Is it Rude to Take Photos of Your Food in a Restaurant?

Categories: Bites & Dishes

Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail laura.hahnefeld@newtimes.com.

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Still of video from Eat It Don't Tweet It by American Hipster and The Key of Awesome.
Thanks to social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, it's now easier than ever for photo-happy diners to post images of their restaurant meals for the world to see. But has the practice gone too far?

See also: Where Do You Side on the Tasting Menu Debate? and Is Yelp Fair to Restaurants?

Some chefs in New York City have responded by restricting photography at the table, Al Roker of NBC's Today has has brashly come out in defense of the idea ("Guess what: Once I bought it, it's mine. Shut up!"), and others say it depends on the method: sly and discreet versus standing on a chair with a flash going off every few minutes.

What do Valley chefs and restaurateurs have to say about diners taking photos of their food? Here are a few of their comments:

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Bill Sandweg
Owner, Copper Star Coffee

I have a psychology degree, so I feel strongly about perception and our senses. First, humans are visual animals. I always used to tell my staff, "Hey, nobody ever looked across the table and said, 'That looks like crap; let me try a bite!'" Second, people experience food with their eyes first, then their mouths. Third, a picture sells your food/establishment. In a time when a blog or Yelp can reach 1,000 people in a day, be grateful for the publicity and don't let the servers carry out ugly food.

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Farah Khalid
Chef and Owner, Curry Corner

I do not have a problem with it. Especially since we get so much diversity with our customers (some of them are fluent English speakers and some are international), they can sometimes use the pictures to identify their favorite items. As for picture-taking for social-networking purposes, it's usually a positive thing, as it helps to spread the word.

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Chef Jason Alford,
Roka Akor

Taco trios, all-you-can-eat sushi, mediocre Italian, new American cuisine, the hottest wings, Mom's tuna, and your "perfect" mid-rare rib eye and famous smashed potatoes. Voyeurism is part of food culture; there isn't a damn thing we can do. Changing the culture of what people decide to capture is the root. Etiquette, or what you want to call it, at Subway is different than say, Alinea. Sure, take a shot of that meatball sub, but classless: Sweating out a crappy Instagram shot of dessert at Alinea making sure everyone around you spending $200++ is annoyed by your arrogance. Be aware, be respectful.

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Joe Johnston, Owner, Joe's Real BBQ, Joe's Fresh Farm Grill, Liberty Market, Agritopia

I think photographing food is fine within reasonable limits. Don't use a flash, don't annoy others, and don't lose focus on why you're there in the first place: to enjoy the food and your friends. Always remember Warren Zevon's quote (as he knew he was dying of cancer) "Enjoy every sandwich." Savor the moment.


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8 comments
Lois Broder
Lois Broder

no it should be a complement to chef

KristinHeggli
KristinHeggli

I'd actually love for people to take more photos of the actual restaurants. Whenever I look at Yelp photos, there are a lot of food pictures but I can't always get a good idea of what the space is like.

nowayjose1
nowayjose1

The question of rudeness is moot.  It's self absorbed, irrelevant and uninteresting.  Just dont.

Alicia Geier
Alicia Geier

A simple one shot no problem, but beyond that its silly.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

I was dining once next to a table where a diner spent a good 10 minutes trying to capture the perfect, flash-lit photo of his dinner and then, once he was done and actually tried the food, complained to the waiter that his meal was cold.  That said, most chefs take pride in their plating and presentation and that deserves to be shown off - I've taken my share of pictures of super yummy dishes - especially deserts and while on vacation.

rickyleepotts
rickyleepotts

If I didn't take pictures of my food, what would I share on Instagram?

Jonathan Carroll
Jonathan Carroll

Yes. It's food. I agree with Joe's comments. Also, the business is getting FREE publicity.

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