Secret #6: Sexy Food

Welcome to Day 6 of our 20-Day/20-Part series of blog posts titled “Tips, Tricks, and Secrets of Professional Chefs”. In our last post, we looked at  How to make Rice that’s Extra Nice.

Today, let’s take a look at one of my favorite things about being a chef, making…

Sexy food.


Photo by Danielle Witt

Okay, we’ve talked about this idea before, but let’s really take a look at it a little closer… people eat first with their eyes.

Open your favorite cookbook, flip on your favorite foodie TV channel, or sit down at a “nice” restaurant, and you’ll see they have one thing in common: no matter what they’re serving, nobody’s just slingin’ it on the plate.  Beautifully plated dishes, studied presented…sexy food…it sells the dish before you ever taste it.

(Just a note, before I get comments…sexy presentation will never, ever make bad, or even mediocre food, good. It will, however, make good food better, and great food amazing.)

So, there are three basic elements to consider when plating food…the shape and color of the food, the shape and color of the plate, & the position and spacing of the food(s) on the plate

Owner and Executive Chef, Dee Elhabbassi, of Dar Essalam Moroccan Restaurant, takes simple squirt-bottle technique to the next level!

Owner and Executive Chef, Dee Elhabbassi, of Dar Essalam Moroccan Restaurant, takes simple squirt-bottle technique to the next level!


A couple of simple rules of thumb:

Square food = round plate. Round food = square plate

Light food = dark plate. Dark food = light (white) plate.

Personally, I’m not a fan of multicolored plates, so I typically stick with black or white, as it keeps the focus on the food.

Also, your plate/bowl/platter is your frame, so make sure you leave a good margin around the edges to highlight the food. This in one reason that restaurants like to use over-sized plates, as it allows each item to be “framed” separately on the same dish.


A biscuit-cutter is a great tool for sexy food, and a pair chop-sticks are great for placing garnishes and toppings. Here, Chef Terry used a soup can, opened at both ends, to create these beautiful “cake towers”…


Photo by Danielle Witt

Also, think in three dimensions.

Sure, I can plop that steak down next to the mashed potatoes, and just pour sauce over the whole thing…OR, I can center the potatoes, rest the steak (sliced or whole) at an angle against one side, top with a little color, and drizzle it artfully with sauce (an inexpensive squeeze bottle or two is another must-have tool for pretty plating.)

Plated steak

Lastly, for a little extra eye-candy, give it a sprinkle or fresh chopped herbs, shredded or shaved cheese, or toasted sesame seeds.

A sprinkle of fresh chopped herbs will make almost any dish look just a little sexier.

A sprinkle of fresh chopped herbs will make almost any dish look just a little sexier.

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey, in an issue of the BBC’s Olive magazine, offers this advice, as well:

  • Keep your presentation clean and simple
  • Use an odd number of ingredients on the plate to avoid symmetry
  • Avoid moving things around once they’re on the plate, as this will simply make a mess. Visualize what your dish will look like before you start arranging it on the plate
  • Don’t clutter the plate
  • And, of course, don’t serve the food cold because you spent so long dressing it.

TilapiaOne last tip: if you have a somewhat colorless entree, like this tilapia filet, borrow some color from your veggies and use the less visually exciting component as a “frame within the frame.” Likewise, a little diced fresh tomato and minced basil is very pretty on the brown backdrop of a nicely seared steak, chop, or chicken breast.

As with almost any kitchen rule…you’re the chef, so do what you think looks good.

Whatever you do, take your food presentation to the next level, have some fun with it, and eat sexy!

Be sure to subscribe to our blog for updates, and come back tomorrow for Secret #7: Brown is Beautiful! (Secrets to a perfect sear)


Chef Perry


It’s the end of the world…may I see the dessert menu, please?

Given the current hubbub about the world coming to a screaming halt tomorrow (which I don’t believe…unless it happens, in which case I friggin’ told you so) I thought it would be appropriate to discuss what final feast ya’all would want to sit down to if you knew there wasn’t going to be breakfast service.

I mean, c’mon…do you really want to head into eternity knowing the last thing you had was a salad? Not me!

Here’s what some of the world famous foodies, past and present, ordered or have requested at their last meal:

Julia Child
Although the French gourmand’s favorite comfort food was red meat and gin, she was documented in her biography saying her ideal last meal would include:
-Caviar with Russian vodka and oysters with Pouilly-Fuisse wine.
-Foie gras
-Pan-roasted duck, with onions and chanterelle mushrooms
-Pommes Anna (thinly-sliced potatoes baked in butter) and fresh asparagus
-French bread with Roquefort and Brie, with a Grands-Echezeauxs Burgundy
-Walnut cake; ripe pears and green tea; and crème brulee

Anthony Bourdain
No reservations, Bourdain’s last meal would be roast bone marrow with parsley and caper salad, with a few toasted slices of baguette and some good sea salt

Mario Batali
Eight to ten courses of seafood, pasta, and vegetables feast, beginning with marinated anchovies, to a Neapolitan version of a grilled cheese sandwich, on down the line to end with icy Limoncello, would be this chef’s choice.

Here’s mine:

We’d start with a half-dozen extra small fresh oyster shooters, with my wasabi cocktail sauce, followed by my wife’s tomato basil soup.

Entrees…no question… would be Chef Chris’s grilled tri-tip, served with my garlic mashed potatoes, and Chef Terry’s crusty baguette.

Next course would be series of tapas plates including hautemealz.com member Di Anderson’s green chili chicken enchiladas, a good sopresseta salumi with goat cheese, and slow roasted pork cheek with chicharrones.

Guinness to drink, of course, and a bowl of spumoni ice cream for dessert.

What would YOUR last meal be?

– Chef Perry


Soba Noodles with Mushrooms & Kale

Soba Noodle with Mushrooms & Kale

Here’s a favorite from our weekly meal plans…

Soba Noodles with Mushrooms & Kale; Romaine-apple Salad

Soba is Japanese for buckwheat. It’s synonymous with a thin noodle made from buckwheat flour, and in Japan can refer to any thin noodle (unlike thick wheat noodles, or udon).

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