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Can you describe what makes a beautiful looking dish? How a dish tells a story and when food becomes art?
If you've found yourself stuck on the answer to any of these questions, Maria Nguyen from The Art of Plating(TAOP) is the authority able to answer all these questions and more.
The founder and editor in chief of TAOP has worked with some of the best chefs in the world capturing the most beautiful dishes on camera in #theartofplating as well as short films, positioning "food as a high form of art."
We caught up with the LA based creative in between globe trotting to discover more about her TAOP projects and the evolving conversation around plating as an art form.
1. Tell us more about The Art of Plating project, how it began and how it has evolved?
Being a former Art Director, I’ve always been a collector of good design and art. And of course, I love food and cooking. At that time which was 5 years ago, out of my own curiosity for plating (also known as failed attempts) I noticed media outlets weren’t talking about plating. It’s not like how it is now.. there were no videos, Instagram pages, or blogs remotely covering it like the way they do now. Very quickly I decided it was something I wanted to explore so we started the Instagram page and a year later launched the website. Now we have over 750k followers, we’ve traveled all over the world to collaborate on events and content, our short films have been picked up at film festivals, everyday we’re constantly looking for new ways to inspire creativity and exploration.
2. What’s been your favorite project so far and why?
Any of any of our video projects are my favorite. Plating is a such a personal expression and every person has their own reasons or ideas for creating something. Getting to spend time intimately with the subject to learn everything about them and to see them create is always fascinating to me.
3. Tell us about the best/your favourite/most memorable plate?
One of my most recent memorable plates is probably Daniel Humm’s Foie Gras w/ Butternut Squash and Pumpkin seed dish because the plating is so simple yet innovative. I remember being able to enjoy it at a meal but was able to appreciate it even more after seeing the process of it being plated.
4. What makes a great plate in your opinion?
Aside from it obviously needing to taste good, to me a great plate is thoughtful and edited in a way where every element has a reason for existing on the plate, whether it’s there because it enhances the other flavors on the dish or adds texture. I hate plates that are overly frivolous and without substance.
5. Can you name any ground breaking chefs or countries when it comes to plating and why?
The countries that are very forward thinking in plating are U.S., Denmark, and Singapore. I think this is because these countries are not bound by too many traditions so it gives them room to explore creatively. Right now I’m particularly a fan of Kristian Baumann at 108 in Copenhagen. He does some very technical things with vegetables that’s been the most inventive and original that I’ve seen in a while.
6. What impact do you think Instagram has had on the restaurant industry/chefs?
Instagram has created such a significant impact. It’s a great tool. Before Instagram chefs were only exposed to different ideas and concepts they either experienced in person, read in a cookbook, or learned in the kitchen. Now you can have access to ideas from hundreds and thousands of other culinary professionals within seconds. I also think Instagram makes it easier to connect with someone from across the world that you normally would never imagine you could have connected to like a chef, a fan, a guest, or even a business partner. The doors that Instagram opened for many people’s career has been exciting for me to see.
7. What role do you think plating plays in storytelling?
Plating is no different than putting on a play or creating a painting — it’s an expression and without limits. To me, plating isn’t just limited to dressing the plate. It includes the plate itself, the silverware, the way you serve the food, and how it’s meant to be eaten. Some great examples of this are Elena Arzak who plated a dish on an iPad w/ a picture of the sea and played sounds of waves or Massimo Bottura’s famous “Oops I dropped The Lemon Tart!” dessert where Osteria Francescana’s Sous Chef Taka Kondo accidentally dropped a lemon tart. They plated it with this story and that was where the plating for that dish was birthed!
8. Can you tell us about any plating trends for 2019?
So far, I predict the biggest trend for 2019 will be geometric shapes. More and more I’m seeing chefs take the time to incorporate clean lines like circles, rectangles, cubes, and triangles into their plating.
9. Any future projects you’d like to share with us?
In the last year, I’ve become really passionate about taking The Art of Plating offline. In the next year, we will be launching a slew of events that I’m very excited about so I would stay tuned for that!