Is it Rude to Take Photos of Your Food in a Restaurant?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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?
Still of video from Eat It Don't Tweet It by American Hipster and The Key of Awesome.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.