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Even the most budding chef understands the importance of appealing food presentation. Individual food presentation trends and tastes certainly vary, but the way that a dish looks when it’s presented to the guest is (almost) as important as its flavours, and this is a fact that’s been understood since many centuries ago.

As early as the Middle Ages, food lovers started paying attention to the presentation of their meals, and while their methods may now seem rather crude their philosophy that food should stimulate all of the senses was entirely accurate. In our infographic below, we’re exploring the history of food presentation trends to highlight just some of the craziest and coolest fads and fashions, some of which are still very much in style today.

Forks weren’t always in fashion

Our journey through the history of food presentation begins on the very far right of our infographic in the Middle Ages, when bread bowls were hollowed out as an edible receptacle for soups and stews. Indeed, bread bowls are still popular now especially for takeaway soups, though they are much more of a novelty than a necessity.

A photo posted by Dave Riccio (@neighbour_dave) on

A couple of centuries later, food presentation began to have much more sophistication, as more flamboyant chefs began to craft elaborate sugar sculptures as edible table displays at banquets and dinners. This trend was ironically known as ‘soitiltee’, or ‘subtlety’, but the attendees at these ostentatious events still ate with their hands.


That’s because it wasn’t until around another couple of centuries later still that forks became widely in use. Pioneered in Europe in the 1500s by Catherine de’ Medici, the Queen of France, using forks was for many years considered to be ‘unmanly’ and feminine so it took a surprisingly long time for them to become a dinner table staple.

Fillings, flavours, and frivolous centrepieces

In the 17th century, one of the most popular food presentation trends was to encase foods in a savoury jelly, known as aspic. This trend may turn our stomachs now but it enjoyed a brief revival in the 1950s, when such disgusting-sounding gelatine-filled recipes as ‘Shrimp Aspic Mold’ and ‘Jellied Cottage Cheese and Tomato Salad’ began to grace mid-century dinner tables. No, thanks.


A photo posted by Kat (@dorisdie) on

In the 1700s, we were introduced to perhaps one of the most famous, yet underrated methods of food presentation of all: the humble sandwich. Often credited as the genius creation of the Earl of Sandwich, it’s not entirely true that he created the sandwich himself - he simply made eating slices of bread with fillings popular, but what we do know is that lunchtimes wouldn’t have been the same without him.

And in the same century another, more exotic food presentation trend emerged. In Georgian times, pineapples were a status symbol as they denoted that the beholder of a pineapple had sufficient wealth to import the prickly fruits from overseas, and so pineapples were proudly displayed on dinner tables – and even rented by those who could not afford to import their own!


A photo posted by L4Love (@l4loveweddings) on

It was later in the 1800s that flavour began to really take centre stage, as chefs began to take an interest in the art of flavour pairing. The pioneer in this was the French chef Marie-Antoine Careme, who is widely considered to be the godfather of ‘haute cuisine’, and also the world’s first celebrity chef as he became so famous for his creations. Around this same time, another French chef, Georges Auguste Escoffier, was making waves in the culinary world as he introduced the concept of ‘a la carte’ cuisine, allowing guests to pick and choose what they wanted from a selection of dishes rather than sticking to a set menu – yet another foodservice trend that we still use every day.

20th century trends: from austerity to alternative plates

Early 20th century food presentation trends were far from wow-worthy. As Britain adjusted to wartime life, and the restrain and rationing that came with it, food presentation flourishes were restricted to little more than a sprig of garnish or chopped herbs – but in the post-wartime 1960s, diners more than made up for it as lavish dinner parties swept the nation, and food lovers feasted on such retro favourites as cheese and pineapple on sticks and prawn cocktail appetisers.


The love for dinner parties continued into the 1970s, when even more specialised events such as fondue parties came into vogue, and guests clamoured to dip breads into melted cheese whilst catching up on the latest gossip. It’s perhaps no surprise that the next food trend to emerge was something of an antidote to the stodginess of fondue; nouvelle cuisine was indeed very different to anything that had come before, as it made dining into a true art form. Fresh and simple ingredients, with minimal yet precise presentation were the signatures of nouvelle cuisine, and in the 1980s, the nation lapped it up.


A photo posted by @cremedelacrepebeverlyhills on

Next came the 1990s, and one of the most curious food presentation trends yet. Heston Blumenthal is arguably the face of molecular gastronomy, but it was first invented by Elizabeth Cawdry Thomas, and later popularised by the bespectacled chef who dedicated an entire restaurant to ‘the science of cooking’: The Fat Duck, where tables are still booked up months in advance and diners pay hundreds of pounds for the opportunity to dine on oddly delicious dishes as bacon and eggs ice cream and snail porridge.


A video posted by chauie (@chauie) on

More contemporary food trends haven’t been any less ambitious, and like any good food presentation trend, they’ve had mixed reviews. In the 2000s, chefs with lofty tastes started stacking their food skyward, as the ‘tall food’ trend made burgers higher and mightier, but perhaps the most controversial food trend of all is one that’s still very much in fashion: alternative plates, which we’ve already discussed on this very blog.

However you feel about wooden chopping boards or slates being used as plates, and small shopping trolleys or petite plant pots holding one’s fries or sides, the concept crockery food presentation trend shows no signs of slowing down.

To download and keep our infographic on The History of Food Presentation Trends, right-click the image below and open it in a new tab, then right-click again and save it to your computer.

History of Food Presentation Trends Infographic

We’d love to hear what you think about our infographic on food presentation trends, so leave us a comment below. And if you loved our infographic, take a look at our other food infographics including The PastaPedia, and our Ultimate Guide to Infusing Your Drinks.


Lockhart Catering on 6 April 2016 2:07 AM

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