We’re thrilled to bring you our series, The Art of Plating, where we take you into the imaginations of chefs as they design and present their dishes. We show you how they do it, step-by-step, and let them explain their creative process in their own words—what’s going on in their heads as they put their food on the plate. This time around: Tyson Cole and Philip Speer of Uchi and Uchiko. Check back in for more dish design from Chefs Cole and Speer. – Ed.
The Dish: Kohlrabi Dashi
Watch the dish come together here.
Our cook Jessica Rupert developed this dish. I don’t know that she was doing this consciously, but to me, it’s like an homage to Paul [Qui, winner of Top Chef Texas, who worked for Chef Cole for many years – Ed.].
There was an episode on Top Chef where they brought in the contestants’ mentors. I was going to suggest that Paul make his sunchoke dashi, but before I could even speak, he said, “Let’s do sunchoke dashi.” It was a great moment, because it was clear how much we connected. I’m always about editing, trying to get at simplicity by pulling things away from the plate, and Paul’s dish was such a great example of that.
This dish is reminiscent of that one; we got some great kohlrabi from a local farm, and Jessica blended it with dashi to make a thick but light soup. It’s a good example of Uchi food—it’s got really fresh components, lightness, but it hints at different directions. There’s always something Japanese, like dashi and miso, but also richness in the crème fraiche. And there are lots of different textures – fried leaves, crunchy vegetables, smooth sauce.
Miso crème fraiche
I want my food to jump off the plate into people’s mouths. The more height you get on the plate, the more attractive it is, so it’s fun to start a plate like this with a base where you can stand things up in it. You can imagine you’re a kid playing in the dirt a little.
Our food is very seasonal; we try to highlight the ingredients in a simple way. Most of the vegetables on the dish are raw. The application is extremely Japanese: Taking raw ingredients and transforming them with just one technique. Here, the kohlrabi is just cubed.
White carrot curls
And the white carrots are shaved off very thinly, then shocked in ice water to get them to curl.
The main thing with a dish like this is knowing when less is more. I could have put many more vegetables on it, but I want everything to feel like it has a place. So I really try to have just two or three of each component, enough so that if you’re a couple at the table, you can share it.
Again, these are just thinly sliced on a mandolin, very simple.
Baby cucumber and flowers
I like leaving these whole, very natural.
Thinking about leaving these off… but then, hm, I might get in trouble. They make the dish taste better, but by adding more green, it might not look as nice for a photo. It’s a balance, honestly. Deliciousness is the main goal, but it is a balance to make it look good too. You want it to look sexy.
This is a sauce, almost like a cold soup, like a kohlrabi vichyssoise. It kind of mixed up the plate a little—is this a soup? Or is it like a crudite?