Tue | Mar 21, 2023

Delectable art - Engaging all the senses

Published:Sunday | December 16, 2012 | 12:00 AM
A bouquet of salad - blanched potato rose with organic lettuce.
The culinary creation evolves ... salad in a festive avatar
Inspired by nature, blooming lotus carved from onion, with pasta resting on the top.
Chefs Melissa Dukharan (left) and Ike Francis. - Photos by Amitabh Sharma

Amitabh Sharma, Contributor

'Tis the season for food so take some vegetables, meat, put them on the cutting board, sharpen the knives, and drop the ingredients in a Dutch pot and plate them … luscious fare, yes? Did someone say a work of art? Yes, you heard it right. Before the cuisine satisfies your appetite, it whips up the visual senses.

"I believe that we eat
with our eyes first," says Melissa Dukharan, culinary artist and chef as
she ran a potato over a mandoline (an instrument used for slicing and
cutting juliennes), sliced it paper thin and rolled them to make a rose,
as a part of a salad presentation.

The road to
creation of culinary art involves traits that an artist would put in a
painting or a sculpture. But the challenge is to complement the looks
with the taste.

Over the years, the tastes and trends
are paying more attention to detail, into which the new age chefs are
foraying. "A culinary artist is someone who adds a creative and/or
innovative touch to the epicurean craft," Dukharan

"A culinary artist is a chef," she added.
"You must be able to understand the science behind food. However, as an
artist, you go way beyond just the flavours."

culinary artist would put the creativity - from choosing the
ingredients, to the plate on which the final product is presented and
the creativity in the use of colour, shape, and


am inspired by my upbringing in Bull Savannah, St Elizabeth," declares
Chef Ike Francis. "It starts from the idea and an ability to put
together taste and textures in my head and how well they harmonise and
interact with the pallet, before putting the dish

While nature, the colours, the shapes, the
sounds, the smells and the textures stimulate Dukharan's creative

To get their creative acumen from inception to
the plate, the young chefs explained, there are several key steps to
the process.

Trips to the market or butcher shop to
pick the best quality ingredients is where the journey begins. Since
nature has an abundance of colours, the ingredients fill the

"Before I start cooking, I like to
deconstruct the dish in my head first," Francis says. "I love to BBQ or
grill so it's always my preferred method of

"The cooking technique of the food - baking,
frying, and steaming - ignites the art of cooking," Dukharan says. "The
smells of the different flavours marrying each other, the sounds of the
sizzle of the seasonings sautéeing, watching the colours get more or
less intense and the variety of new textures that emerge and, of course,
the new taste created."

The tools, the chefs say,
vary on the nature of the creation.

"You must have a
vision of what you want to see," Dukharan informed. "The tools are
simple things around you, such as a paring knife or a pair of scissors
or even a toothpick, to more technical tools such as a mandoline or a
hand-held blowtorch."

Finally, the presentation, which
is putting together the right colours to enhance the appeal of the
dish. "It starts with the food itself," states Dukharan, who holds a
Bachelor of Science degree in food service management, with a major in
culinary srts, from the University of

"Once the 'cooking' is done, comes the
artistic presentation," she continued. "This is the fun-but-technical
process of how the 'paint' (food) will reach the 'canvas'

Francis, who studied mechanical engineering,
was aroused by the creativity and aroma of the food when he started
working at Christophers.

"While working, I was
inspired to pursue the culinary field and did my training in food
preparation at HEART Trust Boys Town," he said.

Dukharan and Francis, attribute their gastronomic creative process to
thinking out of the box.

"I am a chef and I love to
cook," he says. "Culinary artistry is my epicurean

Though this art form has a short
lifespan, the chefs say it is gratifying to see their masterpieces
pleasing the eyes and palette as well as touching

"The food is delicately placed on the plate,
while the colours and shapes take form, other colours and textures are
added (as) the vision comes to life.

"The masterpiece
should now be utilised by your five senses," Dukharan