At a buffet, presentation is almost as important as taste. The idea is to make the dish look at least as appetizing as it actually is while at the same time restraining yourself from overdoing it. The main guidelines to keep in mind are balance, unity, focal point, and flow.
The dish above is a Cold Artichoke Salad I made for a graduation Grand Buffet at the CIA in January 2008 . All the credit for this presentation goes to the artichoke itself, my source of inspiration for this plate.
The dish appears balanced and comes through as a single unit rather than an assortment of disconnected pieces of food. There is a clear focal point at the center of the salad, and the flow is comfortable and not constricted. The height gives it character and the intense hue of green is easy on the eyes but appealing at the same time.
I was initially skeptical as to whether its resemblance to a whole artichoke might be cloying but that just happens to be the strength of this dish's appearance. There is a fine line, I guess. Interestingly, what one might not notice upon first glance is that the salad is actually made with baby artichokes rather than the larger ones that are placed right above the plate. Don't miss the fact that the shape of the plate compliments the dish as well.
This is just one example but the above ideas and principles can be applied for presenting other dishes as well. With these tips in mind, you can have quite a bit of fun coming up with your own presentations that are bound to impress your guests.
Here are some other examples:
Cold Artichoke Salad
12 ea Baby artichokes
2 ea Lemons
2 T Balsamic vinegar
6 T Extra Virgin Olive oil
t.t Kosher Salt
t.t White pepper
1. Clean the artichokes leaving just the heart. Discard the rest. Place immediately in a pot of water with the juice of two lemons to prevent discoloration.
2. Pour out some water leaving just enough to submerge the artichokes.
3. Season with salt and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about five minutes. You should be able to insert the tip of a knife without any resistance.
3. Drain and discard the liquid and refrigerate the cooked artichokes.
4. To make the balsamic vinaigrette, take the balsamic vinegar in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Gradually add the olive oil in a gently stream whisking constantly to form an emulsion.
5. To serve, dress the cold artichokes with the vinaigrette and arrange on the plate layer by layer to form the shape of a globe artichoke. It doesn't have to be perfect. A good presentation should seem natural.