Putting it all Together on the Plate

Chef Jamie Simpson’s edible study in circles may be a trypophobiacs nightmare but, for anyone who appreciates the intricacy of a meticulously plated dish, it’s an artistically geometric showpiece.

Shapes are just one essential element of creative food plating, and Chef Jamie opted for circles as the driving force in his celebration of nightshades. Rounds of eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers are the stars of the show, with temperature, texture, balance, story and season playing equally important supporting roles.

“We first started with a round plate with lots of concentric circles, really simple, with a round sauce that kind of spills out as you pour it,” Chef Jamie said, referencing a creamy, velvety sauce of white eggplant with the sumptuous texture of just-melted ice cream.

As for the vegetables, “All of them were round, so it just made sense,” he said. “The potato galette is actually a bunch of little rounds that form one big round. The sauce piped down around the curled peppers that are placed on top of it are also round. And we can use natural shapes ─ leaves, flowers ─ that help, for me, to kind of break it up a little bit.”

“We look at various elements of design, all of them ultimately having a result,” he continued. “It kind of goes back to ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction.’”

TCG: Let’s talk about how you implement some of the other elements you talked about. Let’s start with story.

JS:  In elements of design we look to story ─ in this dish, the story being nightshade. What is the family of nightshade and how do they live together? Peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants. I think they all are dynamic enough to live on a plate comfortably with each other and show balance.”

TCG: You mentioned seasons. How did you communicate this particular point in time?

JS: In this case we’ve chosen vegetables that are all very small, and very of this time period. When we get later in the season, the eggplants will get bigger, the potatoes will get bigger. Right now, in this part of the season, we’re in these perfect little small-sized fruits.

TCG: Let’s talk about temperature. Seasonally, right now, we’re experiencing moderate to very warm days and the nights are getting chilly. Did that play into the seasonality of the dish?

JS: We started with hot and warm items ─ the warm eggplant puree on the base, the baked salted potatoes, the confit eggplant, and then the cold tomatoes with a fermented pepper sauce. On top of that was actually a frozen galette. The galette was baked until crisp and then popped in the freezer, seasoned with salt and served very cold. And all of the components on it were cold ─ peppers coming from ice water, flowers coming from ice water, sauces that were room temperature but not hot. And so, as you eat through that, you will find cold components on hot components, which is also interesting and makes a difference.

TCG: Explain what you mean by balancing textures.

JS:  It can be as simple as ‘How far do you sear it? How hard do you sear it? Do you poach it? Do you grill it? Do you fry it? Do you dry it? Do you freeze it?’ Balance can also be in colors or flavors ─ flavors of high acidic notes, and deep dark charred alkaline notes. It can be a balance of color ─ greens, blues, purples, pinks, yellows ─ whatever. And if there’s a certain amount of pastel to a color, then that level of pastel can be applied to other elements in the dish, which is really fun. Usually just achievable by adding milk or cream.

TCG: You said you incorporated edible leaves and flowers to break up the circular elements. Which ones did you choose?

JS: Asian greens, sweet potato leaves and chive blooms.

TCG: In order of appearance, what are the different elements on this dish?

JS: Eggplant sauce, peeled tomatoes glazed with Blis hot sauce, coins of confit eggplant, whole salt cured potatoes, red pepper Romesco sauce, Asian greens, the potato galette, garlic puree, bell pepper gel, pepper curls, sweet potato leaves and chive blooms.

Watch his Art of Plating come to life