How to Prepare Food for Display


Food not only has to taste great, it should look great too, especially at the holidays and for other special occasions. Preparing food for display is more of an art than a science, but a few simple tricks can make your display go from drab to dramatic.

How To Prepare Food for Display

Step 1

Consider of the color scheme and occasion for the food display, most usually a buffet. Choose serving plates which will match the occasion. Also think about the balance of colors on the table, and the balance of dishes. For example, don't serve white potatoes with cauliflower or white corn, or sweet potatoes with carrots.

Step 2

Keep the food whole if possible until ready to carve, for example, a whole turkey, or turkey breast. Arrange the accompaniments close to the main dishes.

Step 3

Decorate the plates for display purposes after the food has been plated. Add fresh mint or basil leaves or a spring of parsley to liven up even the plainest platter of food. Arrange melon balls with the mint leaves to create an even more colorful garnish. Use watermelon balls to create a holly effect at a Christmas gathering. Use one honeydew and one cantaloupe ball for a more summery feel.

Step 4

Carve pineapples into a variety of shapes once you have removed the rough outer skin. Cut the pineapple in half and scoop out, for a dramatic centerpiece with or without the leaves. Arrange fruit skewers of alternating colors of melon balls and other colorful fruits like grapes and strawberries in the pineapple bowl. You can also fill the bowl with cheeses or a dip.

Step 5

Cut a watermelon in half either length-wise, to use as a serving bowl, or widthwise, to use as a punch bowl. Scoop out the flesh with a melon baller, and use as garnish, or the basis for a colorful fruit salad that will be served in the watermelon bowl.

Step 6

Cut a pineapple into rings, then cut those rings in half to make pineapple semicircles which will add color to any plate. You can cut the rings into daisy-shaped flowers and decorate the center of the "flower" with any color you wish of melon ball.

Step 7

Make edible flowers such as roses and tulips. Peel a lemon, lime, or tomato, keeping the peel in one long strip. Wind the strip tightly around itself, turn upside down, and arrange the peel like the petals of a rose. Or carve a rose right into a radish by creating petals with your knife. Cut out a radish tulip by slicing the bottom edges of a radish into four "petals," leaving the rest of the base of the radish as a point in the center. This works equally well with a strawberry.

Step 8

Make a strawberry fan by cutting a berry carefully into thin slices from the top down to the point of the berry. Fan the slices out on the plate by spreading them sideways. Make a citrus fan or swirl with thinly sliced lemons, limes or oranges cut and twisted into shape.

Step 9

Cut a tomato in half to make a small cup to hold dip or other items. You can cut the edges if you want for a more fancy effect. Sprinkle grape tomatoes on a plate for extra color. Cut out a triangle of zucchini to create a mock Christmas tree, then add grape tomatoes as the ornaments.

Step 10

Place colorful toothpicks in finger foods, and liven up the plate with any of the suggested garnishes. Served vegetable-based garnishes with savory appetizers and fruit garnishes with cheeses and desserts.

Tips and Warnings

  • Keep food hygiene and safety in mind. Separate any raw foods and cooked foods. Transport hot and cold food in the appropriate containers to their final destination. Keep them at the appropriate temperature once they are put on display. Once at the party location, cover all the platters with covers, or plastic film, or wrap the dishes in aluphane, cellophane for food, which come in a wide variety of festive colors.

Things You'll Need

  • Knife
  • Melon baller
  • Serving plates or platters
  • Fresh mint
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh parsley
  • Flowers
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew melon
  • Pineapple
  • Grapes
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Radish
  • Strawberries
  • Orange
  • Large tomato
  • Grape tomato
  • Zucchini
  • Green beans
  • Large carrot
  • Wooden or metal skewers
  • Frilled toothpicks
  • Aluphane food wrap (optional)


  • Fine Dining: Garnish Library
  • French Food and Cook: Buffet
  • Green Earth Institute: Radish Garnishes

Who Can Help

  • Food Packaging Supplies
Keywords: prepare food for display, preparing food for display, displaying food, buffet

About this Author

Since graduating from NYU with her B.A. in 1996, Evelyn Trimborn has written both fiction and nonfiction for many websites and blogs on health, diet, nutrition, self-help, and business and finance. You can find her work through Amazon and at,,, and

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