Skills Focus: Describing Dishes

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 describing

Last week, the skills focus discussed how to get permission from to recommend food to your guests.  This is an incredibly important skill because it allows you to suggest the best items on your menu to your guests.  This week I am going to address how to make those recommendations more effective.  The key to this is describing the food in a way that paints a picture in the minds of your guests of what they will be receiving on their plate.  There are several ways to do this, but there are three that have proven to be most effective.

Three Ways To Describe A Dish

Each of these three methods has a value.  Most servers use the first method when they are starting out.  It is a solid format that conveys all of the necessary information.  With complex pasta dishes it is easy to start with the type of noodle, then vegetables, then the meat, and finally the sauce. This technique works for every meal because it simply requires reciting the components of a dish in a logical order.

The drawback of this method is that it often results in simply listing the ingredients.  While this conveys the information, it does not create an idea of flavor or a reason why the guest should want the dish.  I would compare it to the packaging on a jar of sauce.  People will look at the front for a description of the flavor or at the nutritional information to know about the quality of the product.  These are the parts of the label that sell dishes.  Unfortunately, the first method of describing dishes discussed in the post is more reminiscent to the list of ingredients on the back of the package.  While it is informative, it does not sell the item.

This is why I strongly advocate using the final two methods of describing dishes.  The second method is most useful when you are serving an item with a superior meat component.  Prime steaks, wild salmon, or Maine lobsters demand this sort of explanation.  It is also useful when describing food that is locally raised, organic, or notable for some other reason.  When you serve a premium product, it deserves this sort of descriptions.

The third method of describing dishes sells the flavor of the food.  It is most effective when the flavor of the sauce or the contrast of flavors is what you like about it.  This allows you to describe how the meal tastes.  It is often most effective because it allows you to convey your opinions about the dish to your guests.  When guests are able to see your excitement about a dish, they will be drawn to it as well.

Practicing all three methods of describing dishes will leave you comfortable using whichever will be the most effective for a particular item.  Once you have mastered all three techniques for describing dishes, you will easily be able to determine which on to use on a nightly special or new item.  This will save you time and make sure your descriptions are always top notch.  Next week we will look at the final component of making recommendations: using adjectives that sell food.

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