Words by: Tanya Singh
Conversations on the importance of tableware and tips on how to choose the perfect pieces for your home or restaurant.
In the culinary world, the success of a meal is often measured by not only the aroma and taste of the dishes prepared but also their visual presentation. From the tableware used to the way the food is served, chefs often put a lot of focus on the visual appeal of the dish – hence the term "feasting with the eyes".
We spoke to culinary experts, Chef Stefanie Leung (Ooak-Lamma, Hong Kong) and Chef Julien Royer (Odette Restaurant, Singapore), about the importance of choosing the right tableware and things you should consider when purchasing for your table.
How important is the tableware in the presentation of a dish?
SL: Cooking is a multi-sensory and multi-disciplinary thing – a wholistic experience. It's not just how the food tastes but also how it smells, feels, and looks. The tableware plays an important role in ensuring that the experience is complete.
This question is actually something very dear to me as a chef and owner of a private dining venue. In the run-up to starting Ooak-Lamma, I hand-picked all of the tableware that we were going to be using. I even worked with a local ceramic artist to design a bespoke dinner set. The process of creating and collecting the tableware was a very important part of the whole project for me.
JR: Crucial! The tableware is as important as the dish itself, and we spend a huge amount of time and resources to choose the correct tableware for each course.
What do you look for when choosing tableware?
SL: I am a firm believer in "form and function". Of course, the look and color of the tableware must be complementary to my dishes, but I also put emphasis on its size, shape, and overall functionality. Tableware determines not just how the guest perceives the dish but also how he or she consumes it.
I started off with a style in mind – I wanted something organic and expressive. However, versatility quickly became an important aspect because I was looking for something that I could use for all seasons.
JR: For Odette, we place emphasis on choosing the right tableware to best complement the dining experience. This extends to the color palette and material (in our case, usually white and glass), weight, size, and shape of the tableware. We also look for high-quality pieces that are timeless and elegant.
Some of our tableware are designed specifically for a single dish only, while others are chosen for their versatility. We believe it is important to strike a delicate balance between form and function, so that the experience is not too "conceptual" with limited versatility or functionality.
What kind of tableware do you have in your own home?
SL: In my own home, my tableware is minimalistic and multi-functional. On top of one complete set that serves most purposes, I do have a few more eccentric items (most of which were gifts) that I use now and then, especially for special occasions.
JR: I have a few Legle plates that are in white, as well as some colorful ceramic bowls that Agnes, my wife picked out. For special occasions, we have a small collection of fine tableware that includes Grassl glasses, Gabriel-Glas glasses, Perceval knives, Riedel decanter, and more.
What are your top tips for selecting tableware?
SL: I always recommend choosing quality products that would maintain their durability over the years. When picking tableware, it is very important to keep the purpose and cuisine in mind. It should be versatile but at the same time, reflective of your own personality. Lastly, storage is also something important to consider. Too many odd-shaped items can be quite tiresome to fit in!
JR: Practicality, functionality, easy-maintenance, and how it will fit visually into the dining experience.
What's your most prized possession in your own kitchen?
SL: I couldn't pick just one item that was the most important to me in the kitchen, but if I had to, it would be my knife. It's not only the item that I use most often but is also closest to my heart because it was gifted to me by a previous mentor when I opened my own space.
JR: That would be the wooden spoon that belongs to my grandmother, Odette.