Monday, 30 April 2012

Micro-Leaves and Smears

ENOUGH of these superfluous garnishes. They are not a mark of culinary talent, they are there merely to dress a dish up. “No!” you may cry. “It is just as important for food to look good.” yes, it is. But everything on the plate should add something other than aesthetics to a dish. otherwise, you will be severely disappointed when eating a tasteless but pretty piece of green stuff. Look at this collection from The Times Magazine this weekend.

THE MICRO LEAVES. Typically Noma-esque, from Baby Richard to mini cress on an otherwise beautifully cooked rack of lamb. They take away the ‘wow’ factor on an excellent dish because the chef feels he or she should make it look ‘wispy’ and fashionable. Crap! And don’t get me started on chervil, the garnish on EVERYTHING in the 80s. It’s all peluche – fluff. 

THE FLOWERS. They don’t taste like anything so why are they on there? “But they’re so beautiful!”. They look poncy, they have no taste. Garnishes like this make it clear that the chef is trying to gain a Michelin star, and it is such a transparent ploy – a Michelin starred chef does not need this. Look at one of my favourite examples, Alice Waters, who has managed for 20 years to refrain from adding any unnecessary garnishes to her plates. Her dishes speak for themselves.

 SMEARS. Seemingly an attempt to be ‘arty’ and ‘casual-but-not-really’, it just looks like a skid mark in the toilet bowl, if we’re being brutally honest. Can’t it just be drizzled or arranged, you know, nicely? Instead, it looks as if a toddler has got in a strop with his mashed potato and dragged a spoon through it. And now it’s such a cliché. I’m sure I’ve been in a greasy spoon where the ketchup has been ‘expertly’ arranged in a chef’s smear. Pretentious much? Chefs seem to feel like they are some kind of abstract expressionist. If I see one more clip on Masterchef of the ‘swipe… 

It boils down to this: If it adds something to the dish, be it texture, taste or another element, it’s ok, but a lot of the time, chefs are merely adding to make it look how they think it should look. BORED.


  1. I SO AGREE WITH THIS! Smears of stuff, painted on. WHY?? If a sauce is there, I want to eat it with a spoon.

  2. You know, I could have swron I posted on this before but...hmm.

    The smears are a pet peeve. If they spend all that time on a sauce/reduction/jus/coulis/whatever, I want to be able to dip a damned SPOON in it, not feel like I have to lick it off the plate, or swab it up with a cotton bud.

    Microleaves are kind of cute, but ultimately the same as a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Oh unless they are micro celery shoots which pack an AMAZING punch for something to tiny.



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