11 Best Food Styling Tips From A Private Chef: Secret Reveals!

Many Chefs say that because they have made dishes a thousand times their plating talent comes naturally to them and is instinctive, we think they are just trying to keep their secrets to themselves! So we sat down with some of our best Private Chefs from ChefXChange and got them to spill their food styling tips, so that you too can plate like a Private Chef.  Read below for the tips from a private chef and the bios of our fantastic Chefs for Hire.

Tips from a Private Chef

11 Best Food Styling Tips From A Private Chef:

Personal Chefs place such importance on their presentation because people don’t just eat with their mouth, they engage all their senses and cooking is an art.  Below are the bio’s from our wonderful Personal Chefs in London and then after that are their food styling tips.

Private Chef Aleixandre

Private Chef Aleixandre

Private Chef Aleixandre

From a town near Alicante in Spain, he trained at a three Michelin Star restaurant in Spain before training under various Michelin Star Chefs such as Tom Aikens and Michael Roux Junior and then going on to cook for many celebrities, such as David Cameron, The Queen and Shirley Bassey.

Private Chef Ana

Private Chef Ana

Private Chef Ana

From Brazil, she gained her passion from her father before completing her Cuisine Diplome at Le Cordon Bleu in London. 

Private Chef Andrea

Private Chef Andrea

Private Chef Andrea

From Italy he learnt to make pasta from his Grandma, when he realised his true talent he went on to work at the highly esteemed Mugaritz restaurant in Spain, the 7th best restaurant in the world. 

Private Chef Daniel

Private Chef Daniel

Private Chef Daniel

From England, where he gained his passion from running his grandparents coastal pub kitchen, he then travelled all over the world to gain experience in other cuisines.

Private Chef Daniel

Private Chef Daniel

Private Chef Daniel

From Barcelona, he spent time travelling around Spain working for Michelin Star Chefs before venturing to London to take a position at Harrods and then on to becoming a Private Chef. 

Private Chef Jonathan

Private Chef Jonathan

Private Chef Jonathan

From England, he began working in restaurants at 14 years old, before studying at university, he then went onto own his own restaurant, before becoming a full time Private Chef and consultant.

Private Chef Khalid

Private Chef Khalid

Private Chef Khalid

From Geneva, he began working as an apprentice Chef before venturing to France to work at Michelin Star restaurants, he then moved onto Italy before settling in England.  He has had guest lists that includes the likes of Kevin Spacey, Tony Balir, Bill Clinton and Albert Roux.

Private Chef Laura

Private Chef Laura

Private Chef Laura

From England but with a Maltese family Laura began learning from her father, before training at Leiths School of Food and Wine and going onto to work at a Michelin Star Restaurant.

Private Chef Loic 

Private Chef Loic

Private Chef Loic

From France he began his early training there, he then began travelling the world to cook for many prestigious people such as Ronald Reagan.

Private Chef Michael

Private Chef Michael

Private Chef Michael

From England but with strong family links to Spain Chef Michael gained his passion for Mediterranean food, having worked in many Michelin Star restaurants he honed his style of working and became a Private Chef.

1. Planning

Sable Aux Framboise

Private Chef Laura’s Sable Aux Framboise

Private Chef Laura always recommends planning the idea out before, whether it be in your head or even a physical sketch.  Private Chef Andrea too plans his dishes but he says he always keeps 10% of the dish unplanned to test and challenge what goes best with the presentation.

2. Choosing the right coloured plate

Langoustine salad

Private Chef Aleixandre’s Langoustine Salad, Avocado Cannelloni Stuffed with Langoustines-Truffles, Cucumber, Baby Radishes and Cherry Tomatoes

Private Chef Aleixandre always uses an off white colour plate as white can be too bright and detract from the food.  He doesn’t often use a brightly coloured plate, but if you do he recommends using a colour that is related to food, for example green.  He says to never use a plate that isn’t related to food, for example, blue or purple as it detracts from the food and makes it look off.

3. Choosing the right sized plate

Smoked Salmon, Cucumber and Radish Timbale

Private Chef Loic’s Smoked Salmon, Cucumber and Radish Timbale with Beluga Caviar and Fresh Dill

Private Chef Loic says that the sizing of the plate really matters otherwise food can look lost.  He often plates all elements on one plate using a large plate, but if you have a smaller sized plate then just plate the main element such as the meat and use a side plate for the rest.

4. Choosing the right shaped plate

Seared Scallops

Private Chef Daniel’s Seared Scallops with Fennel Puree, Tangerine Segments and Coriander Cress

Private Chef Daniel likes to use a plate that is rectangular with no rim to use all of the space and get all the elements in without overcrowding.  Whereas Private Chef Mike always chooses a plate that is circular with high sides, so it seems it really is up to you which plate you use.

Private Chef Jonathan personally hates wooden boards, except for cheese boards, and despises slate. We can’t blame him, with every café offering food on these materials to try and seem “alternative”, we think you should stick to a good old china plate! Do you want to eat what the queen eats or what a bearded man with ripped jeans eats?

5. Give your dishes volume and colour

Beetroot Quails Eggs

Private Chef Daniel’s Beetroot Quails Eggs with Pea Puree and Mackerel

Private Chef Daniel always adds height to his dishes and goes for contrasting colours, whether that be between the different elements of the dish or the plate as well.  It’s a simple tip to turn your flat colourless boring looking dishes into something quite sublime.

6. Texture

Cod with Avocado

Private Chef Jonathan’s Cod with Avocado, Confit Hens Egg Yolk, Chorizo Crisp, Fine Beans and Saffron Fumee

This tips from a Private Chef Jonathan always includes different textures in his dishes, generally, in every dish he makes there will be some kind of puree, the main ingredient being cooked by one or more methods, and then something added to give it a crunch. So to give your dish the best look think of the different textures in the dish, if they are all very close consider different cooking methods.

7. Assembling

Usuzukuri

Private Chef Ana’s Usuzukuri with Punzu Sauce and Herbed Olive Oil

Private Chef Jonathan always puts the puree first on the plate, after deciding whether his dish will be centred or to one side.  Next he cuts the meat and displays different sides, this is for many reasons, one is to ensure the meat is cooked correctly, but also to show different textures and colours, and also the luxury of fine dining is to not have to cut much of the food on the plate (how the other half live ay?).  He always works in odd numbers and intertwines the different elements rather than keeping them separate, but if you are plating for a large number of people then ensure each dish looks the same.

Private Chef Ana too loves variety, but she says that harmony is also very important, so whilst it’s important to have different textures on the plate you need things that work well together.

8. Finishing touches

Private Chef Daniel's Lavender and Smoked Salmon

Private Chef Daniel’s Lavender, Smoked Salmon with Chilli and Mint Dressing

Add finishing touches to your dishes to give it that extra allure Private Chef Jonathan always uses a finishing ingredient to work with the dish such as a parmesan crisp, micro herbs or foam.  Private Chef Daniel often uses edible flowers to complete his dishes, because it brings an extra colour to your dish that is difficult to achieve with food. He cuts the flowers on the same day as he is serving to preserve the colour. But the Chefs note that you need to make sure that all the additions complement the dish and work with it, as after all the main element is what the Foodie is eating, not the finishing decorations.

9. Let your personality shine through

Fillet of Lamb and Braised Shoulder

Private Chef Khalid’s Fillet of Lamb and Braised Shoulder, Yellow Courgettes, Watercress Puree and Rose Garlic

Private Chef Khalid says that in the end, it boils down to the personality of the person, you can copy others dishes but you will never truly achieve the same result because it is not your personality.  The best thing to do is see the plate as a canvas and yourself as a painter and experiment different ideas to see what comes naturally to you.  Private Chef Andrea says that your personality will always shine through and if you are trying to go against your personality the dish won’t look fluid, if your personality is systematic and precise then your dishes will look like that, but if you are more creative then your dishes will reflect that too.

10. Don’t panic!

Organic Lemon Tart

Private Chef Michael’s Organic Lemon Tart with Creme Fraiche, Passion Fruit Mousse and Crisp Lemon

Private Chef Mike says that he has made many mistakes when plating his food and this is how he has always improved, he uses loose swipes of his arms for the sauces to make it look fluid, he says even after his many years of experience there are drips and splashes, which are very easily cleaned off with a cloth. Mike says that it is much better to have a fluid design to the dish and wipe off mistakes than a dish that looks forced and interrupted.  Private Chef Laura says expect to go wrong the first few times, and what’s the worst that can happen? You have to eat it!

11. And, the most important thing of all

Private Chef Andrea's Duck with Coffee Eggnog

Private Chef Andrea’s Duck, Coffee Eggnog and Burnt Spring Onion

Private Chef Andrea says the most important thing to understand is that there are no rules and the best thing to do is follow what your gut is telling you, in the end you will always make mistakes, and the best thing about that is you get to eat it! 

If your food isn’t getting to the stage where you can present it take a look at our cooking tips to see where you can improve.

Did you enjoy tips from a private chef? If yes, then browse their profiles here.