I went to this really cool workshop the other night presented by a great little non-profit here in Austin called Women.Design.Build. They have once monthly events “shop talks” that my friends and I really like to attend. It is all women, and the shop talk lessons are about anything from power tools, to learning how to work on your car, to what we did this week – learning the different elements in design around plating and presenting food.
The girls at Women.Design.Build do a fantastic job introducing interesting topics and always find approachable, fun professionals to present.
So, in this Food Design Shop Talk we met with the owner/head Chef at Portabla, Chef Jon Shea.
Apparently there are 5 elements in food design: height, tightness, negative space, asymmetry/symmetry and color. Who knew? He gave us vivid examples of each and then started the meal with salads.
After our first course, we teamed up with our neighbor and tried our own hand at plating using the 5 elements. Chef Jon set up our mise en place and we got started on creating our own Portobello mushroom masterpieces..
*And for a moment of full disclosure…I have no idea if i used mise en place correctly in that last sentence. I grasp the concept of mise en place, but throwing the French word in a (probably) grammatically incorrect anglaise sentence might have made it weird. This is where I ask for your patience and also for your imagination. I am new to mise en place-ing.
This was my team’s shot:
Not bad, right? There we have delicately laid the sliced Portobello on a bed of tangy and savory marinara with roasted garlic. Garnished with fresh chopped basil and mozzarella (dairy-free), breadcrumbs (gluten-free) with a drizzling of balsamic reduction. Yep. Fancy! Still didn’t win, however. Which, incidentally my partner and I were just a tad bit preoccupied with.. We wanted to win the gift certificates to Portabla they were giving away, dang it!
This is who won. I think, anyway. I had a glass of wine or two by then..
Then, we designed dessert. So…. Here’s the deal. When I went to this I was trying to be gluten-free. My friend, who was also my partner is gluten-free as well as dairy free. My other friend who is a gluten-free/soy-free/dairy free chef was also there. So, our dessert options in situations like these are limited in a way. Bring in gluten-free “bars”! What are these? They are kinda weird-looking, and needed an explanation – I think. You know what they tasted like? Remember when Power Bars first came out in the 90s? They were chalky and…and…and..I don’t know. Something. That is what these reminded me of.
Anyway.. Here was our shot at dessert…with the weird gluten-free/dairy free chocolate bars. We didn’t win with this one either. My chef-y friend did with her architectural, gluten-free masterpiece. Another drink down and I didn’t take a picture of the winner..
Have to tell you though, the other teams got the Portabla chocolate cake because they clearly didn’t have high maintenance food issues like Team Jessica over here.. And, it looked amazing. And, they said it was amazing. And, we were all a bit jealous. But, thankful that we got to play like the rest of the kids because the sweet ladies at Women.Design. Build made concessions for us.
A shot of the whole group with Chef Jon delicately critiquing our use of the elements: (Mise en place in full effect in the foreground. Can’t get enough of that.)
I also thought I would use this as an opportunity to show how cute my friends looked that evening. I think it takes real talent to look good in 150 degree heat like we are STILL having here in Austin..
Sarah is on the left – you can find her and more information about her earth-conscious interior design and consulting company at: Ecologique Design
You should try her recipe for homemade deodorant. Aluminum and paraben free!
And Celina is on the right – Find out about her and her bakery, called Food Smarty, here.
To get your hands on her baked goods, go to the contact page of her website, or visit The Barton Creek Farmers Market, Taco Deli, People’s Pharmacy, and Zhi Tea. Coming soon to Whole Foods!
Check out Women.Design.Build when you get a chance. And, for you chicky Austin-ites – come next time!