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How Michelin Star Restaurants put the Best Design Principles on a Plate

Using food as merely a metaphorical reference in design is long gone. Michelin star restaurants have been the epitome of not just the quality of food, but the superior visual experience fine dining has to offer. Now, with food shows hosted by celebrity chefs and Michelin star rated restaurants having websites, who wouldn’t be inspired to create dishes that are appealing visually as they are to taste? You must be wondering if it requires more than just creative genius and great instinct to present a dish that’s worthy of a Michelin star. The verdict: Of course! After all, “food is edible art”.
These are a set of design principles banked upon to create these culinary wonders. For those of you interested in any field of visual art or architecture, these would be familiar in an instant.

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Photo Credit: Ken Thorne

Colour and balance: Red and black is a combination we’re all well versed with. This attractive dish, created by Michelin starred chef Matias Perdomo who is from Uruguay, speaks volumes about how understanding the balance of colour and contrast promotes the character of a dish. The sharp glossy finish of the main portion of the dish truly stands out when it’s set against the black base. It intrigues you in a glance and leaves you wondering what it would taste like! It surely is non-conventional, but that’s where excellence begins.

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Photo credit: Pont de Ferr

Density- Tranparency and Opacity: Have you ever wondered how to make a large portion of food seem light? This eye pleaser is a signature dish at the three Michelin star rated Fat Duck located in Bray, Berkshire, England. It is considered by most conoisseurs to be the best restaurant in the world. Run by chef Heston Blumenthal, one can only expect the technique to be extraordinary. In this dish, the transparency of the snail on the opaque julienned ham and puree creates an illusion of different textures that is tempting, don’t you think? It certainly looks worthy of being a star rated dish because of the fascinating textural contrast it creates.

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Photo credit: Charles Haynes

Sculptural technique: With the rise of food pictures on Instagram, how about eating something that is so beautiful, you decide to take a hundred photos of it before, without doing enough justice! This is a delicacy created at the Fat Duck that has people going back for more. It signifies perfect harmony even though it is asymmetrical. The vertical focus is right at the center with a gradation of ingredients around that leaves a strong impact. The technique and skill that goes into crafting a dish like this one is indeed very hard to match, but you’re welcome to try this at home!

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Photo credit: Charles Haynes

Line, space and focus: With the most basic skill, the gradation and perspective this masterpiece creates is astounding, simply because the focus isn’t obvious. Another fabulous example from the Fat Duck menu- the line of vanilla mayonnaise diminishes into the poached salmon, which is the focus of the dish. The little spaces around the grapefruit cells and artichoke make it visually perfectly balanced. Apply this principle to a dessert with cake and vanilla finishing it off with chocolate chips, perhaps?

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Photo credit: Charles Haynes

Geometry, texture and form: The duo Frantzen- Lindeberg have a restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden that is listed as one of the top 50 in the world according to the Restaurant magazine and we know exactly why. Here is a little trick that only the masters seem to put into practice. While plating a finished course, try experimenting with the cutlery and arrangement. Use contrasting textures to bring out the form of the delicacy. It’s quite straightforward and looks spectacular too!

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Photo credit: Ann-Carlotte Jonsson

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