What comes to mind when you think about food? Is it how it tastes, or how it is presented? Is it both? Culinary experts say that food presentation is known to affect the way something tastes. For example, if the sauce is spilled carelessly, and messily, around the food, it may make one biased about the taste. ALSO READ: One chef’s gourmet food choice and why mobile kitchens are the way to go For 35-year-old Desire Niyonshuti, a practicing chef, 10 years of his passion for all things food has allowed him to look at it in a unique and exciting way. Being a chef enables him to discover diverse ways to prepare delicious and healthy food, new ingredients and ways to experiment with them, present food, handle it safely, but most importantly, exercise sanitation in the kitchen, and so forth. Niyonshuti believes that food should be tasty, with an aroma, and to top it all off, eye-catching. “The presentation of the food matters, guests must feel appealed by the appearance of food, even before tasting it. A well-organised plate shows the client that the chef took their time and expertise, and created something worth tasting. But also, one is assured that the kitchen where it’s prepared is clean,” he says. Food presentation is the art of modifying, processing, arranging, or decorating food to enrich its creative appeal. The chef notes that food ought to be colourful, using diverse colours attracts people’s attention, noting that it should have different portions of colour such as red, yellow, orange or green, explaining that usually fruits and vegetables complement the plate pretty well. Niyonshuti is of the view that when it comes to flavour, the way food tastes and smells matters. Every ingredient should be in the right measurement, not too spicy, salty, or sugary as too much of it spoils the whole taste. He says that texture is also necessary; food texture is defined as the qualities of food that can be felt with the fingers, tongue, or teeth. According to Niyonshuti, food can be crispy, hard or crunchy, and so forth. It is, therefore, easy for a client to tell whether food is fresh or not, based on the texture once they taste or chew it. He also notes that the size of the plate can allow the chef to present the dish well—a small one makes the quantity too much, thus disorganising the plate—yet a big plate looks as though food is not enough, adding that with a medium-sized plate, one can’t go wrong. Whereas styling adds beauty to food, colour, and variety create a more mouth-watering experience; it shouldn’t be too much as it may be a little hard for a customer to eat, or enjoy—it’s important to keep it simple. Connecting with food Niyonshuti recalls falling in love with food production eight years ago. However, before that, there was a dark phase in his life, when he lost his father who catered to his education, forcing him to stop at level two of a motor vehicle engineering short course at Samuduha Integrated College (SICO). But he needed money to support himself, so he didn’t sit back and throw a pity party, he searched for ways to make money from what he was passionate about, and that was food. He decided to pursue a short course where he learned about food production at the Rwanda TVET Board (RTB) in 2014 for one year. Today, he has a certificate of competence in culinary art—a profession he started practicing in 2015. It is after learning more about food that his love for cooking, serving, delivering, and discussing food, increased. Niyonshuti hopes to share his skills, creativity, and experience with young people who would love to start businesses in culinary art. The chef is knowledgeable in both hot and cold kitchens, pastry and bakery, grill, and ‘mise en place’ (a French culinary phrase that means ‘putting in place’). He notes that he has expertise in all grilled meats such as pork, beef, fish, chicken, goat, and others. Niyonshuti is putting some money aside as he anticipates starting a guesthouse, where he will offer a wide range of services that will comprise accommodation, an eatery, conference hall, coffee shop, and bar. He also looks forward to revamping the food and catering industry by starting a food truck (where he will prepare and sell food in a truck.) ALSO READ: Eat as you go: A rising vendor’s dream to open society’s mind to food trucks Niyonshuti is a chef at quite a number of hotels such as Hôtel des Mille Collines, Heartland Hotel Nyamirambo, Torino Bar and Restaurant Nyamirambo, Silent Hill Hotel Kayonza, and others. The chef’s advice to young people with no jobs is to take up short courses in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to build on their knowledge and open their minds to creativity. Slippery slope One of Niyonshuti’s biggest challenges is the lack of enough resources, a thing, he says, has pushed many professional chefs to opt for shortcuts. Secondly, Niyonshuti notes that chefs’ salaries are still low, and there are not many opportunities for him to continue mastering his career. However, he says that every time he puts his mind on food, he focuses on uniqueness, ensures that he minimises fat in food preparation, and averts cross-contamination of food (the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods).