Throughout history the principles of art have been the base of architecture, music, paintings, photographs and culinary masterpieces.

These tenets include; balance and highlight or contrasts in colour, unity, asymmetric and symmetric, design, texture, taste and an element of whimsy or pleasant surprise along with a pleasing focal point. These principles will be elucidated with examples and garnishes throughout the book.

The ancient Romans recognized the connection between an ornately decorated table and the appetite. The eminent cuisines of Asia, especially those of China and Japan, have for centuries attached immense importance to garnishes and plating for their dishes.

A centrepiece of food or flowers is usually considered the focal point along a buffet line or table. Then the diner’s eye should move from this feature towards the corners of the table. Catch the diner’s eye though, even on a serving platter with a jaunty, unique garnish or aromatic herb bundle hanging over the edge of the table, to be brushed against, releasing a therapeutic aroma.

In fact, in the feudal times, the castle thresholds were strewn with rosemary to release their aromatic bouquet when crushed by arriving guests to offset the offal about the “floors.” I once researched the history and culinary usages of numerous herbs for The Greenhouse Company in California. Fascinating!

What intrigues me, even one product, such as cilantro or coriander is woven through cultures and cuisines to enhance a dish. This one item could be popping up or in, as an ingredient, a presentation or a striking garnish.  Mexican, Chinese and even Soviet Georgian cuisines utilise this humble herb in a myriad of ways. At feasts in Tbilisi, cilantro was a part of an edible centrepiece along with black opal basil for guests to pluck at will and add to their dishes. This was in between many toasts drinking from a gourd.

Presentation and contrast comes naturally to chefs with an art background or an innate talent. “Can it really be taught?” quizzed Chef Marilyn Nergord, of Coeur d’Alene’s, Capers restaurant, a very creative colleague. Well, this book intends to assist in the matter by providing succinct instructions, images and ideas to unique food styling for pedestrian platters and ubiquitous trays.

Thus, the untrained or curious cook can easily learn and further hone her skills with this tome as a reference and resource. Culinary schools, caterers, hospitals to resorts and lo, even (re: especially) the military will hopefully delight in these easy garnishes that take merely minutes and cost pennies.

Corporate and chain restaurant criterion is also woven into each formula to include my invention FATTS: Excellence in – Flavour, Appearance, Texture, Temperature (spice/heat level) and Sturdiness (idiot proof). I used this for both corporate taste panels of my developed dishes and restaurant review for countless publications.  PAPG is another acronym for weaving artistry in like food stylists do: Presentation, Arrangement, Propping and Garnish. Rainbow foods and garnishes create visual appeal as well as nutritional value.

Your style of design, arrangement and garnish can develop into a personal statement of your food philosophy. Arranging foods in a particular manner or utilizing mainstream foods in an unusual way gives a signature stamp to your presentation.

However, it is crucial to follow the standardized formulas and garnishes from your author to begin with. As a test kitchen director, past chef and culinary consultant I worked diligently on these dishes to meet all my own and professional corporate criteria. Get wild but after you master the principles.

The basic point is which was ingrained at the Cordon Bleu in 1973…”Keep it simple rather than over-handled and very busy.” Yes! It can be: Simple! Healthy! Timeless!

Lastly, I end with another poem from the chief of my tribe and my town, Seattle.

Teach your children what we have taught our children—that the earth is our mother.

Whatever befalls the earth

befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.

If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.

This we know

the earth does not belong to us,

We belong to the earth

This we know

All things are connected

Like the blood which unites one family

All things are connected

Whatever befalls the earth

befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.

We did not weave the web of life,

we are merely a strand in it

Whatever we do to the web,

We do to ourselves….

— Chief Seattle

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