White is the staple now for a multiple of reasons: A white plate is a blank canvas for the chef’s creations. White does not conflict with color in most foods.
White matches all interiors; Common white color allows you to mix shapes and heights without confusion. A white plate is the easiest thing for a factory to produce and stock, and can later be decorated. White does not get stale or is not seasonal and white is not subject to color trends (and those are seasonal and cyclical).
But there is a white plate and there is a white plate – meaning that different types of “china” are different colors and have different hues. And the menu selection will lean you towards what “white” will work (along with your interior and lighting). Fish and chicken tend to look anemic on porcelain unless well garnished (because of the blue tinge of the porcelain). Steak looks warm and comfortable on the cream of American white (warm white). The color of the china (the “white”) is due to the different make-up of the mud (after all, china is basically dirt and water baked). But the quality is from what is in the china and how it is manufactured (firing temperatures, design, glaze, and additives). The better the china will back up their product with chippage warranties.
Durability and warranty will also lead you towards the best white for you. High Alumina china is, in color, somewhere between American white and porcelain, and the better ones have very good warranties. Some of the European white porcelains have good warranties, as does the American white vitrified chinas to a lesser extent.
It’s interesting to follow the marketplace. The better known manufacturers develop shapes and looks to drive the market. The importers then knock off the most popular shapes. As those designs become mainstream the challenge for everyone (from manufacturer to operator) becomes how can the look of that design maintain its panache and exclusivity? It reminds me very much of what you see with fashion and the challenge that top designers have with their department store customers.
And you need to examine how important accessory items are to your presentation. There are more accessory items in bright European white than some of the cooler, but there are plenty in other materials.
I like clean, smooth, shiny white- and the better quality chinas have better (smoother, less pitted, and not warped) finishes. Better product has gone through more inspections. There’s less chance of getting something that the customer could perceive in a second. I like plates that feel and look almost velvety.
To me, accessories are the little “toys” that make the presentation fun and exciting; different and personal; signature for the venue. This should not be taken lightly as it is as much as part of the venues’ personality as their interior décor, wait uniform, or music. I love working with lots of accessories and shapes. And for that I must say, that I like Bauscher/Tafelstern for some of the unique shapes and items they have. Plenty of cute items and cups. Always something to make the chef smile. And if the chef smiles, then the food should smile back. Accessories are the place that you get to think most with your stomach…and eyes.