Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Banquet Squiggle

Banquet Squiggle- A short wavy twist or line, similar to a curlicue, that was used at Hotel Banquets starting in the 90’s to garnish a plate


There are many tools used when plating and garnishing a dish. You have your microplane to grate fresh horseradish over Kumamoto oysters, or to grate Mojama over a deconstructed carbonara. You have your ceramic mandoline and your vegetable peeler to cut thin crisp slices of a green apple, or shave a small Persian cucumber. But most importantly, you have your opaque 12 oz. and 6 oz. squeeze bottles for sauces and dressings. Maybe they have a lovage puree, or a creamy anchovy dressing. Or they contain a thick lemony aioli, or a frothy watermelon broth. 

There are many options for plating these sauces and dressings: you can spoon the sauce in a corner and run the back of your spoon through it to create a sort of teardrop like arrow, you can drip consecutively bigger dots next to each other down the side of the plate, you can draw a straight line on the edge of your plate, or splatter the sauce, Jackson Pollock style. 

But, no matter what is in those squeeze bottles, do not ever, ever, EVER use them to create a banquet squiggle.


I feel uninspired as I begin to plate a crudo dish that I had already finished slicing and prepping on my cutting board. In a loss for creativity and lack of experience, and maybe eating at too many “trendy” restaurants in the 90’s when my influences started to take shape, I start to complete the final element, which is to create a garnish with the mint puree from one of the squeeze bottles.

I am sure you can imagine what happens next. 

I create a short wavy twist with that 12 oz. squeeze bottle in the corner of the white square plate, feeling at that exact moment, as I lift the bottle into the air to finish, that it was the lazy way out. Immediately I sense Chef M’s eyes bore into my plating. 

He says to me in his slight southern accent, “Oh, Stage. Stage. Be Careful there. We do not want this establishment’s food looking like some kind of hotel banquet, now, do we?” At that, he quickly picks up my plate to show The Sous and The Head Chef across the Boos Block what I have done, laughing hysterically. Then he says, “Stage gave you a little banquet squiggle.” 

All I can do is laugh, hard. At myself, and with the other Chefs. I take the plate back and assure him I can fix it. I wonder if anybody has a toothpick lying around? I plan to just create a pattern from the squiggle that I have seen those same Hotel Chefs do with berry coulis. 

Can you feel this getting worse? 

I pull some lines through the squiggle with the end of my fork, but at this point, the mint puree has settled, and all that is left on my plate is a verdant rectangle of slop. It looks like an ironic grass stain lying there on that white square plate. It reminds me of the grass stain I had in middle school, on the butt of my favorite pair of white Calvin Klein cut-off shorts, that I adamantly wore because I was too prideful to throw them away. He says to me, “Now you are just making a mess.” 

Maybe this is my hint to get myself a food plating book. But, I can assure you, It will have the banquet squiggle in there. 

It is a classic. 

But, regardless, the Chefs are never going to let me live this one down. 


  1. p.s. if you really want to get some laughs, a nice sprig of mint is always good

  2. Michael-I certainly get ENOUGH laughs to last me a lifetime. I would NEVER do a mint sprig. Even I know better than that. Thank you for the book recommendation. That is the one I am considering, but I just bought 4 new cookbooks. Next week...:)

  3. You really crack me up.

    What about a crisp shard of waffle-cut fried potato, light as air, anchored in a pouf of some starchy mash? (Ha).

    I dare you to make a line of heart-shaped dots along the rim of the plate next time. Double-dog dare you.