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Fine Dining: Almost too good to eat

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Emily Tanner, Deputy Editor, discusses fine dining as an art form you won’t see in galleries

A Masterchef dish  Image credits: BBC
A Masterchef dish
Image Credits: BBC

That burger you ate for lunch today was probably not the sort of thing you would expect to see in the Tate any time soon. Quite a fair assessment? I’m sure if a modern day Andy Warhol placed a decaying McDonalds Happy Meal on a white plinth in one of the country’s finest modern art establishments, visitors – however open-minded and experimental – may be more than a little bit confused. Yet in many respects the merger of food and art is one that shouldn’t startle too much, especially when it’s the food on your plate that has its artistic potential and not the other way around.

As a massive fan of food based reality television shows – who doesn’t love a little bit of Masterchef or Bake Off on occasion – the focus on the artistic quality and presentation of the food on the plate is something that has always caught my attention. At a restaurant, even if the portions are tiny, we are often impressed by the way in which it has been presented. In fact, nowadays, if you’re going to pay more than £40 for a three-course meal, you’d like to see something a little bit special.

Eating, especially eating out, is all about the experience; the artistic potential of the food on our plates is all a vital part of the ambiance created. In seeing that a chef has carefully crafted a sugar spiral over our dessert we know that care has been taken in the creation of this food. Not only this, but we surely appreciate the skill of the chef as more than merely a great creator of taste. A great chef is no longer someone who can combine great flavour; he is one who has an eye for colour just as a painter would, or knows which textures will look most appealing on their canvas of crockery.

Whilst I can’t image I’d decline too much food purely because it hadn’t been presented quite as well as a Picasso, the sensory experience of eating is always enhanced by appealing aesthetics. Looking at delicious images of food on a website or menu is not too far from looking at beautiful works of art in a gallery, and engaging with artistic qualities makes food more worth the while, especially at a pricey restaurant.

Almost anyone can knock up a decent pasta bake, stick a fillet of fish in the oven, or some potatoes in a pan, but not everyone has the eye of a true culinary master. Food and art combine regularly to create appealing dishes that tickle the taste buds and interest the eye.

Emily Tanner, Deputy Editor

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