We Want Plates!
The Roof Tile Effect
Ever had your steak served on a shovel? How about soup in a shoe? Perhaps not, but we all have had a burger on a chopping board or a super salad on a roof tile. It has become the norm for restaurants to try unusual ways to present their food as they strive to add that little bit of je ne sais quoi to their diners’ experience. But is it all necessary? What happened to the good old fashioned plate that’s been doing the job just fine? Well that’s the question being posed by @wewantplates; the twitter account that’s growing a considerable amount of admirers, as well as coverage on national radio and featuring in a number of newspapers. The aim is simple. To encourage their posse of followers to upload images of the strange types of food carrying vessels they have encountered in the hope of highlighting the ridiculousness and plead for a return to a simpler time.
I have a lot of sympathy for the restaurant industry though. An industry that has grown and transformed significantly over the past twenty years. What used to be a rare treat for some has now become the norm for many and numbers visiting restaurants have grown substantially. It is also a multi-billion pound industry that is notoriously difficult to be successful in, where competition is fierce and margins are tight. So no wonder restaurants look to do something out of the norm to stand out in a very crowded room.
A judging finger can also be pointed at some of the most celebrated chefs in the country. Jamie Oliver’s 15 or 30 minute meals always feature’s large amounts of food on chopping boards or some sort of tray. The idea being the dinner is an interactive one where everyone digs in and helps themselves (and no wonder we’ve seen a boom in the number of sharing platters in eateries up and down the country. But that is a different subject for a different day). The king of the unconventional cooking methods and kooky presentational skills however is of course the one and only Heston Blummenthal. His attempts at pushing the gastronomical boundaries are infamous as he tries to mess with his diners’ perceptions. The argument is that dining out is supposed to be an experience for all the senses; a cacophony of sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures to enjoy. The humble restaurant is a restaurant no more. It’s theatre.
So with Heston and Jamie being part of the driving force behind gastronomical theatrics, independent and chain restaurants naturally need to take note don’t they? I mean that falafel & tzatziki wrap would look crap on that boring white plate in a selfie with your Grandad wouldn’t it? Ah, the influence of social media - quite ironic considering this anti-over-elaborate-plating plea originated on twitter.
#tweetwhatyoueat #foodporn #steakselfie. We’re all guilty of it. I’ve shared a few photos of myself with food in the past. It’s the age we live in. The instantaneous desire to share a moment in time with the world and marketing departments have more than cottoned on. The way food is displayed and presented has never been more scrutinised. It’s an art form and to get it right takes a bit of imagination. Okay, a starter in a shoe and crab mousse in a turned over plant pot is, I have to agree, a bit far. And it is annoying trying to eat something on a board when the juices from your dinner are dripping over the side and into your lap. But who really cares? After all, being entertained is all part of the experience in my eyes. Above all, we are a nation of people who love to dine out and if quirky crockery is part of that then I say the show must go on!
But with 43,000 followers and rising and an appearance on The One Show, it seems the message is certainly getting out. We may need to start dodging restaurant chalk boards claiming their establishment to be a ‘slate free zone,’ #wewantplates.