abroad cosying up to it. It is there in the work of American superchef Thomas Keller, who uses a plate from corner to corner to bring out the aesthetic of its ingredients. Japanese Chef Kei Kobayashi, who is known as the ‘Piccasso of plating’ uses landscape technique to create bright edible gardens. Chef Ruchira Hoon, Brand Chef at Ek Bar, enjoys using ‘closer to home’ ingredients to create dazzling food topographies, while Corporate Chef of Wine Company and Wine Rack, Vikramjit Roy uses his plates for social activism.

Colour forms the backbone of this plating aesthetic. Saffron for an orange hue or turmeric for yellow, red beets made into a puree or purple cauliflower used for a fuchsia pigment, it all about coordination and contrasts. “Vivid edible flowers and microgreens are generously used to jazz up a dish,” says Hoon. The Panch Phoran Salad by her is wherein she has added Egyptian blue and crimson coloured flowers to her salad. Arranged in a crescent, it creates a garden of farm-fresh ingredients.

“Whether it’s swirls of creamy Hollandaise sauce used as a drizzle or rich Kale-Saag purée dotted on the plate, it all adds an extra bit of drama. The colour of the plate itself matters greatly. Grey and white are the best. I avoid black,” says Hoon.

The thought behind the plating is sacrosanct says Roy. “Many of the presentation styles we see today are gimmicky. Misplaced garnishes do nothing for the food. Look at Nordic food. They have limited resources and little ingredient diversity but they’re able to produce the most brilliant landscape and other plates because they apply their mind.”

A few months back he used the landscape format to speak about the exploitation of fish during the breeding season. He used the expanse of the plate to create a fish skeleton. It was entirely edible and delicious but it got the diner thinking before they dug in.

Because landscape style entails wider displays, a lot can be said through a single plate. In another concept plating he spoke about clean eating practices. He depicted the transportation of our food, using cauliflower as a motif, and how it travels from Himachal Pradesh to Azadpur Mandi in Delhi in open trucks, gathering incomprehensible amounts of carbon emissions.

Landscape plating style has been embraced by several modern restaurants such as La Roca in Aerocity, Molecule in Gurgaon and Ophelia at The Ashok, besides others. In each place, the selection of ingredients plays an essential part. Their positioning is important. The top, middle and bottom layers are usually clearly visible. The scale is created by leveraging size and quantity of ingredients and produce. From tiny pea flowers to the long shoots of asparagus, it’s all used to add variation. Moist ingredients go at the bottom. Food is placed alongside contrasting accompaniments. A combination of cooking techniques such as searing, braising, baking, smoking, frying and others is used to add textural finesse.

Landscape plating within the Indian cuisine segment is walking at snail’s pace. “We’ve been traditionally using bowls and flat plates to serve food. Breaking from that mould will take time. Also, in India, we share our food as opposed to ordering individual portions. The size of our servings is larger and those quantities make it difficult to present food in this style,” says Chef Saurabh Udinia of Farzi Cafe.

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