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1. Choose an item to feature and build your presentation around it.
Compliment that item, don't smother it.
2. Never overfill a dish. Be generous with your portions if you want, but be aware that a glimpse of the plate underneath will entertain the eye and stimulate the appetite far more than a gigantic serving.
3. Keep the rim of the plate clean. The rim should be used as a frame for your plate, not a ledge to pile more food on.
4. emphasize balance instead of symmetry. Odd numbers always look better than even. Try clustering items. A nice bouquet of greens with a dollop of diced, marinated tomato will look much nicer than sprigs of lettuce here and there with random tomato wedges.
5. Remember that real food is three dimensional. Give it some height! See how high you can stack the asparagus and still get it to the table. Have a fresh herb sprig stand up from the pilaf and call for attention. Never flatten or smooth out your food.
6. Keep it simple. The food will look best naturally, with a light hand to the arranging and garnishing. You don't want anything to look overhandled.
7. Serve hot food hot and cold food cold. Make sure that the serving dishes are the appropriate temperature.
8. Clean up the serving dishes. Before taking the dish to the table be sure the plate rim is free of any splashes or fingerprints.
9. Garnish at the last minute. Add a snippet of something fresh and lively just before serving. Sauce your dishes at the last minute to make them glossy and inviting. If something looks drab, shine it up with a little oil, or sprinkle it with some color. A shower of fresh, chopped parsley can be lovely, but only if it is green , moist and aromatic.
10. Keep in mind that if the picture looks too good to be true, it probably is. Food in photographs is sometimes not what it seems. The bag of tricks used by professional stylists can include a surprising collection of unappetizing techniques.
Submitted By DIANE LAZARUS On 11-13-95