When people generally think of African Food, what comes to mind is Ugali and Nyama choma served in plastic dishes with the meat plonked in front of customers still on the wooden chopping board with the kachumbari ( otherwise known as ‘salsa’ in finer establishments) on the side of the board.
In other facilities, African food shows up as fried fish on a tray with Ugali and green vegetables on the side. Little or no attention at all is paid to the presentation and the art of plating food.
Wikipedia refers to food presentation as “the art of modifying, processing, arranging, or decorating food to enhance its aesthetic appeal” and food plating as “the arrangement and overall styling of food upon bringing it to the plate.” Many a chef will tell you that cooking is an art and presentation of food is the final touch an artist does to have their masterpiece well framed, placed just right on the wall and against the right lighting to ‘bring out the best’.
It is said the people eat with their eyes first before they actually sit to enjoy the food and that presentation is everything. That the most tasty food in the world would not have the desired enjoyment if it is ‘heaped’ upon a plate and ‘dumped’ in front of the customer.
Given this key role that presentation plays, the question still remains – is it possible to have African food elicit a response from customers that ‘This is a work of art?’ Can African food hold its place on the world stage and be at par with continental and eastern dishes?
Charles Wariunge the Executive Chef at the Amaica chain of restaurants that specialize in delivering a cultural experience through food says,
“No lesser standards should be applied to African food. It is in Africa where food is a source of celebration and brings people together. Food is a cultural expression for communities in Africa and there are foods to express joy, to announce the arrival of new ones, to mark various seasonal occasions and to comfort communities at different times. It is therefore incumbent upon the carriers of these traditions to do the food justice, by not only presenting it well, but ensuring that the partakers of the food appreciate the rich history, preparation and nutritional value”
Food plating and presentation is not necessarily a reserve of fine dining establishments. This can also be achieved at home. It only takes that little extra touch to arrange the food on the plate from the cooking or serving dishes on to the plate in a way that pleases the eye before presenting it to the family, your loved one or yourself. Ensure you do not heap too much food on the plate to avoid items running over.
Kenya is especially blessed with fruit, seeds and vegetables of stunning colour that you may use to colour up your plate and enhance the look and feel of your food.
So go ahead……after cooking up that delicious meal like the gourmet Chef you desire to be, don’t do it and yourself a disservice; spare those extra minutes to ensure it looks great when placed before the consumer.
Please give plating a shot and please share with us your plating adventures on our FaceBook page, tag us on your posts on Twitter or send in pictures of your delicious African food on firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to hear and ‘see’ from you