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The Chopping Block
Master the potato mountain.
Nicole Levin

You blanched the asparagus. You took the tenderloin out at the crucial moment. Your sauce looks restaurant-quality.

Now all you have to do is present your painstakingly prepared holiday meal to your guests and wait for the compliments to roll in.

We asked Shelley Young--owner of Chicago cooking school The Chopping Block--for tips on making sure your feast looks as good as it tastes. Here’s how to plate your food like a pro:

1. Leave some space and let the plate show. The food shouldn’t look crowded, and definitely don’t garnish the rim unless you’re trying to bring back the ’80s.

2. Use different types of food to build height. When plating items that have density--like mashed potatoes--hold the spoon vertically. (This will help your tots stand tall.) Use tongs to stack vegetables in three layers, rotating a bit before placing each one on top of the last.

3. Garnish only with ingredients that are actually in the dish. A garnish should enhance, not overpower.

4. Use just one sauce per plate. Keep it simple.

5. Go with an odd number of items--three things look more interesting than four.

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