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Working the Plate: The Art of Food Presentation [Hardcover]

Christopher Styler , David Lazarus
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 25 2006
Feast your eyes.

Long awaited by professional chefs, this groundbreaking guide to food presentation will also delight and inspire culinary students and sophisticated home cooks. Acclaimed food writer and culinary producer Christopher Styler describes seven distinctive plating styles, from Minimalist to Naturalist to Dramatic, with several striking examples of every genre. Each plating suggestion is accompanied by clear instructions along with color photos of step-by-step techniques and finished plates. Complete with essays on plating from ten leading chefs and recipes for the dishes featured, this book is a work of art in itself--a must for the kitchen shelf.

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Working the Plate: The Art of Food Presentation + Food Presentation Secrets: Styling Techniques of Professionals + Culinary Artistry
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Product Description


In the world of cooking, presentation is every bit as important as flavor. This idea is critical for restaurants, where a dish's appearance could determine the difference between excellent reviews and bankruptcy. Enter Styler's new work, a step-by-step recipe manual for home cooks interested in making their dishes look as good as they taste. This is no ordinary cookbook; think of it as a compilation of ideas. Ten of the nation's top chefs here introduce eight styles of plating. Delineated by chapters focusing on the art and principles of plating, the brief but packed text allows readers to indulge in various styles, including "Minimalist," "Artist," "Architect," "Contemporary European Style," "Asian Influence," and "Desserts: Classic and Contemporary." The book features photographs of chefs preparing dishes and is sparsely designed with an eye to beauty, allowing food design to take center stage. Styler doesn't seek to be an authority on plating but instead hopes that this work will serve as an introduction to the art. Highly recommended for large public libraries.
—Steven G. Fullwood, Schomburg Ctr. Lib., New York (Library Journal, October 15, 2006)

"Professional and home cooks…can take culinary presentation to the next level by learning the secrets of contemporary food styling." (Cakes & Sugarcraft, Autumn 2007)

“Professional and home cooks who are passionate about food can take culinary presentation to the next level…” (Inspired by Food, Summer 2008)

"...take culinary presentation to the next level by learning the secrets of contemporary food styling." (Inspired by Food, Winter 2008)

From the Inside Flap

An inspiring book for professionals andsophisticated home cooks who wantto take their skills to the next level,Working the Plate goes beyond adding adrizzle of something here or a sprig ofsomething there to explore both the principlesand the art of food presentation. Christopher Styler shares the secrets of seven contemporaryplating styles: The Minimalist, The Architect, The Artist, Contemporary European Style, Asian Influences, The Naturalist, and DramaticFlair. He also reveals the thoughts of ten leading chefs on the art of plating, from Terrance Brennan and Emily Luchetti to Suzanne Goin and Marcus Samuelsson.

Working the Plate includes several examples of each plating style. Stunning color photographs show both finished plates and the steps involved to duplicate the techniques behind such dishes as Roasted Quail with Chard and Potatoes, Parmesan Crusted Lamb Chops with Swirled Root Puree and Pea Sauce, Skate and Angel Hair Pasta with Caper Butter, Soba-Tofu Salad in a Nori Cone, and Bird's Nest Brunch.

Plating provides the all important first impression and sets the stage for the sensoryexperience of enjoying a great meal. With this overview of popular plating styles, you'll see how you can vary approaches and add adistinctive dash of élan and panache to the dishes you serve.

Discover the plating philosophies of these renowned chefs:

Wayne Harley Brachman, Porter House, New York, NY

Terrance Brennan, Artisanal, Picholine, New York, NY

Andrew Carmellini, A Voce, New York, NY

Suzanne Goin, Lucques, AOC, Los Angeles, CA

Sharon Hage, York Street, Dallas, TX

James Laird, Restaurant Serenade, Chatham, NJ

Emily Luchetti, Farallon Restaurant, San Francisco, CA

Tadashi Ono, Matsuri, New York, NY

Kent Rathbun, Abacus, Jasper's, Dallas, Texas

Marcus Samuelsson, Aquavit, Riingo, New York, NY

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not for professionals, no recipes either! Dec 30 2007
I ordered this book looking for some new ideas on how to plate food, but was disappointed as it didn't offer anything new for me. I suppose it would be ok for a novice cook, but it doesn't even include any recipes for the items it features!! Needless to say, I returned it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good photos, good ideas, but lack of depth Oct. 31 2010
By Alex_CS
It's not a bad book, it has some really creative tips, though I was looking for something a bit more elaborated. The presentations and the recipes at the end are really good, though it's really brief and as someone else commented before it leaves u wanting more... but because in deed it needs more content. Not a bad call though I expected a bit more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Working the Plate - The Art of Food Presentation Jan. 3 2010
I have to disagree with the last reviewer.
The book features various cooking styles, along with Chef bios and some of their ideas and philosophies. The book is beautifully illustrated and feature step-by-step photos, outlining plating procedures for each meal. Recipes for each component starts on page 185 and is broken down into sauces, full dishes, sides and desserts. I found the biggest shortcoming is that it left me wanting more.

Put me down for the sequel.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a second hand book from library. April 13 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
it is not a good book. there are many other book which give you more substance.I am not using it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 2.7 out of 5 stars  58 reviews
92 of 95 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing solution for a needed niche. Feb. 6 2007
By George R. Wilmot - Published on Amazon.com
Since becoming a truly dedicated foodie 5-10 years ago, I've been looking for a good book on plating, but have never found one. With the publication of this new book I thought my search would be over. I was way wrong.

I'm not a design-oriented person, but this book is a classic example of art direction (photography, layout, design) that is so misguided that it totally destroys whatever educational content may be present (pretty little, in this case) . At times, it made me want to scream, like on p. 153, where the color and typeface choices make the type almost illegible. While the book's look might work with another cookbook, it just DOESN'T FIT with the purported purpose of the book, which was to teach cooks how to "work the plate" to create artful presentations. As mentioned in the excellent previous review by B. Marold, the only photographs of the finished plates are low-angle, shallow depth-of-field pics that look nice but are actually instructional hindrances. The series of 3-4 small demonstration photos (taking up an entire double page, with way too much "white space") in each chapter usually show things that are basic and don't really need photos (like dusting a plate with cinnamon and chile powder) and have minimal educational value. There are just a handful of neat techniques (like the chocolate bowls made by dipping a baloon in melted chocolate), but again informational content seems oddly and poorly coupled with the layout/design.

In defining different styles of food presentation (minimalist, architectural, contemporary European, etc), the author makes a welcomed attempt at providing a conceptual framework to help guide the reader. Unfortunately, the dishes of food chosen to illustrate each category do not do a good job of defining that style as distinct from the other styles, i.e. they are poor archetypes. I'd much rather have seen one clear, archetypal dish from each category, WELL-PHOTOGRAPHED!

I enjoyed the inserted chef profiles, and some of the author's introductory remarks to each chapter. These sections pointed out the connection between style of food and style of plating...an important point that perhaps I've not yet considered enough. In other words, if you cook wonderful natural ingredients simply (e.g. Alice Waters style), the plating syle should reflect that style of food preparation (i.e. no toothpicked geometrical designs in drizzled sauces...just a toss with a light vinaigrette, etc.). A simple, common-sense point that is nicely reinforced throughout the book.

I hope that within the cookbook field the plating niche will continue to be addressed. Wait for the next attempt; it's got to be better than this.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not inspiring and not informative Aug. 13 2008
By glouise - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Some nice pictures...many cookbooks have better. No discussion on style or technique and certainly no recipes worth buying the book for. Check it out at a bookstore or library before you purchase it...watching a food network show will give you more information on plating than this book will in my opinion. There is also the fact this book is TINY, not worth the money or a second look it is so lacking in information. So disappointing. I was at least expecting pictures of several presentations of different courses even if there was not a lot of explanation, a picture is truly worth a thousand words when developing this skill. Did I mention this book is a big disappointment.
71 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some Excellent Techniques for foodie and pro. Overpriced. Nov. 30 2006
By B. Marold - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
`Working the Plate' by cookbook writer and TV cooking show producer, Christopher Styler offered great promise as a text on an arcane corner of culinary artistry which chefs such as Bobby Flay and Mario Batali can do so effortlessly on `Iron Chef America', and yet when mere mortals try to do the same, we come up all thumbs.

The hefty pricetag from the classy textbook publishing Wiley gave further promise that the book had weighty promise. Before I cracked the covers, I itemized a list of things I would expect to find in such a book, such as knife and mandoline techniques; sauce making; squeeze bottle techniques and general techniques for decorating with multi-colored sauces, ring mold carpentry (well, PVC pipe cutting, really). In short, I expected something like a `Martha Stewart Plating Handbook' where every technique is explained in exquisite detail. That is not what this book is about.

That is not to say that there are no good plating ideas in this book. Especially ideas you are not likely to find in cookbooks other than those from the very high-end culinary artists such as Keller, Rippert, Boulud, Portale, and Tramonto, or on `Iron Chef America'! There are several knockout ideas here which are actually relatively easy to do, as long as you have the time and some basic knowledge on how to work with the raw materials.

My favorite example of this situation is the excellent little technique used to plate the `All-American Sundae Chocolate Bowl'. In a nutshell, the technique involves coating half of a simple small rubber balloon with melted chocolate, cool the chocolate, burst the balloon, and extract your thin chocolate bowl in which your ice cream or anything else you want is served. The problem here is that melted chocolate is one of the world's fussiest ingredients, as it can't get too hot and it can't touch water. But this book assumes you know all that. Of course, if you are a culinary school graduate or a foodie of long standing, this is no problem. In fact, I admire the simplicity of the technique. One can for an afternoon imagine you are emulating Jacques Torres or Pierre Herme in creating cleverly molded chocolate serving ware.

Weighing heavily on the plus side of the ledger is the fact that although there are few techniques (eight plating styles with one to four recipes and techniques per style), each technique is very nicely illustrated in a series of three or four pictures after the photograph of the completed dish and a narrative describing the dish. What is very odd is that we get no standard recipe for any of these dishes. There is no list of ingredients with amounts or details about preparations. And, aside from the captions to the pics illustrating the techniques, there is no real procedural write-up. This odd state of affairs is tempered somewhat by the fact that there are standard recipes in the back of the book for all the sauces, dressings, and other decorative preparations such as mushroom jus and bell pepper puree.

These basic techniques are far more important than their being divided up into the eight styles, which are Minimalist, Architect, Artist, Contemporary European, Asian, Naturalist, Dramatic Flair, and Desserts. To me it seems these distinctions are totally arbitrary and of no value in a `how-to' manual. And, the author goes so far as to say that it is the rare chef who would work entirely within one or another of these styles. All this leads me to believe the styles were cooked up by the author simply to make the book seem more authoritative.

The problem is that this book is not dedicated to `how-to' narrative. It is dedicated to culinary titillation, with a bit of technique added to give you some basis for hands-on participation. My best illustration of this claim is the fact that in the narrative description of `The Minimalist' style, the author paints a word picture of `a cube of perfectly cubed tuna set atop fresh corn relish and a pool of silky-smooth coulis.' Now why couldn't the author spring for an accompanying picture of just such a dish? And, no dish of that description is to be found among the three archetypes for minimalist plating.

Interspersed among the recipes and the various styles are profiles of ten (10) major chefs known for their skill in presentation. These are Wayne Harley Brachman, Terrance Brennan, Andrew Carmellini, Susan Goin, Sharon Hage, James Laird, Emily Luchetti, Tadashi Ono, Kent Rathbun, and Marcus Samuelsson. All the thumbnail narratives about and by these chefs are interesting and informative, but they are not essentially connected with the techniques or `styles' described on the accompanying pages.

The subtitle, `The Art of Food Presentation' tells the story in that this is more like a picture book of frescos and less like a manual on how to go about painting frescos. The unfortunate aspect of that emphasis is that the culinary photography is relatively weak. I would expect most or all pics to be taken from directly above the plate and at a decent distance so that nothing is out of focus. Instead, most pics are taken from about 10 to 20 degrees above the level of the table and a few inches away from the plate, so that the foreground third of the plate is in focus, but the remaining two thirds of the plate are out of focus.

I confess my comparison with a fresco picture book is an exaggeration. As I have already said above, the book does give a great little tutorial on about 25 different plating techniques, some of which one can easily do oneself, but the heavy pricetag is paying more for the mediocre photography and the celebrity sketches.

Since there are so few general books on plating, the dedicated foodie and the professional will get much from this book, although they could have gotten more with more attention to technique and less attention to flash.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not what I was looking for Sept. 16 2010
By Dav - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have to say the claims made about the book hooked me....in a big way. Being a culinary student and wanting reference material to help me perfect the skill of plating, I thought this book would be a great addition to my library. I was wrong....way wrong. It is very light in content....I was looking for a book that talked about plating....this had claims for foodies and culinary students. I would say that if you fit this demographic then you are already further advanced in your plating skills. The book is very basic....basic enough that I would say it doesn't deserve the title..."Working the Plate". I read it cover to cover....which takes about 1 hour. Truly a disappointment.

Lofty claims.....light on content......not what I was looking for. If you are looking for a good book on plating your money would be better spent elsewhere.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Very Basic Jan. 19 2008
By Guy T. Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
I am a chef that is always looking for plating ideas techniques and thought by the cover that it may do that. This book has a lot of wasted space and does not provide very many things I had not seen in other cookbooks. I would look at this in the store beofre buying it without seeing it. Very nice idea though.
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