The art of plating a dish and taking its picture

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A CREATIVELY plated dish, like a live performance, may be considered a temporal art — it is gone upon consumption. Nowadays, as live performances are documented for posterity, a dish is made permanent through photography.

Sous chef Karlo Evaristo is always busy preparing dishes at Studio, a five-star fine dining restaurant in Long Beach, California. During breaks, he opts to not rest but instead spends time taking photos of his plated dishes with his Fujifilm camera before they go out of the kitchen to be served to diners.

Mr. Evaristo began to explore photography when he practiced preparing amuse-bouches and took photos of them for reference. It was only in 2015 that he began posting his food styling trials on his Instagram account (@karloevaristo) almost every day. At present, he has 44,300 followers.

“All the photos that I post are 99% the first try. Some of them I do plan out, but some are spontaneous creations. I think having to force yourself to think of something on a whim sometimes has a very surprisingly good outcome. Great ideas can sometimes come from fortunate accidents. I try to be as original as I can,” Mr. Evaristo told BusinessWorld in an e-mail.

“There is no particular cuisine that I lean toward but I enjoy creating tasting menus. I think consuming small portions of different dishes and flavors rather than a big portion of one dish is more appealing to me,” Mr. Evaristo said about his approach to cuisine and styling. “I think it’s very rewarding when you discover a combination that you just experimented on, versus having to use combinations that are already classics or are combinations that people already know work.”

The challenge of food photography is making a dish look as good as it tastes. “I think out of all our senses, our being able to see things for their beauty is the easiest thing that we are able to share. I think that in this day and age, people are very particular with how things are visually, because it’s something that is easily shared, uploaded, or posted,” Mr. Evaristo said, noting that the challenge is making visually appealing dishes “without looking too manipulated.”

“We eat with our eyes first. However, cooks should never forget that taste comes first, always,” he added.

For Mr. Evaristo social media as a platform for exposure is “definitely a plus,” but not a crucial element to success. “It will definitely help boost your chances of succeeding. I’m not saying that I’m there, it just happens that [a bunch of] people appreciate my passion for food.”

When asked about his culinary philosophy, Mr. Evaristo said: “I just want to make sure that the food will taste good first, then worry about how it looks after.”

A graduate from the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management (SHRIM) of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (CSB) in 2006, Mr. Evaristo’s food styling photographs were chosen as the first exhibit at the Angelo King International Center by the Center for Campus Art. Titled Passion on a Plate, the exhibit features 61 photos.

The Center for Campus Art, the department in charge of all exhibits in CSB, mounted the exhibit as a way for the students to identify with the art. “Our idea is to put art in the hotel,” architect Gerry Torres, Center for Campus Art director, told BusinessWorld at the exhibit launch, adding that Mr. Evaristo’s photos were chosen “because it is a good combination of food and art.”

Passion on a Plate is open to public and on view at the 10/F of the Angelo King International Center from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. until July 6. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman