It's been said that we eat with our eyes as well as our mouths. Of course, taste is of paramount importance, but first you need to entice diners into trying your food, and that's where presentation comes in. In professional kitchens, the head chef should inspect each dish before it is served. He'll not just be examining it to make sure all the correct elements are present and that the plate is hot or cool; he'll also ensure it looks good. Attractive presentation doesn't necessarily mean serving the food on expensive branded chinaware. Many restaurants use plain white plates because they make the food stand out; it isn't overwhelmed by the fussy, intricate edges of painted or gilded china. Of course, if you're using a white plate to serve poached chicken breast with white wine sauce, white asparagus and boiled peeled potatoes, the meal will look bland and unappetising. A few minor changes would be advised in this instance: grill the chicken to give the meat some colour, serve green instead of white asparagus (or another vegetable), leave the skin on the potatoes and serve the sauce on the side. When creating dishes, chefs think of the flavours first, then visualise the presentation. The plate is the frame and the food is a chef's 'palette' of colours, textures and shapes. Food presentation has changed a lot over the years; pictures in old cookbooks show food that looks far too composed for modern eyes: they used too many garnishes and heavy sauces that overpowered the food. The look now is clean, bright and somewhat stark, with no superfluous or inedible garnishes. Colour is important but too much (or jarring combinations) is just as bad as not enough. The dish should be composed around the main element and the accompaniments chosen to add colour, texture and contrast that enhance the look and complement the taste. If you're serving braised meat in a brown sauce, the accompaniments should brighten up the plate, not make it look monochromatic. In order to make the food look appetising, you don't need to use any professional chefs' tricks, such as tiny dots or drizzles of colourful homemade infused oils. Nobody expects restaurant presentations in home settings. Another important thing to remember is that food should be fairly easy to eat. Remember the 'stacks' and 'towers' of food from 15 years ago? That trend died fairly quickly because it was difficult to serve and to eat - it had to be unstacked by the diner. Simplicity is key: it's easier for the cook and the person eating the food.