Edible art, so temporary, so perishable, so delicious all of it has to appeal to the sensory…


“Edible art!” I call it, looking at the plates created under the chef’s fast moving fingers. These plates, ready to be served, reflect years of training and practice.

“Edible art!” I call it, looking at the plates created under the chef’s fast moving fingers. These plates, ready to be served, reflect years of training and practice. Standing in front of the broiler, the grill and the ovens, the line-cooks are sweating. The nightly work process starts the very moment when the chef posts the first dinner order on the kitchen’s order-wheel. Now, menu items are called, food is being prepared, orders get picked up.
Cooks are preparing fish items according to order and menu. They bake, poach, grill, pan-fry or sauté their order. Some meat dishes are roasted, simmered, or broiled. Vegetables are being fried tempura style, others steamed or sautéed. The precooked items are warmed-up according to the required serving temperature. No time is left to look into a cookbook for ingredients or cooking time. The discussions about sports or world politics have to wait too, at least in the in the kitchen. As the business kicks-off, the kitchen’s teamwork makes or brakes the nightly feeding event known to most of us only as dinner. Many factors create the customers’ gourmand experience. One is timing. That is the kitchen’s ability to time items, belonging to one table, correctly. The timing is the chef de cuisine’s job. He, much like a concert master, sets the tempo. Every cook has to be knowledgeable, has to know exactly how long any certain item needs to cook before it can be served. To combine orders per ticket or table however is in the chef de cuisine’s capable hands.
The cooking and preparing of the individual orders, the production of one plate after the other, each unique, unequaled, one of a kind requires the cooks to work hand in hand with each other. Seldom does one plate leave the kitchen by itself. Usually there are a number of plates per ticket. For a deuce there are two plates, a four-top requires four plates, an eight-top eight plates and a party of twenty needs twenty plates for a completed order.
On the waiter’s side, again, timing is everything. Once an order is ready for the pickup, it needs to be delivered to the table at once. Waiters pick their table’s orders up at the kitchen’s window, or pick up line, and a timely serving of the food is important to the overall quality.
Created by an experienced cook, food art is often fragile looking, truly temporary art. Regardless of the artistic, it is nourishing. However, restaurant food does much more than merely the feeding of an empty stomach. Restaurant food tries to please all senses. The eyes are feasting on the colors, the shapes, the steam rising from a hot plate. The nostrils take a plunge in the cloud of various delicious aromas hovering over the dinner plate. “Food has to look and smell right to taste right.” The guest’s fingertips feel the heat of the plate. A plate for a hot dish arriving cold, tells the brain the assumption of “It’s all cold!” Here it will not matter how hot the food itself is. The sense of touch puts the guest’s available senses on guard. The diner’s disappointing thoughts before actually tasting the food can still be overcome, a negative thought process can be limited if, and only if, the food is much better than expected.
Lips suck carefully on vegetables, the tongue slurps the sauces and teeth nibble on – before they bite into – the food. If the senses of sight and touch have told the brain how much they like the food, the taste buds will stand erect in expectancy of the coming incredible sensational experiences. These expectations have to be met. The guest’s enjoyment and happiness hinge on it.
Whenever the served meal lives up to the guest’s expected standards, we have a pleased customer who most likely will be back for more. Restaurant food has little to do with so-called proper nutrition or with eating to provide fuel for the body.
Restaurant food has to satisfy the mind in all aspects. Yes, it’s not the growling stomach where the diner’s feeling-empty-ready-to-eat-thought originates. No, the signal go-to-a-restaurant-to-eat comes from between the ears. Restaurant food has to appeal to all the senses.

As a waiter I have to be able to put myself into the customers position. Such a roll change helps me to understand the guest’s viewpoint. When I dine out and the waiter tells me the fish is three days old, I certainly will not order it. If my Romaine salad is not crunchy, I will send it back. The same if it doesn’t look right, I shall send it back. If the smell of food served to me offends my taste of smell, I certainly don’t eat it. If the bread is mushy to the touch or the steak too tough to cut, I do not want it. And overall if it does not taste as I expect it to taste I might not enjoy it, unless it is different or far better than what I remember it should be. Restaurant food has to be created with the guest’s needs and wants in mind. Chefs know from experience, that food sells better if it is displayed with an artistic touch. That is why he puts the original can and lid next to, with, the Russian caviar. That is also the reason why the chef uses garnishing for his plates. May it be old-fashioned parsley or modern day edible flowers, he will do whatever it takes to create his masterpiece of display work.

Whatever the waiter carries out of the kitchen and serves to his guest is nothing short of being the most incredible, delightful, nourishing Edible Art created solely for this one and only paying diner.

by helmut schonwalder