A few viewers questioned Richard Blais' decision on last week's edition of Top Chef: All Stars to serve a tuna dish in a silver tin, but experts say restaurant goers should get used to more creative plating techniques.
"You're trying to create a memorable dish, and part of that is the way it's presented," says Tracy Rathbun, co-owner of DUO, a culinary event venue and retail space. "My husband (Kent Rathbun, owner of restaurants including Abacus) will tell you: Making food pretty to look at is as important as making it good to taste."
Rathbun suspects the recent innovative plating trend might be rooted in the rage for simple, unadorned food. A single asparagus spear is more visually interesting in a shoebox than on a round, white plate.
But Rathbun, who regularly serves food in individual casseroles, says there are limits to creative plating. While Blais' use of a tin was relatively witty, other experimental strategies could annoy the eater.
"You don't want to do something funky that people can't use," she says. "It's got to be useful."