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Creative Dining in Richmond Virginia

The Art and Inspiration of Presentation

by Paul Ianniello

There is a good reason why Maple and Pine’s Executive Chef David Dunlap spends so much time on making sure that all the food that he and his team have spent countless hours braising, baking, basting, and butchering is presented on the plate in a way that takes no less of the precision, timing and effort.

I sat down with Chef Dunlap and asked him a few questions about how he comes up with his unique and artistic style of presentation.

Blog: “Of all the Chefs you have either come up underneath, worked with or simply gawked at in cookbooks, who would you consider to be the most interesting when it comes to being an artist on the plate?”

Chef David Dunlap: “Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad in New York City. His plates are never overcomplicated. They have such a clean, unpretentious yet refined and sexy characteristic to them. Everything looks so alive and electric, it’s pretty awesome.”

B: “What would you say is your personal style statement or something to serve as an example for how you design the art of the plates you put out at Maple and Pine?”

DD: “I am pretty obsessive about making sure what I cook is seasonally appropriate. I like to make things look lively and exciting without being overcomplicated. We are currently doing a pretty neat dish with Crispy Lamb Belly with Pickled Local Summer Vegetables. Up until not too long ago you would pickle your excess in the summer and use that to get you through the winter, which in a very cool way we are doing here ourselves. It’s tough to get super vibrant colors in February and still be seasonal and local. That’s one thing we are doing that both adds vibrancy to the visual aspect of things, as well as gives us more flavors to work with while staying true to our philosophy. Definitely required a bit of prior planning though.”  

B: “Any times you have tried something that has not worked out the way you planned it?”

DD: ”Semifredos [a gelato like dessert, Italian for semi frozen] can be very difficult. They are very temperature sensitive and plating has to be prompt. Executing it on a very large scale for a wine dinner was a challenge. They’re excellent and add a great dimension to dishes but like I said, very temperamental.”

B: “Last question: what advice do you have for young chefs and amateurs for improving presentation?”

DD: “Look at art and look at nature. Pay attention to what is visually stimulating in the world around you.  It’s hard not to be inspired in an environment that is as art-centric as Quirk Hotel and the neighborhood we are in. Any time I am out hiking or gardening with my family I feel like I see something that piques my interest.”

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