Food styling is all about the details. You might look at a plate of food and think nothing more than “that looks delicious!” But to those of us that style food regularly, we look at things much differently. Color, balance, composition, lighting, focal points, and much more come to mind immediately. We want to show off the food to its best advantage, and sometimes turning a leaf just so, or adding a pop of a colorful sauce to a plate is just what is needed to turn something from OK to wow.
But where my food is composed and well thought out, I’m constantly amazed at how chefs just throw something together and it looks great. Most of them have never had any formal training in food styling, they just innately know all of the styling tricks that the rest of us have had to learn. They are naturally talented artists.
So when I was at The Southern C Summit this year, I wasn’t looking as much at the always stylish outfits of my fellow attendees. I was paying attention to the plates that were being put out by my fellow chefs. The Summit events are the perfect study in how food can be stylish too.
This was especially true at The Summit Soiree, which took place at The Vine’s new venue, The Greenhouse. The room was beautifully adorned with green and gold accents, with The Vine’s signature green succulents and plants all around. But it was the display of the little bites that kept me fascinated all evening. So much so, that I asked all of the attending chefs (all Summit partners) to share with me their dish in a quick video clip (watch TSC Instagram Stories to see them!). Because who can describe the art better than the artist themselves?
Here’s what was on our plates this year…
The Pad Rice Noodle Salad with Chili Soy Vinaigrette and Roasted Peanuts was perfectly portioned in adorable mini take-out containers, complete with your own set of chopsticks. They even peeled back the wrapper of the chopsticks for you. I love that kind of attention to detail!
A new concept in Athens, invites you to build your own dish. For the Soiree, we tasted their Brown Rice Bowl with Balsamic Beets, Ginger Carrots and Scallion Chicken, all topped with an Avocado Yogurt Dressing. It was a beautiful composition of colors, textures and flavors, and served in its own individual bowl.
The Yellowfin Tuna Tartare was an explosion of fresh Asian flavor. Josh tossed the fresh tuna with minced ginger, scallion, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame and a little lemon juice. Then he served it on a crispy wonton with a drizzle of Asian white sauce, soy reduction and wasabi to create this small bite that was as beautiful to look at as it was delicious to eat.
The Shrimp and Pineapple Kebabs came in a little box that was easy to handle while networking with fellow alums. I loved how the napkin was wrapped around each box, and fastened with a signature sticker. Because you can always use an extra napkin at a cocktail party, right?
Staying true to their farm-to-table roots, Jovan Sage’s Grits and Greens were comfortingly savory, rich and hearty. But the Candied Bacon on top was what made this dish stand out, because food artists know that it’s all about the garnishes! Also staying true to her eco-friendly style, she served her dish in compostable Go-ware.
Award-winning Brunswick Stew, need I say more? Everything the Southern Soul folks put out is delicious, but I do think I’m partial to their Stew. It’s a medley of pulled pork, brisket, chicken and lima beans all swimming in a perfectly seasoned vinegar base. Just add oyster saltine crackers and you’re good to go. It was perfectly portioned (and perfectly appropriate for a family BBQ joint) in a small Styrofoam cup for the party.
It wouldn’t be a party without a little sweet bite too, and Eric created a beautiful display of his French macarons to tempt us. I loved his use of candy stands, serving trays, bowls, burlap and flowers to display the swirling cascade of treats. He tempted us with Raspberry Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter Cup, Nutella, Snickers, White Chocolate Strawberry and Turtle flavors. Hard to pick a favorite, but he generously let us try all of them!
The Hamburger Bun created by Chef Dave was just pure genius! You certainly don’t want to eat a hamburger at a cocktail party in your best TSC outfit, but he knew that’s really what we all wanted to eat (especially after a few drinks). So he took all of the best parts of the burger (the meat and the cheese), and wrapped it into a little bun that you could consume in a bite or two. Served in a little paper boat to catch any wayward drips of his secret Certified Sauce, I’m not going to admit how many I ate at the Soiree!
You would think that the last thing you would want to eat at a cocktail party would be an ice cream sundae. And you would be so wrong. In my opinion, one of the things that makes a party truly memorable is something unexpected and out of context. Which is exactly why the old-fashioned ice cream cart from Leopold’s was perfect for a high-end cocktail party like the Summit Soiree. It was so much fun to eat the Prom Queen Sundae, complete with Libbie Summers‘ sprinkles, and feel like a kid again. Except you were in heels, at a cocktail party. Leopold’s has been making ice cream since 1919, and you can quite literally taste the difference in quality. And the sundae presentation was classic, complete with cherry on top!