Tom Colicchio

Tom says: stop playing it safe.

on Nov 15, 2006

You get the picture ... again, the point is to get the most flavor from an ingredient, and use it with accompanying elements in a way that is cohesive, inspired, and seasonally adept. And then, only after all these choices have been made, do I start to think about presentation. My personal opinion is that the presentation of the food should reflect how you want it eaten. Should the flavors come together on the palate? Then layering them makes sense. Do I want to keep the flavors distinct? That calls for something else. The goal is to have the presentation reflect and enhance the intuitive choices I've made along the way. And obviously, because we eat first with our eyes, I want to go about this as beautifully as I can.

Unfortunately, we're seeing a number of our chefs cling to the sophomoric notion that presentation matters most. (After all, you can't "see" flavor, right?) I was amazed to see Betty and Mia formulating the concept of a Napoleon for their dish before they had even investigated what ingredients they had to work with. To them, "Napoleon" meant food stacked high on the plate, which seemed fancy, which equaled good. (And for the record, they took heavy liberty with the idea -- Napoleon is a dessert of layered pastry and cream. Even a savory "Napoleon" implies ingredients artfully layered, not simply stacked in a heap on the plate.)