Why I DON'T want plates

Do you want plates? Do you want control and order over your food? Do you want to end the stupid presentation of chips? Well, fascism might be for you.

1y ago

I was at a restaurant in South Kensington recently and my party decided to order some calamari. It arrived as a huge heap laden in spring onions and thinly sliced papers. It looked gorgeous, the only problem is that it was served on a piece of rectangular slate.

At first, we ate the calamari while trying particularly hard not to explode it all over the table. However, like a sort of food Jenga, as the accessible pieces began to disappear and our grip on the chopsticks became about as useful as an arcade claw, food was soon everywhere.

When the waiter eventually came to clear it away, we apologised for the mess. But things got worse - he couldn’t pick up the slate, it was too heavy and flat against the table. Despite much scratching around the sides, when he eventually did get his middle finger to it, all he managed to succeed in doing was to pour the leftovers onto the ever-increasing messy table.

This is just one example amongst millions where problems wouldn’t have existed if a plate was used.

However, despite the thousands which rally the cries of ‘WE WANT PLATES’ with photos of horrific examples of dish-ageddon, I actually don’t care for plates. And to be honest, I’m a bit exhausted with the people who have become their crusaders.

Yes, I do find it funny when a restaurant serves food in shoes. It's true, I don't understand why chips arrive in cages. And yes, I especially enjoy images of people forced to pour gravy over a roast dinner, served on a wooden plank. But there’s an important defence which I believe makes the stupidity worth it: experimentation.

Experimenting is a vital part of being a restaurant owner. Trying new approaches, ingredients, menus, changing the experience people have — it’s a business at the end of the day and it needs to maximise money. You can’t just expect people will always want what they’ve always had. And you shouldn’t have to bend to the vocal minority of those that do.

Of course, experimentation has its pitfalls. I have no doubt many of the people who have had their dishes shamed on the WE WANT PLATES hit list are very aware of that. But I don’t think we should want them to stop trying. As the founder of the Plates Templar, Ross McGinnes, himself admitted, “If I went to a Heston Blumenthal restaurant I’d be disappointed if my food wasn’t served in a left-field, inventive manner.”

Likewise, it’s important to remember that 100% plate pure restaurants are still often incredibly pretentious themselves. Nowadays, it seems that every top Michelin gig serves up food with an array of poncy swivels of sauce, delicately laid root veg, rationed amounts of meat and often with a maitre d’ to read instructions (I know how to eat a bloody slice of beef, Karl!).

As with any market, when pushing boundaries, many restaurants aren’t going to put in the same amount of innovative effort as others, and I fully understand why it annoys people. I genuinely believe anyone caught buying a wooden slab to serve a main course on should be exiled and lose their hands, but at least they are having a go.

Ultimately, like all the umpteen thousands of plate defence league members, I’m just a consumer. And I prefer a restaurant which ponders how it could grow its business and tries things out - even when they seem obviously utterly stupid - as one day it might click with the mainstream. You will always remember those restaurants too and be more interesting as a result. Whereas those who go out and demand their way to eat or else be shamed online, they will continue to be dull crypto-fascists. 

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Comments (17)

  • I want a plate for hygiene & practicality. We ate off wooden boards in the Middle Ages, they were called ‘Trenchers’ & we moved on from them as soon as we were able to. Several restaurants in the UK have been closed by the Food Standards agency because customers became ill after eating off boards which became cracked & harboured bacteria. Some things don’t need a plate, but some things just do & I’ve sent food back if I wasn’t happy with the cleanliness of the ‘novelty’ item it was presented on.

      1 year ago
    • What’s a little bit of bacteria? Basically a free vaccination.

        1 year ago
    • These were cases of life threatening food poisoning. We all eat bacteria every day but E Coli & Salmonella aren’t a holiday.

        1 year ago
  • The only reason I don’t want to eat off slate it that the sound of cutlery on slate is just about the worst sound you can be subjected too. Other than that, plates really are not a massive concern!

      1 year ago
  • Great article! I, too, don’t care if there’s a plate or not. I actually find it fun when there isn’t a plate. As long as I have napkins, it’s all good. I think calling them fascists is a bit too far, though. Fascism kills, these guys just want plates.

    Anyway, nice to have you here. Welcome to FoodTribe!

      1 year ago
  • Recommended reading before considering a "back to nature " approach to dining.


    Keep your boots on when walking outdoors in the tropics.

    Don't drink untreated water.

    Carry "puritabs " or similar in your pocket if you suspect the water is unsafe to drink.

    Don't swim in natural water courses; even in the UK, liver fluke inhabit the watercress, which is probably the result of pig farming.

    Even swimming in the ocean can give you a nasty case of sea lice.

    And, definitely ,

    encourage Gordon Ramsay to do more yelling.

    He is nobodies fool.

      1 year ago
  • There are so many things that contribute to the good health of modern people;

    a chemically treated water supply, which enables food to be washed, and dental work to be carried out very hygienically, being very important examples.

    However, as I suspect science is not taught properly in some schools, ( lack of geology and geophysics knowledge in the general population is some cause for concern ) we are seeing the re-emergence of some of our ancestors health problems.

    Having studied microbiology at tertiary level, and read quite a few nasty food poisoning case studies, I like to keep dining simple and safe. ; hygienic food from Woolworths.

    The fresh produce at Woolies have been washed with a very dilute acid solution, so there is little chance of eating a worm, snail, or fly larvae, and little chance of breaking a tooth on a rock.

    This is important, because some research indicates that the downfall of Egyptian civilisation can be attributed at least in part, to the inability to keep sand and parasites out of their food, resulting in teeth getting ground down to nothing, and fatal schistosoma worm infestations.

    These kinds of historical public health issues, are popping up again, as well intentioned , but poorly educated people initiate community garden products.

    Sure the fresh produce tastes nice and, well, fresh, but, are the kitchens hygienic ?

    Is the produce washed adequately ?

    What kind of nasty worms are found in "organic " soil ?

    Frozen foods are also hygienically prepared and packaged ; the inspection of which keeps tertiary qualified people employed.

    After all, is this not the age of reason , or at least, post enlightenment ?

    It's just an opinion, but I think that dining , like other areas of personal management , needs to be reasoned and scientific.

    Otherwise, we could easily end up back in the Middle Ages, which was, not a particularly well reasoned era.


      1 year ago