That our plates have turned into works of art dates back to May 1968 when the trend known as nouvelle cuisine was popularised in France. During a time when authority was questioned, everything was permitted.
"With time we have found ourselves once more faced with the excesses of 19th century decorative cuisine that we opposed in the early days of Gault and Millau. Sometimes it is as though the dishes that are served at the table should be framed and hung on the wall!" This comment was not just made by anyone: Christian Millau, who co-founded the famous Gault&Millau guide together with Henri Gault at the start of the 1970s, does not hide his perplexity regarding what is served on his plate today.
Food critics Christian Millau and Henri Gault called the shots in the world of French gastronomy for a number of decades. In fact, it was around the start of the 1970s(1) that the presentation of dishes started to change. Notably the Troisgros brothers were the first to adopt the oversized "American plate" and to introduce the tasting menu, which, with its small portions, turned the world of culinary aesthetics on its head. The popularisation of nouvelle cuisine in 1972–73 accelerated the movement and saw the majority of the grand chefs, from Michel Guérard to Roger Vergé, Jacques Maximin and Freddy Girardet, pay particular attention to the presentation of food and the order that dishes are served in. According to Gil Galasso, author of a recent thesis on the art of carving, the 'commandments of nouvelle cuisine' promoted by Christian Millau and Henri Gault (1973) generally imposed plated service, rendering the ancient science of the head waiter obsolete(2).