A peek at food plating trends in 2014 (GMA News Online)

Chef Paulo Sia in action

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last January 31, 2014)

People feast with our eyes first, which is why food presentation is just as important as taste.

I had the chance to feel like a chef for a day at the Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) kitchen. For one night, the kitchen became fit for an episode of MasterChef; there was a market area where we could shop for ingredients and each group had a working station with complete cooking tools and equipment and everything.

Each group had to create a seared salmon dish with a siding of mashed potatoes and vegetables. Part of the cooking challenge was plating the dish. Our group decided to put the seared salmon on top of a bed of mashed potatoes. We plated it with assorted buttered vegetables on each side, garnished it with lemon wedges, and drizzled some creamy dill sauce on top.

Once all dishes were plated, the UFS chefs judged for the one with the best plating and another for the best tasting dish. Our group was actually awarded the best plate.

Discovering the five key plating trends this 2014

When a dish looks good, I can actually feel my appetite increasing. I found it interesting when one of the chefs from Unilever Food Solutions demonstrated the different styles of plating and divulged the trends for food plating.

In this instance, we learned more about food plating from Chef Paulo Sia, senior sous chef, who has over 10 years of culinary experience. He believes that “[food plating] is not only about art, because there is actually also a science to it. The way you plate your dish should not only captivate them to want to order and eat it, but it should also guide the diner into how best to enjoy and appreciate it.”

He showed us how to do the classical plating technique of using three basic food items—main, starch, and vegetables—and arrange it by thinking of the round plate as the face of the clock. You should put the main ingredient between 3 to 9 o’clock (safest bet is 6 o’clock), the starch between 9 to 11 o’clock, and the veggies between 11 to 3 o’clock. Then you serve the plate with the main ingredient facing the diner.

The chef also explained the other key plating trends, such as:

  • The landscape technique, where you can take inspiration from garden landscapes;
  • Free-form plating, which somehow mimics modern art;
  • Using organic materials to have a more natural and rustic feel;
  • Futuristic plating techniques that make use of materials like metal and glass;
  • And non-traditional and alternative receptacles to create one-of-a-kind plate settings and table arrangements.

I learned that what’s essential in food plating is to highlight the key ingredient, and of course, to have a right portion size to get a balanced dish. Even though I’m an amateur cook and don’t have my own restaurant, I can still practice these techniques at home, feel like a chef, and impress my hubby—maybe.

The Chefmanship Academy section in the UFS website has modules available for people in the food service industry. Whether you’re a restaurateur, a chef or part of the kitchen staff, you could browse through the modules about Menu Planning, Food Safety, Counting Costs, or Maximising Efficiency and Profits.

Learn about food plating and more about the food industry from the Unilever Food Solutions website.

Food safety tips: Keep out of the temperature danger zone (GMA News Online)

Chef Pipo Aluning in action

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last November 18, 2013)

Did you know that it is not safe to leave cooked food out in the open for more than four hours? I admit, I have been guilty of this when my husband and I moved into our new home and had no helper in the kitchen. We would use the rice cooker, for instance, and leave the cooked rice there overnight. The next morning, we would make some garlic rice with it and eat it with gusto.

I didn’t know that there is such a thing as time and temperature abuse, which could lead to food contamination. The moisture inside the cooker provides the ideal condition where bacteria would have a chance to grow. We were fortunate that we did not get any foodborne illness or something, but we stopped that habit and learned to practice food safety, especially since we now have a helper to manage the kitchen.

Preparing to prepare food

Knowing about food safety should be everyone’s responsibility, especially those who work in the food industry. Although culinary schools have food safety classes in their curriculum, most food workers do not undergo any formal culinary training—a lot of them rise through the ranks, learning as they go.

For those who want additional learning, Unilever Food Solutions’ Chefmanship Academy offers 12 modules, including one on food safety launched just this year—and the only one in the country so far. It tackles various topics ranging from personal hygiene, personal safety, foodborne illnesses and food safety hazards, among others.

“Chefmanship Academy is a program that we’ve been running since 2009,” said Chef Joanne Limoanco-Gendrano, a ServSafe-certified chef who has been working with Unilever since 2007. “We made sure that it’s applicable to the market. Basically, our target is local restaurants. We feel that a lot of the chefs or cooks working there—they’re the ones who have been requesting for extra learning.”


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