Aug 13, 2012

Culinary Art and the Plain White Canvas


In recent articles we’ve talked about the trend of using interesting textures to enhance tabletop design, but it’s important to remember that “smooth white” is also a texture. A plain and simple white plate might be just the thing you need for a table setting where you’re already making a bold statement with your choice of table coverings, stemware, flatware, menu covers or serving platters. A simple white plate frames the food in front of you, and in some cases, might be just what you need to keep the whole design layout from becoming too busy. 

I worked in an elegant country inn and restaurant back in the 80s. It featured French and nouvelle cuisine, and the innkeeper favored plain white china. She considered food to be art, and a featureless white plate was the perfect canvas for her chef’s creative and innovative food presentations. On one busy Saturday night, I was serving a table of eight. As I pushed open the kitchen door, and stepped out into the dining room with a tray of entrees on my shoulder, something shifted. The tray spun off my right hand, and eight beautiful entrees, complete with plate covers, crashed onto the floor in the middle of the elegant dining room. The sound was at first deafening … and then there was silence. Guests at all 16 tables stopped what they were doing instantly, turned, and then glared at me. I stood there, wide eyed, frozen in mid-step, my right hand still up in the air where a tray had once been, a pained look on my face. 

The charming innkeeper, who had been standing at a nearby table socializing with guests, looked over at the pile of dishes and food on the dining room floor. It was art all right, but it looked more like a Kandinsky than a Renoir. She held up both hands as if to make an important announcement, glanced around at everyone in the dining room, smiled confidently, and then shouted: “Buffet Everyone!” The whole dining room broke into laughter at once, and then went back to their meals. The bus staff rushed to clean up the mess. The innkeeper headed over to my table for apologies, and I slinked back into the kitchen to endure the jeers of my fellow waiters and an unforgettable tongue lashing from the chef who now needed to prepare eight new masterpieces. 

Nothing can prevent the occasional creation of a “masterpiece” like the one I created on the floor that evening, but when it comes to making art with food, it’s difficult to beat a simple round white dinner plate. It’s versatile. It’s timeless, and the features of the plate don’t place any limits on chefs. Chefs won’t need to design around ridges, rims, bands, textures, colors or shapes. And that is why great dinnerware manufacturers continue to supply classic, white dinner plate patterns, and even introduce, from time to time, “new” variations of that same old classic. 

Such is the case with Tuxton China. They’ve just introduced two new collections. Both are coupe style (rimless). The Florence line, shown at right, is bright porcelain white. The Venice is the same design in an American white/eggshell. Both come in a wide variety of sizes, with platters, saucers and bouillon cups to match. Click here for more information and photos. Of course Tuxton continues to offer a wide variety of classic white dinnerware patterns with rims of various sizes and other features. Click here to view Tuxton’s full catalog.