A couple of weeks ago, we packed up our bags and our face masks and drove to Pittsburgh to spend a day with Chef Jamilka Borges. Chef Jamilka has undertaken what very few people have even contemplated doing: opening a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic. Wild Child is an all-day café that will serve mostly vegetables and seafood. Oh, and did I mention that it is fully outfitted with Made In? Yes, our cookware and plateware. Since Wild Child is the first restaurant to serve on Made In plateware, we thought it would be appropriate to talk to Chef Jamilka and get some tips and tricks on how to plate like Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2018 Chef of the Year. Before we get started, let’s start with the plate. Chef Jamilka recommends using a simple plate as a blank canvas with your food as the art. Our dinner plate or entrée bowl is a great place to start!
Mix Up Your Colors
Think about the colors of your food. You’re going to want to make sure that food that’s the same color doesn’t blend together. For instance, salmon should not be placed on top of carrots. Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t have those on the same plate. Chef Jamilka just recommends including another pop of color to offset those tones. You’re also going to want to mix colors together. Think vibrant salads with citrus, or using all three colors of peppers.
Height Is Your Friend
When plating food, Chef Jamilka suggests using height to your advantage. This allows you to build flavors on top of each other, and it also helps retain heat in your food. Stacking food allows you to get all the intended flavors in one bite with one fluid motion of your fork or spoon. Let’s take a look at how Chef Jamilka puts this to use. With our entrée bowl, Chef Jamilka spreads a layer of romesco down on the bottom. This base layer gets a white bean and corn succotash, which is then topped with perfectly seared fish. Ideal bite: exceptionally-cooked flaky fish, with the freshness and bite of the succotash, all brought together by the romesco. By having all of these ingredients on top of one another, the perfect bite is attainable with one swift motion of your fork. It’s so nice to eat a dish in the way it was intended by the chef.
Think About Texture
Texture is one of the most important aspects of a meal and rightfully so. There are some foods that achieve a balance of textures on their own. A Maillard-reaction on a steak, roasted vegetables, and fried food all offer textual contrast by themselves. However, there are some foods that don’t: mashed potatoes, raw vegetables, and poached fish. While these foods offer unique textures, the texture is consistent throughout. That’s why Chef Jamilka highly recommends thinking about texture when plating. You don’t want to put soft things together, like mashed potatoes and olive-oil poached halibut. You want each bite to have a variety of textures.
Have fun and try different things; be adventurous! Start with your white plate - it’s your blank canvas! Go from there. You should use your hands, tweezers if you have them, and Chef Jamilka’s go-to tool: a set of spoons. Try techniques you’ve seen chefs do (I always use the back of the spoon swoosh!). In the end, whatever you put on your plate will be a reflection of your hard work in the kitchen. You now have the tools to make it look as pretty as it will taste. So go have fun and remember to tag @madein in all of your plating endeavors!