You eat with your eyes first—which may sound like a cliché but the spread of colours on a plate play a big role in what we choose to eat. Playing around with colours is an art and when it comes to adding that pop of red, a dash of green, a drop of bright orange, a pinch of lilac to a dish, chefs are no less than artists. But, along with the visual appeal, food must also contain a fair balance of nutrients, taste and flavours.
Chef Anahita N Dhondy, Chef Partner at SodaBottleOpenerWala, who loves exploring natural ingredients in different colours to enhance the look and healthy quotient of her dishes, weighs in, “I like to make the most of nature’s bounty as we are blessed with such amazing ingredients.” Giving an example of her creation, she elaborates, “We had a delicious Love Emoji Bowl menu through which we conveyed different emotions. We had four different coloured bowls in this menu—Green, Yellow Pink and Red Bowl—each one orchestrated in a different colour combination with the vegetables.
The Yellow Bowl was my favourite with zucchini, corns and millets. They looked beautiful and appetising and are very nutritious. I used different millets which were mixed with different ingredients in each of the bowls.” Chef Balpreet Singh Chadha, Director of Culinary Operations, Annamaya at Andaz Delhi, believes that one has to know their dish well to understand that the taste of the dish is well married with texture and colours on a plate.
“Anything I put on a plate has to go along with other ingredients on the plate. They should blend well,” he says. One of his favourite preparations is Grilled Fish with Karnataka Avocado Salsa. “It is a seasonal fillet of fish marinated with salt and olive oil. The fillet is grilled till it is golden brown. It is served with avocado salsa which has ripe chunky yellow and green avocados with juicy red cherry tomatoes and crunchy sliced onions. This dish is served on a flat colourful Khurja plate. Imagine the beautiful colours which are golden brown, green, yellow, red, translucent. It’s absolute magic,” he says delightfully.
Similarly, Pradeep Rawat, Sous Chef, JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort and Spa, gives an example of his favourite dish to champion the cause of visual appeal. “Braised Lamb Rack with Red Wine Jus and Seasonal Greens, is the dish in which I have used lamb chops as the main hero, paired with a flavourful red wine jus, seasonal greens, and mashed potato, which is a classic combination. It is wise to have your ingredients prepped and ready, including the colour combinations that you have finalised before you begin the actual plating process. An analogy could be drawn between the way an artist already has his concept and colours in mind which he translates onto a canvas,” he explains.
For Sandeep Kumar, Executive Chef at Renaissance Bengaluru Race Course Hotel, his signature dish Tandoori Saffron Jheenga, is a perfect example of varied ingredients, diverse textures and vibrant colours. Marinated prawns are cooked in a tandoori oven, served with crunchy slices of shallots and fresh lime to balance the flavour of the prawns.
The same is accompanied by blood orange caviar, orange and cumin infused yoghurt caviar and an apple and plum chutney reduction. “Each bite captures the rich flavour of the prawn, which is accentuated by the caviar that pops gracefully onto the taste buds; with hints of orange, lime, apple, plum, and cumin, which balance the nuances of freshness to the palate. The dish synergistically evolves into a unison of taste and visual appeal, integrating seamlessly into a signature curation,” explains Chef Kumar.
But how does one go about adding vibrancy to the regular fare? Chef Chadha suggests, “One can add colour appeal to a dish by using a coloured crockery or by using different vegetables, fruits, meats, sauces edible flowers etc in the preparations.” Chef Rawat thinks, “One should consider portion sizes before they begin plating. To do so, focus on balancing the protein, carbohydrate, and vegetables that are being used to create a nutritionally balanced meal.
For example, create a beautiful background for the plate by adding green vegetables, carrots, radish, as the accent points. Or pair the ingredients with complementary colours as this further enhances the dish’s visual appeal. Carefully placed ingredients create art, but the presentation should never overshadow the overall taste of the dish that is being served.”