Tips on how to make a plate of salad look stunning

When I made this salad last week I thought about writing a quick piece giving you some tips on plating. Sometimes we think we are not capable of doing something. And why?  Just because we never tried.

At culinary school I didn’t get much advice on plating. I know, it is hard to believe…. And I was not confident about it. At all. Then, as time went by, I saw photos, videos and slowly but surely picked up pieces without even noticing. Most of my plating is for photography. It is different from real life plating. In the past it did happen I plated something, took many shots, and I could not make one single picture work. So I started again. At that point I knew what was wrong. Sometimes the plate was too messy. Sometimes the food was not on the right part of the plate. Sometimes the ingredients were to flat. It all depends. On the angle of the photo.

But what if you are plating for real life?

Then bear in mind how the person who eats the food will look at the plate. Definitely not from a headshot view. As a consequence plating a salad in real life so that it looks good from above may not work.

Also when you plate for real life, i.e. eating the food, always always respect the dish. Meaning?

The priority is the flavor and the joy of eating the food. The look should enhance it. The way you plate your food should help the dish shine. Sometimes people want to make a plate so pretty that they forget about the fact that we want to eat it. And we don’t want to lick that 3 tiny drops of sauce from the side of a plate….  You know what I mean, right?  So here is a few tips on plating and below the recipe for this light and gorgeous salad.

You can also make this salad family style, in a big bowl, all components mixed and have it at your barbecue. For meat lovers, this is great with a piece of Mexican-spiced steak.

  • Always try and plate from the angle of view. So when you serve the dish, the food looks stunning from the angle of the diner’s view.
  • Then start with knife cuts. In this example I shaved the fennel with a knife, you can use mandolin but be very careful. If it is nice and thin, will be easier to chew on, digest and it will start curling, which is beautiful. Try and have consistent and beautiful cuts.
  • When you add different kinds of fruit and vegetable, it is always a good idea to have at least two different kinds of cuts so when you build the salad, there is a beautiful variety. Here the strawberries were both sliced and quartered.
  • Try and give some height to the dish. Always. Even if you spread the food out on the plate, in an interesting form, give certain parts some height.
  • Work in odd numbers. It always has more appeal. You know how to buy flowers? Always odd numbers.
  • Avoid strict symmetry. Planned imperfection and asymmetry looks best.
  • Think in colors. If a plate looks a bit dull in colors, finish it off with some green, or edible, colorful flower petals.
  • Plate in order, starting heaviest and most amount of ingredient and work towards the lightest and least.

Here the shaved fennel and sweet onion is the base, tucked in some orange segments in the bottom.



Then I added the thin slices of radish. I actually have it on the plate in 3 different formats. One vertically, tucked in the salad, one flat on certain sides and I also made little funnels with the radish slices and you can see those on the ends. They look so pretty.



And finally I added the strawberry slices and quarters and covered parts of the salad with small fennel fonds. If you have blossoms or flowers, arrange them randomly, on top, on the side, around. But don’t make it too much. You can serve the vinaigrette on the side.DSC_5720.jpg



Fennel and citrus salad

Salad ingredients for 1 serving

  • 1/2 medium fennel shaved into thin slices
  • 1/4 sweet onion cut into thin slices
  • 1 cara cara orange segmented (or 1/2 orange and 1/2 grapefruit)
  • 2 strawberries sliced and quartered
  • cilantro and chive blossoms
  • if you don’t have blossoms chop cilantro and chive and spread generously on the salad


  • juice of the orange
  • 2t  lime juice
  • some zest of the lime and the orange
  • 1t honey
  • salt, black pepper and cayenne to taste
  • light olive oil – twice as much as the orange and lime juice together

3 responses to “Tips on how to make a plate of salad look stunning”

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