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Plating Tips – Chili Mac Attack!

Plating Tips



Presentation at home is a thing. Thinking outside of the box for some fun in the way that your plating looks can take even the most basic foods and give them a little new life.

It’s particularly good “A-game” plating when you’re making something on one of those “in a hurry” kind of evenings.

I usually wait until a weekend to make my Tex-NewMex chili, made with Shiner Bock beer, and New Mexico’s Chimayo red chile powder.  I batch freeze the excess in smaller meals so I can pull it out for fast turnarounds on busy days.

This plating came about on one of those days.

One morning, staring at my freezer inventory, I was thinking about what to make for dinner. Chili mac, a classic American roadside diner delight, is very simple. You just add macaroni noodles to chili.

I explained what it was to a few of my brood. They weren’t loving the idea.

“How about just mac and cheese?” was my cuisine influencers’ call.

So I split the diff. Literally.

Chili on one side, mac and cheese on the other. Chili is a strong taste, so subtle mac and cheese can get lost here. This plating really screams out for an in-your-face kind American Diner M&C, which isn’t going to be a lovingly grated, top of the line cheddar. My Diner M&C is very fast mac and cheese, with a couple of riffs that give it some of the cheese sharpness that would be in a better cheddar mac.

So, knock off some of my Diner M&C. Reheat the chili. Then, to make it more special, do a little plating magic!


  1. Have both foods heated and ready to serve. Have serving spoons for both in the food and ready
  2. Put the bowl in range of both foods so they’re easy to reach.
  3. Take a pastry cutter. Hold upright, stretched diagonally across the bowl with the hand you use less.
  4. With your dominant hand, load in the mac and cheese first, as it’s more solid and blocks the more liquid chili.
  5. Spoon in the chile.
  6. Remove the pastry cutter.
  7. Rinse and repeat.

My chili will appear in an upcoming recipe. Here’s the quick Diner M&C that’s close to most roadside riffs.


It’s always fun to see how everyone chooses to eat something where you give them some control of the food in the way that you plate it. Personally, I mix the two and eat them. I have the samplers, though, who take a little from A and B sides, and the eat A first, B second contingent.

If I had made it in a one-size fits all, chili topped on a bed of mac and cheese, more of it would have been served to the disposal or waste bin, because someone’s visual appeal of the meal was being impacted.

You eat what looks cool to you!

The Jazz Chef
the authorThe Jazz Chef
Educating chef, managing editor, writer, blogger, filmmaker documentarian AND... in charge of the sheep dip. Ay-men!

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