Maison Culinaire Blog

How to Plate Your Holiday Meals Like a Pro: Secrets From a Professional Caterer

Dec 21, 2018 9:38:07 AM / by Maison Culinaire

Although you’re not a professional caterer, you would like to create a lovely table for your holiday meals.

Have you ever wondered how the pros make the food and the presentation look so enchanting and appetizing?

Here are a few tips from a professional caterer on how to plate your holiday meals like a pro.

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Plate Food Like a Pro

Chefs know that we eat with our eyes, so food has to look good on the plate as well as taste good. Here are our tips for creating a feast for the eyes:

Use Varied Color

Try to have a variety of colors on the plate—a monochromatic meal is just as boring to eat as it is to look at.

If you’re serving soup, garnish it with croutons, a scattering of fresh green herbs, tomatoes or onions.

If you’re serving a salad, pump up the color with berries, various colored greens and vegetables, and edible flowers.

Food comes in a wide variety of colors, and sometimes in colors not usually associated with that food, like carrots. You might think they are all orange, but actually they come in a wide range of colors. The same with potatoes. Look for colors that complement each other.

 Cider and Sage Pork with Roasted Potatoes and Sauteed Green Beans CROPPED

Use Varied Height

Vary the levels of the food you’re serving to add interest to the plate.

Stack or lean ingredients up against each other.

Pour a sauce in the bottom of the plate before adding the ingredients for an extra layer.

Lay a steak atop a bed of mashed potatoes, and lean the asparagus spears up against the meat for an interesting presentation.

Use Varied Numbers

As a rule of thumb, serve items in odd numbers, like 5 cherry tomatoes, 3 eggs or 7 asparagus spears.

Use Varied Garnishes

Instead of serving a plain dish, think about what you can use as a garnish.

Cut lemon slices, edible flowers, whole or chopped herbs, olives, shaved cheese, nuts and berries make ideal garnishes.

Keep the garnish to a minimum to allow the food to take center stage.


Use Varied Texture

Nobody likes a meal that’s all soft and mushy, or all hard and crunchy. Serve a combination of textures like a smooth vegetable puree with a panko-encrusted fish.

Related: How to Plate Food like a 3-Star Michelin Chef

Use Chef Tools

If you really want to present your holiday dinner like a pro, acquire some of the tools that chefs use to decorate a plate.

They can include a squeeze bottle for adding drops of sauces or condiments, spoons for adding a drizzle, or even a brush for creating a smear of sauce across the plate.

Use tongs for precise placement of foods on the plate. Use graters or microplane graters to add shavings.

When adding sauces, pour them just before serving.


Match the Plate to the Food

Putting a small steak alone on a big plate is not appealing.

That’s why steak houses add not only other food items, but garnishes like parsley.

Match the shape and size of your plate to the shape and size of the food you’re serving for an eye-pleasing presentation. Look for interesting dishes with geometric shapes or bright colors.

Working with plates that have a strong center design can be tricky; it’s best to stick with plain white dishes or those with decorative borders for the best presentations. Ensure that your plate’s color complements, and doesn’t clash with, the food you’re serving.

Place your main item in the center of the plate and build your dish around that item. Don’t overfill the plate; rather, keep it at about 2/3 full.

Once you have your main dish assembled, add condiments, garnishes and accents sparingly.


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Need Help With Your Holiday Dinner? Call Maison Culinaire.

We hope these tips on how to plate your holiday dinner like a pro come in handy!

 But if you don’t want to cook your holiday meal yourself, we’re just a phone call away and specialize in creating menus featuring International Cuisine. Use our convenient online quote feature.

For your next catered event, trust Maison Culinaire to provide the finest quality in both foods and service for your holiday lunch, dinner or special event. Contact us today to reserve your business or personal holiday meals and events with us. Serving Northern Virginia, Maryland and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

Topics: Traditions, Insider

Maison Culinaire

Written by Maison Culinaire

A luxury catering firm for weddings, special events and corporate events, in Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County, Maryland.