Food Styling 101: 4 Ways to Make Pinoy Dishes Picture-Perfect

Food styling tips to make Filipino food looks elegant and appealing .

At the restaurant table these days, diners grab their smartphones first and their forks second. As disappointing as it might be to chefs, contemporary foodies think that photographing and uploading shots of what’s on their plates is more critical than digging directly into their meals.

But savvy chefs and restaurateurs know that social media is a great way to market and advertise at minimum cost. Diners in search of the next big thing will flock to restaurants that offer visually appealing dishes, so presentation is becoming increasingly important – as is variety since people are always looking for the next big thing.

Filipino dishes are typically colorful, which gives a social-media chef a lot to work with. If your goal is to have your cuisine go viral, here are some presentation tips to attract the interwebs.

1. Composition

You’re not a chef; you’re an artist – so start thinking of your plates as a canvas and pay attention to every brushstroke. Every recipe element needs to be positioned on the plate with care before you send the final dish out for service. This practice ensures that the color of the ingredients will be vibrant.

A chef needs to think about how each recipe element interacts with others on the plate, in terms of color, symmetry, size, and texture. Exceptions, however, might be made for salads or pasta, which would benefit visually from a Jackson-Pollock-like presentation.

2. Centering

Framing your culinary canvas is essential and attracts the eye. Imagine that there’s an inch border at the rim of the plate and work inside that area. It creates a white space that will resonate with diners and avoid a sense of clutter. Keeping inside the lines will also keep you from overwhelming customers with plates that are too busy.

Yellow rice and chicken on a white plate.
Keep dishes uncluttered by working inside an imaginary border at the plate’s edge. (Photo: Shutterstock)

3. Plating

We’ve noticed two trends in plating. Chefs create a sense of nostalgia by using classic or traditional tableware that has long been a part of Filipino kitchens. Nostalgia is useful if you’re aiming to create a homey feel and a warm and cozy vibe that’s perfect for traditional takes on Filipino standards.

Alternatively, chefs can go modern, using monochrome or single-texture plates and bowls. This kind of minimal backdrop pushes food to the foreground when patterned dishes might overpower your creations. Some chefs even think minimum plating is too much competition for their food, opting for chopping boards and baskets.

Sisig on a hotplate with a bowl of rice.
Sisig and Sinigang are two beloved Filipino dishes that can be reinvented from time to time. (Photo: Shutterstock)

4. Imperfections

Chefs are detailed oriented, so this advice might be surprising: Embrace imperfection. Sometimes small flaws add character and personality to a dish.

Massimo Bottura, a famous Italian three-Michelin-star chef, always talks about his dessert “Oops, I Dropped the Lemon Tart.” Bottura’s pastry chef was troubled when he dropped a tart, but the genius chef saw the breakage, thought it beautiful, and started serving all his pies that way.

Spills will happen, and chefs can embrace the imperfection. Symmetry matters in presentation, but sometimes off center makes more sense. You might cook with a thermometer and kitchen scale, but plating doesn’t require millimeter rulers. It’s okay not to be perfect.

In the end, how your style and present your food needs to reflect your restaurant’s brand and personality, whether your menu is focusing on comfort food, fusion dishes, or fine dining. Chefs are famous for their discerning palates. Now you need to develop an artist’s eye, as well.


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