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Food presentation - tips to plate like a pro

The Japanese consider food presentation an artform, everything is precisely placed to create a dish of perfect harmony.


Here we talk to Melbourne Chef Tamaki Nakatani whose Japanese heritage makes her an expert in the art of beautiful food presentation. She offers some tips when it comes to plating your dish like a pro. 

What are the three most important things for you when it comes to beautiful presentation?

The base

In Japanese culture, the plate is as important as the food you are presenting. The art begins when the Chef carefully selects which plate they will use. “It is like planting a flower into the right soil to make it bloom beautifully.”


The balance of colours, tastes and static vs dynamic is key. A good dish has the perfect balance of all three elements. A well balanced dish doesn't need an extra garnish if it doesn’t have meaning or add to the dish.


This is a very interesting part of Japanese cooking. The empty space on a dish represents ‘empty’ and this space serves to enhance the food on the plate. Great presentation of Japanese food actually has a good amount of ‘emptiness’ in the dish.

What are three tips you recommend for people at home to plate their dishes like an expert?

  1. As mentioned, try not to put too much food in one plate - be aware of empty space. For example, use a slightly bigger plate and put your foods in the middle of the plate.
  2. Think of the balance of your dish. Is it colourful enough? If there is too much brown, add fresh green herbs or red tomatoes as garnish. Does it have a variety of tastes and textures? If everything is soft in texture, sprinkle something crunchy on top.
  3. Try different styles of plates. Use a black plate, a soup bowl or a tea cup. If you only have white plates, set the table with a placemat and cutlery before you serve.

Lastly, are there certain rules you should follow to create the perfect balance in presentation?

There aren’t ‘rules’, but I always think of odd numbers and one chance to get it right.

Presenting odd numbers such as 1, 3, and 5 of things is more dynamic than 2, 4, and 6. When I dot sauce onto a plate, I dot odd numbers. When I place slices of sashimi, I use 3 or 5 making a triangle or hexagon. This causes visual movement of what is on the plate, which attracts people’s attention.

And don’t move anything. Once I place the food, that’s it. Therefore, it's crucial to to have a certain image of the final presentation before you start placing foods, so you get the balance and the look right, first time.

To book Chef Tamaki for your own private dinner party contact Intertain.

Published 11 August 2017

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