You Eat With Your Eyes First

It isn’t often that I write about my day job.  Not that being a Human Resource professional isn’t interesting—it is. Maybe even TOO interesting at times.  When the moon is full, I deal with so much crazy at work that I just want to go home and bake and write and forget about it.

But as I was pondering an article about the importance of plating to the dining experience, and how I showcase my culinary creations, I couldn’t help but correlate that with how a person presents oneself to the world.

Even though we would like to believe that people are judging us by our actions, they judge us by our appearance long before that. This is especially true in the workplace, where your appearance has tremendous impact on your getting promotional opportunities, good performance evaluations, etc.

As a Human Resource Director, it has been a large focus in my career to manage the recruitment function.  I have seen some pretty odd behaviors from applicants over the years.

One young man came for a call center job interview wearing plaid flannel pajama pants and fuzzy bunny slippers. He figured since the work didn’t involve seeing customers face to face, he could wear whatever he wanted. But all we could see was a guy that couldn’t take a job seriously, and was more interested in cuddling in his jam jams all day. Needless to say, he was not hired.

When interviewing a guy for a manager position at a small retail store, he showed up in flip flops and board shorts, coated in Hawaiian Tropics tanning oil, and dropping sand everywhere he walked.  I mean, I know we grew up in a beach town, dude, but at least shower before your management interview. Maybe?

I interviewed a girl for receptionist position at the Psychiatric and Drug Rehab facility where I was the Director.  She came in with blue hair and nose rings.  Since a large number of our patients were drug addicted teens, and many of them sported that same look, it would not be appropriate for their first impression at the facility to be someone whose look might affirm their own bad life choices.  I did hire her, but required that she use a natural hair color, and remove extreme jewelry. She was glad to comply.

Several years ago, one of my Human Resource peers—I’ll call her Yvette– had been trying to land a promotion in the Fortune 12 company where we worked.  After a few failed attempts, she approached our supervisor and asked her feedback.  Afterwards, she came to me and said:

“When I asked Donna for feedback on missing promotions, she told me I needed to get my gold cap removed. Can you believe she said that to me?”

I thought about it for a second, and said “actually, yes, I do.”

You see, Donna was, sadly, right.

Yvette had gotten the gold tooth in college, as a status symbol.  Not too dissimilar from kids who get unusual or excessive body piercings, tattoos, or dye their hair blue.

We all do fun, crazy, or otherwise wild things in our youth, as a way of affiliating with our peer group. But as we move into adulthood, and seek professional advancement, these remnants of our wild and wooly days have to go. You will not be taken seriously at the age of 30 if you are still rocking tongue rings and purple hair.

Or a gold grill.

Except for maybe at some really socially progressive technology firms, or Joe’s Gym, you aren’t going to find too many CEOs, VP’s or any other high-ranking company officials sporting tattoos, bolts in their ears, or purple hair. Doesn’t mean they don’t have them, or never did, but they know to cover them up now.

I am not saying it’s right to judge someone because of how he/she looks. But it IS human nature to do so.  Just as a peahen will choose to mate with the peacock that exhibits the most attractive tail feathers, humans also judge worthiness based on appearance.

Your look conveys a message about who you are, even if it isn’t an accurate message.  It’s that message that will speak loudest, and speak first, to anyone meeting you.  Your look is the first, and often the only impression you get to make.

You may be a wonderful human being and the salt of the earth, but if someone interviewing you for a job can’t get past the bolts in your ears and the tongue piercings, it doesn’t matter, and you won’t get the job.  Same goes with saggy pants and backwards or flat brimmed baseball caps.

Why not?

Bolts in the ears and tongue piercings are largely associated with a counter culture that involves drug use.

Sagging pants and backwards ball caps are associated with gang culture.

But again, does it really matter why not? The bottom line is that although you cannot be refused employment based on your age, race, gender, etc, you ABSOLUTELY CAN and likely WILL BE denied promotional opportunities, and maybe even employment, if you look like a circus freak.

This applies in all aspects of human life.  If a girl is looking for a mate, and she wants an old fashioned southern gentleman like her daddy was, she should probably be sporting a look that such a gentleman might himself be looking for.

Time to dye the purple hair back to brown, and remove the tongue piercing.  Trade the combat boots in for pumps, and lose the black stud dog collar in favor of a string of Mikimoto pearls. Or else she’s most likely to attract the boy with the Mohawk and the black leather vest, with a chain connecting his right ear with his right nostril (who, by the way, could also be a lovely human being).

I’m. Just. Saying. Like attracts like. It’s a thing.

 

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The same principle applies in the kitchen, and on the dinner table.

If you are a culinary professional, a food blogger, competitive chef, or just a passionate foodie, you know it’s an absolute truth that “you eat with your eyes first”.

Even a soccer mom looking to impress her husband’s boss at dinner knows she wants the meal to look nice just as much as she wants it to taste delicious.

How you present the meal is as important as what it tastes like.

Today, I want to share with you one recipe—a dessert. Basically, it is a brownie with fruit sauce.

It tastes great, I promise.  But I am going to show you ways to plate the dessert so that the appearance matches the flavor, and turns “Brownie with Fruit Sauce” into “Gateau Chocolat Avec Deux Coulis”.

Don’t bust my chops on that last bit…It’s been 20 years since I used French on any kind of basis.

 

Uber Dense Fudgy Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup strong coffee (may use port wine, or chocolate stout beer too)
  • 2, 12 0z bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups salted butter
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F.

 

Line a 9X13″ baking pan with parchment paper.  Spray sides and parchment with non-stick spray

 

In a sauce-pan over medium high heat, bring the liquid of your choice to a boil, and boil until reduced to about 1/2 cup.

 

Place chocolate and butter in a large microwave safe bowl, and place in the microwave. On medium power, heat for 3 or 4 minutes, stopping every 30 seconds to stir.  Whisk until very smooth.

 

In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla just until well creamy and smooth.  Slowly beat in the chocolate mixture and the reduced coffee/wine/beer.  Stir in the flour and salt just until combined—do not beat.

 

Pour mixture into prepared pan, and bake for 40 minutes.  Cool for an hour before placing in the refrigerator to chill.  Cut into small, pieces, about 24 per pan.

 

These are good at room temperature also, but must be cooled completely before cutting.

 

Raspberry Coulis

 

  • 1 package (10 oz) frozen raspberries
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar

Boil for 3 minutes, until sugar is completely dissolved.  Press through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds.

 

 

Apricot Coulis

  • 6 apricots, rinsed, quartered, seeds removed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup water

Bring all to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Simmer slowly for 10 minutes.  Puree in a blender or food processor.  Press through a fine sieve.

 

Okay, so if I’m just serving up some brownie with fruit sauce to my kids after some Sloppy Joes, here is what they get…

 

Brownie with apricot sauce

Brownie with apricot sauce

 

Brownies, topped with fruit sauce.  Not pretty, but very tasty.

 

Now what if we place some of the apricot coulis in the bottom of the serving dish, and place a few dollops of the raspberry coulis on top….

image

image

 

Now, take a skewer, and draw it through the red drops.

image

Hearts!

 

Some artfully arranged mint leaves add a pop of green.

image

Whipped cream provides a nice clean canvas for additional color.  In this case, I crumbled up some freeze dried strawberries.  They add a nice pop of color and a very potent burst of berry flavor.

image

In this one, I placed apricot coulis in the dish, and drizzled the raspberry coulis in rings.  Used a skewer to draw through the rings to the edge creates a pretty spider web effect.

image

Grated dark chocolate provides another visual and taste option.

image

Top off with a freeze dried strawberry, and voila….

Gateau Chocolat Avec Deux Coulis

Gateau Chocolat Avec Deux Coulis

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Categories: BAKING, children, dessert, Family, Food, Gourmet, humor, recipes, Texas, writing

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11 Comments on “You Eat With Your Eyes First”

  1. 2014/07/01 at 11:22 pm #

    Very nice presentation. It definitely makes it look more appealing to eat. Good job!

    http://www.smokingpigbbq.net

  2. 2014/07/02 at 6:24 am #

    I thought this was awesome and shared it with my entire staff. Appearance matters not only in an interview but every time you interact with a customer, coworker, subordinate, or superior as well. Thanks for stating a difficult topic so eloquently. 🙂

  3. Robert
    2014/07/02 at 9:38 am #

    It’s a similar thing with books. There’s the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, but in publishing you actually go out of your way to get potential readers to (positively) judge your book by its cover.

    Excellent photos. I have such respect for presentation, especially in pastries and desserts. They look like edible works of art.

  4. 2014/07/02 at 9:43 am #

    Beautiful presentation and I agree that whether it’s food or how we dress, presentation matters! Great post!

  5. 2014/07/02 at 11:13 am #

    Wonderful lead-in! Shows two areas of life that if you already agree with one, you might see the value of the other. Very nice. P.S. I think there should be at least a half day in college devoted to why employers frown on certain fashion statements.

  6. 2014/07/02 at 5:39 pm #

    tuuuuuue statements!!! and I love these brownies-crazy delish!

  7. 2014/07/02 at 9:58 pm #

    Great article. One of my favs for sure. An old friend used to scold me on the way I would make plates and tell me how her husband would want his plate to look very nicely arranged and put together. Ever since then (6yrs years ago or so) I have always taken pride in the way a plate is arranged. I loved the artistry that you added here! Will have to try this recipe!

  8. 2014/07/06 at 10:19 pm #

    Really enjoyed this post. I also work in HR and am constantly amazed at how people present themselves.

    • 2014/07/06 at 10:22 pm #

      Marla, aren’t you also amazed at how stupid employees sometimes think we are….I mean I’m sitting watching video of you leaving the building for a three hour lunch while clocked in, and you’re keep telling me you were here? Who else wears a mustard color turtleneck with eggplant purple pants?

  9. 2014/07/06 at 11:03 pm #

    I do love beautiful presentation! Everyone looking for a job or a promotion needs to read this post.

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