The Power of Presentation

Tina Nisson shares her secrets to creating a visual spectacle with food and drink

Why hand out canapés on a simple tray when instead you could be serving up using a triple stack canapé drawer, lit with hidden LEDs and filled with dry ice? Exactly. Expert food stylist and designer Tina Nisson tells TOAST how she makes food look fabulous, and gives us her top tips for festive entertaining.

Food presentation is key at any party or event, and someone who knows this more than most is expert food stylist and designer Tina Nisson. Her company - Tina Nisson Design - is responsible for a genuinely exciting and staggering array of innovative and stylish canapé trays, serviceware and other presentation products, which they design and create using perspex, acrylics and wood. Simple plates just won't do I am afraid.

“The company was created because there seemed to be a distinct lack in beautifully designed canapé trays food stations and equipment that wasn’t just simply functional and boring!” explains Tina.

“My mission was to change that and get some fun designer pieces out there and ditch the plain thin tired looking standard trays. We create crazy, fun, luxury displays made from any material, but predominantly in acrylic, which is so versatile for events and really allows our creativity to explode!” 

Canepe Tray Tina Nisson

Tina Nisson Canape Trays

Tina Nisson Canepe Trays

Tina’s ever expanding, imaginative offering includes yellow fluorescent neon skewer boxes and trays, white gloss ‘sleigh trays’ with beautiful oak inserts, reversible acrylic cone trays for miniature ice creams, as well as neon test tube holders for cocktails, jellies and soup sips, and more.

There really isn’t anyone else out there that designs good-looking pieces, and seeing a set of funky colourful shiny new canapé trays that I have designed go out to a client give me lots of satisfaction and knowing what they require before they realize it themselves is great!”

Whilst growing up Tina’s parents owned a hotel on the coast in Devon where she found herself surrounded by food and service from a young age. Years later and with her a background in chefing, she moved on to a hotel on London’s chichi Park Lane, where her interest in food design and styling developed.  

“That’s when I became fascinated with the visual aspect of food” Tina explains, 

“Not just how the food looked, but how it was presented. I quickly realized that it was less about the cooking for me, and more about how it was served, so that’s when I decided to move into event catering.

"I have always loved design - that’s where my real passion is. If I see an unusual design the first thing that comes into my head is “'hat would make an amazing serving device' - the more obscure the better. I like to push the boundaries on what’s possible - my manufacturer will confirm that!”

Tina Nisson Design Amuse Bouche

Tina Nisson Design Swirl Tray

Tina Nisson Design Trays

As well as her incredible range of serviceware available to purchase or hire, Tina also offers a bespoke event design service as well, offering eye-catching, immersive event design solutions for a complete event or project, or more specific consultation at any stage of the process. Tina and her team can create can create mood boards, develop themes, design food stations, and more.

“I always try to give events personality, make it a talking point and give it character,’ she explains. 

“To do this I have to ensure there is a great emphasis on quality and creativity – all our events use bespoke canapé trays, food stations and so much more, and we really believe it is the presentation of the food and drinks which brings these products and events to life and to a whole new level.  I’m very hands on with the event design - last week for instance I was out on site with caterers, building food stations and staying at the event to see it through. I usually like to stay until my part of the event has been revealed!”

BUBBLE Food And Tina Nisson Building6 By Christa Holka 15Jul16 0167

BUBBLE Food And Tina Nisson Kenpalace By Christa Holka 7Jul16 0114

(Images: Bubble Food and Tina Nisson Food Station)

Tina Nisson Garden Museum French Kitchen Dessert Station

(Image: Garden Museum Dessert Station)

Past and present clients include a host of private individuals, as well Bubble Food, Duck & Waffle, Moving Venue, Company of Cooks, St Paul’s CathedralRadish Events and many more. Tina’s mantra for such success is simple;

If it makes you smile then it is likely to make them smile,” she explains.

Even better if makes them laugh! Unfortunately that’s not appropriate for all events, but nostalgia is also a big hit. Guests can be a bit nervous with going up to food.  If there is something for them to investigate they are likely to come over and have a look without making them look greedy. It’s important that the staff are chatty too and explain why they need to put their headphones on, or why they need to open that box, so that they understand every important detail of the food.”

Speaking of headphones and boxes; Tina’s captivating food stations are basically legendary. Fun and tasty features such as doughnut walls and sweetie tables have been all the rage on 2016, but Tina has in fact been designing and creating innovative food stations since 2006, and as well as her ingenious and imaginative bespoke solutions, Tina also offers popular pre-built food stations, which clients can assemble themselves in order to create instant theatre and height, such as simple clear canapé boxes and usherette tray which can be easily customized to match any theme.

“People are hungry for more and more experiences these days. The explosion of immersive events is a big reason - guests want a piece of that. A sit-down dinner for some is not enough interaction when we are otherwise always stuck to our phones!”

Science Museum Tina Nisson

(Image: Tina Nisson's Science Museum Molecular Canape Station)

Some of Tina’s recent food station creations include a champagne sweetie table for the Absolutely Fabulous premiere party at Liberty, a Shakespearean cheese station at The Globe theatre, an immersive molecular canapé station at the Science Museum, a perspex food wall at the National Gallery, and a Terrarium dessert station at Kensington Palace.

“I also did a series of food and drink stations through the decades for two celebrity friends’ 40th birthdays last year. There was a ‘Back to the Future’ bar and a 90’s rave station, and the food was an Only Fool’s & Horses theme, so I collected all the original memorabilia from the bar in Del Boy and Rodney’s lounge, including the all important 70’s pineapple ice bucket! We even brought in the front of the Robin Reliant as a backdrop. I had so much fun collecting all the props and the staff didn’t get spared of a bit of theming either!” laughs Tina.

“Possibly the weirdest for me to food style to date was last week, with events company Private Drama. It was a Roald Dahl theme - the food station was Danny’s garage so I was buying oil drums & huge spanners! It gets quite surreal when you are trying to pair these events to food service - set design would have been much easier route for me to go down!”

Tina Nisson Kensington Palace Terrarium Dessert Station

(Image: Kensignton Palace Terrarium Dessert Station)

Tina Nisson National Gallery Perspex Food Wall

(Image: Perspex Food Wall)

Tina Nisson Somerset House A Collaboration With Mask Events

(Image: Somerset House A Collaboration With Mask Events)

Despite her many accomplishments and accolades, Tina shows no sign of slowing down. Quite the opposite in fact.

“Next year is going to get even more immersive. I’ve always worked very closely with chefs and dining on insects is the latest craze, so I can really see myself getting all David Attenborough with tray presentation!”

Watch this stylish space!

Tina’s Top Tip For Festive Entertaining


  • Think of the senses - Smell, sight, taste, etc. Think about these things at home like you would with events.
  • Less is more - Be strict with the amount of colour you use like with any of your interior design - 2 or 3 is enough. You can then decorate your room as you wish and it won’t be in danger of looking a mess or cluttered. This is simply the most important thing.
  • Make sure you have the right fragrance - I saw pine scented sticks to tie onto your tree this week especially if it’s artificial even if it’s real. Cinnamon and spices also work.  
  • Have a focal point in the room -  If you don’t have a hearth then make a display on a table to draw your guests in.
  • Match all of your serveware - so that your table looks perfectly neat when all the food is brought out.
  • Let there be light - You can never have enough lights on your tree to give that twinkling & warm effect. You want to create a cosy scene and candles really add drama, but be careful!
  • Loads of glassware - Glassware on the table really adds something special. I know it creates washing but it also creates a beautiful reflection from your candles & gives that professional look.

For more information about Tina Nisson Design check out her listing in our Little Black Book or visit her website http://www.tinanissondesign.com/

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