Edible art: College of the Desert students create food by design

Rose by Matthew Butchart, salad with rose garnish by Jesus Flako Alvarez, veggie center piece and floral cake by Elizabeth Barnes Crockett.

Photos courtesy of Culinary Arts Department.

By Virginia Santillanes



College of the Desert Culinary Arts Department Director Chef Jeff Azer teaches cooking food chemistry and science.  He also teaches the elements and principles of culinary design.  Food artists use food as another medium for creativity in Garde Manger (means cold food in french) in plating or center pieces the art you can eat. It is “edible art.”

The most important thing Chef Azer says when asked about the artistic part of food presentation. He responded, “I run everything by food science.” He went on to say when students ask for a recipe he says, “There is no recipe.  Do artists who paint on a canvas, do they have a recipe?  No! They have their own style.”  Chef Azer explains how cooking and plating is all about chemistry and science.

Then shared the artistic part of food plating and presentation used in Garde Manger from; appetizers, salads, cakes to ice sculpture and plating.  All the elements and principles of design are used such as: color, texture, style, variety, size, pattern, unity, contrast, balance and harmony.

A plate to food is like the frame to an art piece. The plate is the frame and the food is the art.  Furthermore on the artistic part Chef Azer said, “People eat with their eyes.”  When having a conversation on presentation he said there are different plate textures and colors. The vehicle is the plate and that it matters depending on what the dish is.

Examples of the types of plates used: tile, bamboo, glass, wood and metal. If the plate isn’t pretty the food won’t look good.  A beautiful plate matters.  As for artistic value in food there are so many products to use to decorate.  Chef Azer uses 3 different types for coloring; powder, paste and liquid, but you always need to know the chemistry no matter what.  The temperature of room or plate effects the dish or like when using white chocolate to color you cant use a liquid.  You can either use powder or paste color.  There is also squid ink, edible gold and coloring powder from dull to glitters.  Azer also teaches spice painting, using different color spices to brush or blow to create art work. It is “edible art.”


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