Menu Planning, Plating, and Trends

Innovative Menu Planning, Creative Plating, and Tempting Trends

In the animal kingdom, mammals may be said to eat with their sense of smell. In the wild, they locate and, if applicable, track their food by using their senses of smell and sound. Unlike animals, human beings engage multiple senses that stimulate their appetites and sense of pleasure before and during the act of eating. Humans have evolved to be far more sophisticated in their taste for and of food.

Eating with the Eyes

Whilst there’s little to equal the temptation of wonderfully appetising, fragrant aromas wafting from the kitchen, stimulating one’s appetite, people are said to first eat with their eyes before they ingest their first bite. In doing so, senses of sight, smell and imagined expectation are engaged, prior to tasting that which is presented on the plate.

Dining versus Eating

Food will always be the fuel on which human bodies run, but other aspects of meal preparation and eating are also very important factors in the enjoyment of meals. These include nutrition, selection of fresh, seasonal ingredients, pleasing combinations of foods and flavours, cooking methods, menu planning, plating, and trends. All play an integral role in pleasurable dining, rather than merely eating to refuel, survive, and remain healthy.

Menu Planning

Menu planning and design in a professional kitchen is a fundamental function on many levels. It involves more than just what meals are going to be served. Effective menu planning takes into account which fresh, top-quality ingredients are in season, how they’ll be incorporated in meals, which combinations are tasty and nutritious, balance, cost, appeal to diners, planning of time, and the effort dedicated to preparation.


Pleasingly plated meals say as much about you and your culinary abilities as it does about the foods on the plate. Perfect plating enhances the appearance and taste of your meal; it’s a creative art, using the plate as your canvas and the food and garnishes as your brush strokes.


Trends and fashions tend to come and go in the food industry, much as it does in other consumer industries. For some time, there appears to be a growing and distinct trend of going back to nature; the demand for organic ingredients is on the increase, both for health reasons and sustainability of the planet. Successful chefs stress the use of whatever is seasonal and locally available, preferring to avoid most ingredients that are out of season and only obtainable from overseas sources, and potentially less fresh. Increased use of alternative protein sources and smarter cooking methods are continually being investigated.

Menu Planning, Plating, and Trends Course

At Prue Leith Chefs Academy, South Africa’s leading school of culinary arts, we don’t underestimate the importance of effective menu planning, innovative plating techniques and historic, current, and upcoming food trends. As leaders in our field, we’ve developed a short course that teaches and refreshes chefs’ and restaurant owners’ skills in these vital areas, providing new inspiration and stimulating creativity when and where it’s needed.

During a 5-day period (two dedicated to theory, three to practical), we’ll address menu compilation for different types of establishments, dishes and courses, design, naming, costing, completing and testing, plating styles, trends and techniques, garnishing, and different forms of presentation, invaluable to culinary professionals.