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How to select the perfect plate for the NCOTY final

The Craft Guild of Chefs and National Chef of the Year (NCOTY) are proud to work with many fantastic partners to make the event such a huge success. We’ve worked with Churchill for many years and they spend a great deal of time working with our finalists to find the perfect plates. Finalists want to ensure the dishes they’ve worked so hard to create stand out before that all important moment of tasting.

As one of the world’s leading manufacturers of high quality ceramic tableware, Churchill has a long history of bringing the highest quality products to the hospitality industry.

Four years ago, Churchill introduced the Exceptional Presentation Award to celebrate presentation skills and to reward one of the finalists for their work on Churchill’s product.

The award is back for this year and Churchill is once again running its ‘people’s choice’ method of voting. However, the prize has a couple of new and exciting twists. For the first time it will go across both competitions - seeing the young chef’s dishes compete with those in the senior competition. The award will also go to the best dish rather than the competitor with the most votes across all courses. Ultimately providing a winning dish, based on the food presentation. As the competitions are held at different times voting will close an hour after each final. So for the Young National Chef of the Year the count will take place around 12.30pm and for the National Chef of the Year 4.30pm. Votes are the number of likes and shares each dish gets on Churchill’s twitter account @churchill1795. Each dish will have the competitor’s name and #NCOTYGetInvolved.

The winner will be presented with a specially framed winner’s plate and also £250 worth of Churchill product and will be revealed as part of the live announcement at The Stage at 5pm on Tuesday, 4th October and tweeted by @Craft_Guild.

The psychology of plates

There have been several psychological studies around food on the plate including a study by Dr. Brian Wansink and Dr. Koert van Ittersum which explored how the colour of the plate affected how much you eat as well as the impact of dinnerware on a background, such as a coloured tablecloth.

Research has also taken place to explore whether plate colour can affect how people perceive the flavour of the food. There is a view that flavours appear more intense on a light, plain background.

In The Perfect Meal: The Multisensory Science of Food and Dining, experiment psychologist Charlie Spence and psychologist Betina Piqueras-Fiszman from Wageningen University in the Netherlands explore how even the most minute adjustments can enhance the dining experience. They found that round, white plates tend to enhance sweet flavours in food, but black, angular plates tend to bring out more savoury flavours. The study also showed that serving food on a red plate tends to reduce the amount diners eat.

It’s not only plates that chefs and restaurateurs need to take into account, as scientific experiments have even shown that the weight of cutlery can affect how sweet or salty we perceive something.

With so much science behind this topic, how do National Chef of the Year finalists choose china that will help them take the title?

Donna Frosdick, PR & Sponsorship Manager at Churchill said “This year the finalists get to choose items from our premium Alchemy collection, Stonecast; including both the new organic shapes and Nutmeg Cream colourway; and also the Studio Prints range. I always find it really interesting to see the different options they select and discover why they chose it. Many finalists choose a simple white option to make the food pop out on the plate, whilst others look for something that will really add the wow factor. Each year, it's always really interesting getting to know the chefs and find out what is going to work best for them.”

Russell Bateman, Head Chef at Colettes at The Grove won the NCOTY title in 2014 and all his winning dishes were served on plates from Churchill's Ambience range - part of the Alchemy fine dining collection. Russell chose to use the same range across all courses to create a full complement of dishes aesthetically designed to work together.

Speaking about his choice of plates Russell said: “The Ambience range was perfect to show my winning dishes. I wanted the plates to be simple, yet elegant and the plates worked incredibly well across all courses.”

Commenting on his experience of choosing the china, 2013 winner, Hayden Groves said “In 2012, I won the inaugural Churchill Best Presentation Award for my final dishes, however, I didn’t feature on the podium. I made some cooking errors yet my presentation was simple and clean showing the key ingredients clearly.”

Speaking about his winning year, Hayden added: “I chose simple, timeless plates for the year I won. The Balance coupe plate from the Alchemy range, with its slight dish like properties ensured that any of the delicious liquor from my Mackerel stayed in the centre of the plate and didn’t creep around the edges. It was rimless which allows dressing to the edge of the plate as well.

Hayden’s main course was served on a flat 11.5inch classic main course Ambience plate and he felt this gave a blank and unfussy canvas which allowed his food to really show. He said: “Over the previous years of competing I had served sauce in separate jugs as not only does this keep the plate clean, it also keeps the sauce hot and allows an instant hit of heat to the plate. For the dessert it was a first for me as I chose a glass as this allowed me to showcase the layers of the dessert, allowing for a light set and gave some height to the presentation.”

Before he steps down as the current NCOTY Lahiru Jayasekara, Head Chef at Petrus, shared some food for thought on the topic: “I opted for plain white plates from Alchemy range as I think it makes the food stand out much better on the plate. Presentation is very important as a chef. It’s said that 20% of our appetite comes from the presentation of a dish, so if it is poorly presented, it will affect the judges’ enjoyment of the food.”

Churchill would like to wish all ten finalists the best of luck for the live final which takes place at The Restaurant Show on Tuesday.

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