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: Wagyu Short Ribs with Thai Curry, Egg, and Tomato
Watch the dish come together here.
The real measure of success in a restaurant isn’t the food or even the guests. It’s the staff. If the staff’s happy and inspired, the hospitality comes from that; it comes across on the plate. So at all of our restaurants, we don’t let the cooks get bored; we always want them thinking about food so we encourage them to make new dishes all the time.
If they’re involved, like really involved, you develop a camaraderie in the staff and they’ll even be thinking outside of work. We all drink the Kool Aid. I’ve also worked in places that were the opposite, and I’d end up stealing food from those places! I worked under five master sushi chefs, and they would teach me how to steal when we hated the owners. I’d eat eight-10 pieces of toro a day, just to get back at them. So now, I feed people on the staff all day long, and I try to keep them inspired.
So this dish is from our sous chef Joel Orsini. It’s a play on steak and eggs, and I love the sunrise color profile. The plating is in keeping with our philosophy of making the dishes all shareable. They should be a series of perfect bites that you can share with chopsticks; we’ll never bring out a big steak and put knives down. This is a dish highlighting wagyu short rib that we cook for three days. There’s a lot of acidity from the tomatoes, different viscosities that have a lightness.
Thai red curry
This is a really delicious, complex Thai curry. Here, I’m trying to create balance through asymmetry. It’s not going to really be visible once we put everything on the plate; it’s like the air in the tires. But a lot of it will help define the negative space on the plate.
Before I was a chef, I was a painter, and I’ve always been really into color theory, structure, and how colors play off each other. When I first saw sushi, I was originally inspired more by the look of it—all the colors of fish in the case, making shapes with the fish with your knives. I still look at food that way, and I like the similarity and contrast between these two sauces. Right now, it almost looks like sunrise.
I’m trying to make this plate playful, but balanced and asymmetrical, which is important in Japanese cuisine. And it’s got to be sharable, so if the table has two guests across from each other, or four people on four sides, everyone can reach their chopsticks in and share. It’s not like me to use even numbers, but sometimes you just run with it. Some of these blocks of shortrib have two and some have three slices of beef, and some are placed on their side and some flat. So there’s still a sense of asymmetry even though it’s an even number.
We shock the shredded scallion in ice water to get it to curl. It gives the plate a real contrast in texture and a little hint of freshness that counters the fat.
The tomatoes are dehydrated, but not all the way so they’re still a little soft. It’s a surprise– it’s a shock of brightness and acidity so you want to put them around the plate so that people can discover them.
These are also tomatoes, but dried for longer, 3-5 days, so they’re almost crisp, a different texture.
Very simple, just egg yolk thickened slightly so that it holds together on the plate.
Quail egg yolk
These yolks are cooked just until set and smearable. Honestly, if it was just my dish, I wouldn’t need the egg; I like to edit down. But it’s Joel’s dish, and his inspiration was a steak and eggs breakfast. It adds a sense of playfulness, and having two versions of egg is a nice play on having two different tomato textures.
This is basically bacon fat made into a powder. I love how that white pops on the plate.