The Importance of Decor
Imagine, if you will, a picture of a ballerina. One thing I believe would be a part of that vision is a tutu – a short, full skirt, worn by ballerinas, usually made of layers of tulle. It is a simple, but pretty piece that is necessary for a precise reason: to identify these dancers specifically as ballerinas. Now, imagine a beautifully plated dessert without any décor or garnish. Some minimalist chefs might actually prefer it this way, but because we eat with our eyes first, making décor, much like the tutu, and important element to dessert presentation for several reasons.
First off, if a décor is to be used, there is a ground rule that the garnish must be edible, and when it comes to décor for gelato pans, whichever garnish you choose for the pan should be an indication of what the flavor is. However, the same rule doesn’t apply to plated desserts.
As a pastry chef, I feel that a décor or garnish is the equivalent to an artist signing his or her name on an original painting. The garnish is the final touch and is meant to be an enhancement, not to overcrowd the main flavor or confuse the diner as to why it was added to the plate. Too many times we see chefs using exorbitant amounts of micro greens or flowers on a plated dessert, and although it may look pretty, most of the time it doesn’t serve any real purpose and is only there for aesthetic appeal.
There’s no doubt that we need food for survival, but presenting it in an attractive way helps to make unattractive, boring foods look appealing and exciting. Parallel to how the interior design of an establishment drives the expectation for a sense of escapement, culinary garnishes are complementary elements that allow consumers to explore and experience flavors, textures, colors, and smells, while providing chefs and restauranteurs a final opportunity to complete their story.