Interview

Maria Nguyen – Founder, The Art of Plating

Founded in 2013, The Art of Plating is an international media and events company devoted to the exhibition of gastronomy as a form of high art – utilizing form, texture and color to tell a story and evoke emotions. The Art of Plating provides some of today’s most acclaimed culinary innovators the platform to share their vision, passion, artistry, and life stories.

Onion at Esora © The Art of Plating

Tell us a bit about where you grew up and how you got interested in food.

My family is from Vietnam and food is such a big part in the Vietnamese culture so I would say it’s always been a part of my life. I would say I got more serious about food when I started living on my own at 18 years old because I was responsible for making my own food choices. I would try cooking simple recipes and then whatever bits of money I had leftover from my school loans I spent it on trying new restaurants.

Tell us a little about your career path and how The Art of Plating get started?

I was an Art Director and Designer prior to starting The Art of Plating. I’ve always had an eye for design early on and always knew my career path would be in in it. I never thought I would be in food though. During the time that I was an Art Director, I was working on a really difficult project and felt like I needed to pick up a different interest. I always loved cooking and the idea that you can escape into another culture through food. And at the time, I decided to work through Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook. Every weekend I’d cook something new out of the book but realized my food wasn’t looking like the photos. I researched everywhere on how to plate but there wasn’t any magazines, cookbooks, or recipes talking about plating at the time. I figured if was interested in the topic, I knew other people would be. It was at that very moment, I decided to start The Art of Plating. I tried it out on social media and it instantaneously took off.

You now have 834K followers on Instagram.  Did you a specific approach or strategy for that kind of growth?  Or was it somewhat organic?

It was all organic. What we created was was so unique and different at the time that I think it just really resonated with a lot people. It also helped that I came from a design and branding background. I knew that building a community was key and that’s what I tried to focus on.

Slow Cooked Sea Bass by chef Daniel Humm © The Art of Plating

You’ve eaten at pretty much everywhere!  Is there a restaurant you’d like to visit that you haven’t yet?  And somewhere you’re dying to go back?

SingleThread! We did an incredible dinner with them last year in SF but I haven’t had the chance to make it to the restaurant yet.

I’d love to go back to Esora in Singapore. It was one of my favorite meals this year.

Favorite dish in the past year?At Esora they have this dessert which is which salted caramel ice cream and shaved truffles on a sweet potato cake dessert that is phenomenal.

We are excited to hear that you’ve launched The Art of Plating Rising Talent list later this year.  Can you tell us some more about that?

The Art of Plating Rising Talent list is a new award we’ve created to celebrate fearless talents pushing the envelope in the culinary and hospitality space. We really felt like there wasn’t an award that celebrated the entire industry and all its unique verticals and all the behind the scenes people who never get recognized.

Apple at El Cielo by Juan Manuel Barrientos © The Art of Plating 

Are there any ingredients that you hate eating or dread seeing on a menu?

Truffles. It’s funny because I just mentioned one of my favorite desserts which had truffles. I actually really love truffles and think they’re brilliant when used in unique and innovative ways. They’re just disappointing when it’s an afterthought or does nothing to enhance the dish.
Is there one trend you are tired of?I’m kind of tired of seeing the scaling technique in plating. It’s such a beautiful technique but I know how hard and time consuming it is to do it.

One trend that you love?

Incorporating herbs and edible flowers into everything!

Edible Flowers Crackers at Tartine Manufactory © Jennifer Latham

Do you like to cook at home and if so what?

I do! I cook everyday and prefer to most days of the week. I love vegetables in every form (raw, roasted, steamed, grilled, etc) and I usually just pick up whatever is in season. I also just recently got back from Singapore so I’ve been obsessed with perfecting my Chicken Rice!

Favorite places to eat in LA right now

Angler, Konbi, Nightshade, Auburn, Yours Truly, and Bon Temps.