A theory of dish hierarchy (A six part series )
Creativity, art and food go hand in hand. Crazy, borderless thinking and stretching the limits of the known is the key to all things creative. And yet it is when there is a method to this madness that the whole comes together. The science of design stresses that art pleases our eyes for a reason — it might be harmony, contrast, balance, perspective or all of these. But even before you seek to create anything, you need to understand your medium. For me this is food.
I have always been fascinated by the Maslow Theory. And over the years I have built what I call Ranveer’s hierarchy of dish structure inspired by it. A detailed glimpse of the same can be found in my new book as well. I strongly believe that all great artists, regardless of their medium, including chefs (make no mistake the best chefs of the world are artists — their medium is food) arrive at a basic set of practices over their career that they apply in creating their masterpieces: The canvas, the medium, the framework, the subject, the colour combinations…
And then there are the less tangible things: An overall sense of balance and harmony and most importantly the soul of the artist himself, a piece of which gets left behind in every creation by him. To get creative with food, we first need to understand what happens when we eat. All reactions to food are based on the human senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. The saying “when we eat, we eat with our eyes first…” is true. How food looks determines the first reaction to it. Then as one gets closer to it, the aromas come into play.
When food comes in contact with mouth, the palate comes into action bringing along with it the brain and a gamut of intangible reactions like perception and taste memory. So, on hierarchy of dish structure, with any recipe or a dish — and this is on the assumption that the elements that make up the dish are technically cooked perfectly, the basic structure would be dependent on the levels of taste, flavour, texture, appearance, aroma (stimulating taste, touch, sound (on the bite), sight and smell respectively).
When I create a dish, I look at it from the POV of the person who will eat it. I approach it holistically and take that into account, as a chef, when I create a dish, I construct it foundation outwards (taste is the first accomplishment and presentation the last), but the eating experience of the diner is visually inwards (he encounters presentation first). This is important because I have to keep this in mind right through the creation process to achieve the right balance in my dish. The diagram explains it better.
You can read more about it in my book available here.