Wow, another amazing seminar. This one was taught by chef Carrie and covered so many factors that go into how we experience a meal and food.
The lecture started off with explaining that there is a misconception that tastes comes from a part of the tongue, when in fact, tastes comes from all parts. Our taste buds have cilia, or tiny hairs that detect food particles. They are tuned to allow us to sense the different tastes. In order for us to taste something, it must be a hydrated molecule. After we continue chewing something in our mouth, our saliva break down food and flavors can change.
We classify taste into five categories:
We experience food through mouthfeel and take into consideration:
- Taste & Flavor Profiles
- Low Notes
- Middle Notes
- High Notes
- Roundness of Flavor
- Depth of Flavor
We spent about an hour going into the specifics which included interactive eating that touched all of the senses. Chef Carrie presented us with cups of food where variables such as salt content, texture, color and more were adjusted for comparison. It was amazing to taste a food item, and then taste it again with a variable changed.
One powerful demo she did, was the “potato chip test” where Richard was blindfolded and then was asked to eat a potato chip he was fed and then guess it’s flavor. The first one was plain which he guessed correctly.
Chef Carrie then pulled out a bag of barbecue chips. She placed a barbecue chip under Richard’s nose and then at the last second pulled it away while giving him the plain potato chip. He guess wrong and thought it was barbeque. It was a great example to show how much smell is a factor in tasting.
Finishing (Plating and Presentation)
So much of what we eat is with our eyes Chef Carrie explained. Colors and textures draw us in. We went into considerations around plating such as:
- Setup – placements of items on a plate
- Focal points – eye catching ingredients, usually being the money, which is often a protein
- Sauces – which add flavor, contribute to color, and texture, and how they have evolved over time
- Garnishes – the compliments to food
Interestingly enough, plating has even followed a timeline
- Medieval – consisting of large presentations and heavy spicing often to distract from that the food was bad.
- Classical – large, but served on platters in the middle split up and served to guests.
- Conventional – from the late 60s to 90s, with starches at 10 o’clock, proteins at 2 o’clock and vegetables at 6 o’clock.
- Modern – all over the place, with linear or vertical arrangements
Our school is training us in the classical sense and recipes often lend themselves to classical plating although we are encouraged to be creative. I hadn’t really thought about this too much until the seminar.
We ended the lecture going over key points of plating and how to choose the right plate. Blue doesn’t exist in nature so avoid blue plates if you can. When in doubt, choose a white plate which won’t disguise or mute all of the hard work and thought you put into plate design in the first place. Essentially, why spend so much time and energy on a dish only to have a plate take away from it or not highlight the rich colors and textures you’ve created.
The last part of class was an interactive demo in the kitchen where we got to compose a dish starting with an unattractive and messy plate.
We then worked as a group to think about how we could make the dish look nice with the same ingredients.
Key Observations and Learnings
- Draw what the dish should look like on the recipe before you start.
- White space is imperative. Don’t crowd food.
- Never take too long to do a presentation. Food will cool or warm up from the desired temperature. This is more of an issue for hot food
- Odd numbers were re-enforced with respect to design and what looks more appealing.
- Our eyes and sense of smell have so much to do with how we experience what we eat.