03/27/2019 15:19 EDT | Updated 05/02/2019 15:00 EDT

Designing the Perfect Dish

The Toyota Camry inspires a drive like no other. Wider stance, sharper design, and intuitively-configured technology injects excitement into each drive, so you get the most out of every road. In partnership with Toyota Canada, we connected with inspiring Canadians who have unexpectedly captivating hobbies, illuminating the incredible synergies between career and hobby, and how they can inform and elevate one another.

Meet Danny Tseng, architect and chef.

Architect Danny Tseng always knew he liked food, but he didn't develop a passion for cooking until his career brought him to the city.

Long work weeks and loads of downtime on weekends coaxed him into trying new recipes. Today, Tseng is confident he can whip up anything a restaurant can make "on par, if not better."

His drive to excel in two creative disciplines is something to be admired. His humble beginnings are proof that practice certainly does make perfect. In partnership with Toyota Camry, Tseng shares his tips for plating an aesthetically-pleasing meal.

Recipe Planning

For Tseng, dreaming up a meal plan is the easiest part of the process. During the work week, his only food-related responsibility is deciding what to cook and noting the necessary ingredients.

One of his go-to recipes is a rich and flavourful oxtail stew that he and his friends swear by.

"The reason I love this dish is because it's super versatile and I make it really thick like a ragu and if I have bone broth on the side, I add to it and it becomes a soup. If I add in coconut milk and some spices, it becomes a Thai curry..."

If you want to be really playful in the kitchen, it's important that your cupboards are stocked with the essentials and the unusual.

Prep & Shop

Saturdays are spent out and about, but unlike his days of hobnobbing, Tseng is grocery shopping and hunting down hard to find spices. Ingredients are the building blocks of a meal so if you can afford quality, Tseng recommends visiting an experienced butcher or fish monger to get the very best cuts and the freshest fish.

Tseng says the main benefit of meal prep is saving time at the end of a long day of work. "I already have four or five meals already prepped up, so during the week, it only takes me 10 or 15 minutes to put a dish together."

His prep also involves seasoning and marinating so flavours are deeply embedded by the time they are ready to be cooked. Produce that won't brown can also be chopped and sliced ahead of time. Tseng recommends investing in a good set of knives and a mandolin for slicing vegetables evenly.

Cooking Day

A lot of us can be found brunching on Sunday, but for this home chef, the day is dedicated to taking a delicious concept and bringing it to life. With all of his ingredients chopped, sliced and diced, it's easy to get a mélange of aromatic smells going quickly in his kitchen.

He also encourages cooks to experiment with new flavours and to be liberal with seasoning. Of course, any chef worth their salt knows that tasting as you go is the golden rule of cooking.

For Tseng, sharing the food he spends all day cooking is the ultimate reward. He revels in the social aspect of cooking and regularly uses his friends as test kitchen subjects.

"When I have friends over, I just find it a lot better to connect over a home-cooked meal," and as someone who has always been fiscally responsible, "it's [cooking] my way of spending only a fraction of what it would cost at a restaurant," he adds.

The Presentation

Plating is where Tseng's keen eye for design comes in handy. He recommends plating dishes against a white backdrop so the colours of the food stand out. Having a good sense of proportion is key, and that skill can be developed over time. Once you plate your dish, take a step back to see if the garnishes and sauces are placed accordingly.

For newbie chefs, simplicity is your friend. The main dish should be the pièce de résistance so place the sides separately. Once you get some practice plating, make things interesting by adding height, texture and colour in accordance with the flavours. That's another important point: never add something just for the sake of aesthetics. Garnishes and sauces should always work with the overall flavor profile.

Find a hobby that unexpectedly captivates you, just like the 2019 Toyota Camry.