Geoduck, Sea Urchin, & Citrus by chef Dominique Crenn © Atelier Crenn

Discover here the interview of Maria Nguyen, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Art of Plating. She explains how she created this creative space for Chefs to express their personality through their food and via mastering the art of plating. She also explains her inspiration and motivations and how the Rising Talent List, a national platform to recognize the work of new talents. But also, she tells us about her relationship with REVOL.

Maria NGuyen
The Art of Plating dinner with Single Thread’s Chef Kyle Connaughton and Katina Connaughton and winemaker Olivier Bernstein on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018 in San Francisco, CA.

Let’s talk about you: help us understand the secret of your success

What is your background? / What has been your career before The Art of Plating?

Prior to starting TAOP I was an Art Director and Designer. I’ve always had an eye for design which helped me work on projects across various mediums like branding, digital content, and experiential/installation design. So when I started The Art of Plating it felt very natural to me because of how visual and creative it can be.

How and when did your passion for cooking start?

I’ve loved food from an early age because food and cooking has always been a part of my upbringing. For as long as I can remember, many bonding moments in my family started around the dinner table, in the kitchen, going to the market, and picking herbs and fruits from the garden. I would say that I became even more passionate about cooking once I was on my own and was able to make the choices of what I wanted to eat.

What is your motivation to get up every morning?

My motivation to get up in the morning is really our team and our audience. I love being able to collaborate with amazing talents and to share the work that we create to the world.

Plating by Dominique Crenn
Citrus and Vanilla by chef Dominique Crenn © Atelier Crenn

Find the most beautiful dish to mastering The Art of Plating

How was The Art of Plating born?

During the time that I was still an Art Director, I was working on a really difficult project and felt like I needed to pick up a different interest to ease my mind. I had always loved cooking and the idea that you can escape into another culture through food. And at the time, I decided to work through Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook. Every weekend I’d cook something new out of the book but realized my food wasn’t looking like the photos. I researched everywhere because I had wanted to learn how to plate and there wasn’t any magazines, cookbooks, or recipes talking about plating at the time. I figured if were interested in this, I knew other people would be. It was at that very moment, I decided to start The Art of Plating. I tried it out on social media and it instantaneously took off.

How do you explain that people and not only Chefs are becoming more and more interested in plating?

I believe everyone knows how much effort it takes to cook a meal so when Chefs or home cooks go the extra mile to plate it beautifully, there’s a huge appreciation for it. 

How will the plating evolve in the coming years?

A big shift that I’m already seeing in plating is how clean everything is. It’s less about showing how crazy and artistic you can make it look but rather than how perfect it can be made with simplicity.

What does the ideal plate for mastering The Art of Plating look like?

The ideal plate for me is one that allows the colors and the food to pop. I like the drama of a big plate that provides enough white space and breathing room for the plating. I also appreciate plates that have character which can come from a simple detail like a designed line or some texture that adds to the story of the dish.

At which point do you think cooking turns into art?

I think cooking turns into an art is when there’s a thought process behind it.

Who are the Chef references in term mastering The Art of Plating ?

Some of my personal favorites include Dominique Crenn, Daniel Humm, Kristian Baumann, Antonio Bachour, and Julien Royer. 

Through your job, what were your most beautiful encounters? Which was the last one?

Daniel Humm has an incredible Pumpkin seed w/ butternut squash dish at Eleven Madison Park, New York, NY that blew me away. The dish has pumpkin seeds that have been meticulously hand placed onto foie gras.

A recent favorite moment for me was when I visited chef Shigeru Koizumi at Esora restaurant in Singapore. He used a clear plate that was open on the bottom and inserted fresh flowers underneath it to accentuate a sugar apple dessert w/ a sugar butterfly on it!

What did you learn from associating with the greatest Chefs of the world?

What I’ve learned from the greatest chefs is the importance of being thoughtful and meticulous in the details. To be at the top, it takes hard work and obsession for the craft. I’ve also learned humility and knowing that it’s a team effort. Whenever I ask chefs if there is anything they want their guests to know, 9/10 they all respond that the restaurant works because of the staff.

Can you give few easy tips to plate like a professional ?

Look at your elements and visualize how you want the plate to look before you actually plate it. Keep it clean.
Plate it how you want your guests to eat it.

Single thread

A fresh & fun adventure: the Rising Talent List

What is the Rising Talent List?

The Art of Plating Rising Talent list is a new platform we’ve created to honor the unsung figures who are forging a new path in the culinary and hospitality space. The mission of the list is to create a platform to recognize those who contribute to sustain the industry. 

How did you come up with this new project?

I was really inspired from the other awards and lists. Many times they’re very chef focused and I asked myself, “What about everyone else? The farmer who wakes up at the crack of dawn to provide that perfectly sized cucumber? Or the journalist who stays up until 3AM to get that piece published?” I think there’s a huge focus on chefs being the superstars, but I believe that it takes many different kinds of talents to make things happen.

Who are these Rising Talents? How have they been chosen?

The Rising Talents who are under 35 years old or in the industry for less than 5 years which include chefs, food and beverage journalists, culinary photographers, entrepreneurs, producers (e.g. growers, fisherman, etc.), hoteliers, and restaurateurs, to name a few.

We’ve invited over 200+ well respected industry professionals across the United States and Canada which include Journalists, Chefs, and Thought Leaders in the space to nominate.

The final 16 will be chosen by our committee members which include chefs Dominique Crenn and Daniel Humm, photographer Evan Sung, and hotelier Brian De Lowe, among others and announced in October 2019.

How will the Rising Talents be evaluated?

Rising Talents will be evaluated by the following criteria:

  • Story (Who is the candidate and how did she get to the place where she is now?)
    Creativity/Originality (How has the candidate demonstrated creativity in her respective niche within the hospitality world?)
  • Ideas (What ideas has the candidate contributed to push the profession forward?)
  • Product/Service (What are the exemplary products or services the candidate offers?)
  • Execution (How good is the candidate at what she does relative to her peers?)
  • Value (What is the value the candidate brings to the hospitality community, on both a  practical and symbolic levels?)
  • Potential for Growth (What is the candidate’s potential for even more excellence based on what she’s already accomplished?)

Maria & Revol: when a culinary specialist meets a 250 years porcelain manufacturer

Caractere plates, 3 colors

How and when did you first hear about Revol?

I first heard about Revol two years ago after seeing a few chefs using the brand and then serendipitously Revol had reached out to collaborate.

How do you perceive Revol brand? What does it inspire you?

What really inspires me about Revol is its commitment to the details and the craft. I love that the brand has wide range of products that fits every style and story. Also once I got to know Revol’s team, I loved the brand even more. I truly believe a company is only as strong as the people behind it and when I got to know everyone, I felt like the company truly understood the artistic aspect of cooking. 

Do you feel you share common values with Revol? Which ones?

I believe TAOP and Revol both value the artistic craft, the food, and the people behind the food. More importantly, I think both brands share the same mission in using our platforms to support talents in an honest and genuine way.

Do you have a favorite Revol Collection? Which one is it?

My favorite Revol collection is the Equinoxe range. It’s what we use in our test kitchen and what I personally use at home. I love the play between gloss and matte. They photograph so well and we always get compliments on them. Another thing that I really appreciate is how durable they are. All of our plates get a lot of use between video shoots and dinner parties. Not one plate or bowl has ever broke!

Do you think Revol is perfect for mastering The Art of Plating the culinary art? How?

Absolutely. Every artist needs the perfect canvas and a chef or home cook is no different. Revol has so many products w/ beautiful styles to choose from that it makes it a go to brand.

Equinoxe plate, white cumulus
Equinoxe Plate