In Wine & Food Presentation the First Rule is “Don’t Offend”

In designing a wine label it always rule #1 and sits atop The Guidelines: Don't Offend.


The rule is there because no matter what else the wine is, it is a consumer product meant to be sold and marketed. It turns out that it's pretty easy to adhere to this first rule and still take your label design project in any number of directions that satisfy one's brand development, one's sense of aesthetics and one's ego. 

In addition, this rule applies to numerous other areas beyond product packaging. Another area that first jumps to mind is presentation of a meal or dish or plate at a restaurant. The first rule of plate presentation is surely "Don't Offend".

There are a lot of good reasons for this. Despite the fact that a diner may already have ordered a dish and they pretty much are taking their chances, there is always the possibility that an offensive or otherwise disturbing presentation can result in a "take it back" response. This in turn should, at most restaurants, result in a quick and affirmative response.This is never good for the restaurant.

And of course, in today's world of social media, Yelp, TripAdvisor and the numerous other ways by which diners can haunt a restaurant's future, the rule of "don't offend" becomes particularly important.

And so this was on my mind when I stared down at the strangest looking dessert I've ever encountered that was presented to me at a restaurant that has garnered a great deal of positive attention and kudos not only for the quality of the food but for its overall agreeable and top end service and atmosphere. 

That dessert is pictured at the top of this post.

Without delving deeply into the anatomical or scatological implications of the presentation of this dish, I can say that it took a certain act of will on my part to eventually consume it…which I did.

Up to the point where this dessert was served to me, I considered this a fine meal. Nothing spectacular, but the food was very good, the service very good and they served me a spectacular cocktail prior to the meal concocted with both scotch and bourbon. I was happy.

Then I was offended.

The one thing that I kept asking myself as I stared down at this remarkably sculpted brown log of Johnson was how on earth anyone working in the food service industry could finish with this particular plating, look at what they had done, been satisfied, then had it delivered to a table? I suppose drugs could be involved, but I don't think so. It could be that the sculptor of the brown tube that was laid upon the plate was simply so spatially unaware that he saw no problem with his creation. Who knows?

On the menu the dish was called "Chocolate Creamy Delight". As Kathy and I stared at this thing we immediately came up with other names for it. Our server, who winced as we called them over as though they knew what was coming, called it "unfortunate". They were right.

So, for the sake of driving home the moral of this tale: Don't Offend!

11 Responses

  1. Jim Caudill - May 28, 2010

    When I read your opening line I thought it might be another column about Bitch Grenache…but I wasn’t expecting a chocolate Johnson. You could help me get this image out of my cortex if you shared more about the Scotch Bourbon delight that surely must have been the highlight of the meal, excepting being with Kathy of course….

  2. Tom Wark - May 28, 2010

    Let me see what I can do.
    The cocktail was called, I swear, a “Rick James”
    It really was quite nice. The peaty/smokiness of the scotch was the high note, with the great balance and complexity delivered with the bitters, orange and honey syrup.
    And yet, regardless of how good this cocktail was, I can’t seem to pull my mind away from the “Chocolate Johnson”.

  3. Jo Diaz - May 28, 2010

    Disgusting… Sorry, but I like my desserts to have more sex appeal…

  4. Samantha Dugan - May 29, 2010

    I bet the chef is laughing his ass off, “I got them to eat poo!” Vile, that is vile looking and I commend you sir for eating it. Um gotta know what you said to your server though, “Excuse me. Someone appears to have pooed on my dessert”….

  5. 1WineDude - May 29, 2010

    I am speechless.
    That pic is gonna be LEGENDARY!

  6. Satya Murti - May 30, 2010

    Absolutely thoughtless! That is all I can think of. Somebody has to be so utterly unimaginative to come up with such a awful presentation.

  7. Alan Baker - June 2, 2010

    I was going to give you props on finding the most disgusting stock photo ever then saw it was experienced first hand.
    I’d add a session per week to the therapy regimen for a while.
    Just tell me if the restaurant is west of Sonoma.

  8. Martin - June 2, 2010

    First, I think I know where you ate for there cannot be two locations serving a nearly identical dessert. Second, perhaps the dessert should have been called “The Rick James”. Third, I’ve now an understandable aversion to chocolate and am desiring some scotch…quickly.

  9. Vinogirl - June 4, 2010

    I think they intended for it to look as it did, otherwise they wouldn’t have laid the ‘log’ on top of a smear of something that looks like a skiddy!
    What was the dessert anyway, cake, mousse?

  10. Agenzie modelle torino - July 19, 2010

    Quite amazing and interesting, Thanks for this blog.

  11. - August 7, 2012

    The first thing I had in mind when I saw the picture was, “What was the chef thinking?!” His kind of creativity does nothing to entice customers. It seems to me that he deliberately presented the dessert in this form to scare or gross out customers.

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