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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Brian Dooley Chef and Owner, Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue
It seems everyone is taking food pictures and posting them these days. As a chef and restaurant owner, it's always a good thing to have people excited and talking about the food. Unfortunately, most of these cell-phone picture are pretty lousy. I think someone should create a foodie photography manual.
Dave Andrea Owner, Brat Haüs
Put your camera down and enjoy your meal and your company.
Chef Stephen Toevs The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix
When people sit down to eat at a restaurant, they are living an experience and want to capture that moment in time by pictures. I recently had a 20-course meal at a local restaurant and at the end of the meal could not distinguish the seventh course from the 17th. Looking back, I wish I had taken pictures!
Chef Massimo de Francesa, Taggia at FireSky Resort & Spa, a Kimpton Hotel
Eating is best when it is experienced with friends and/or loved ones. Sharing their dining experiences is a great way to have people feel like they are a part of this experience. Taking pictures of dishes marks memories and hopefully inspires their creativity to try new food and visit new restaurants. On the other hand, as the healthy Libra that I am, I believe it is ultimately up to the chef and owners of their restaurants. If they don't allow pictures, patrons should respect their regulations.
Chef Christopher Nicosia, Sassi
I don't mind it at all. Social media is a powerful marketing tool. It's a great way to get some free advertising. A beautiful dish is presented in front of someone and they take a picture and post it with a caption like, "Wow, look what was just placed in front of me!" Hopefully, it inspires others to come in and give the restaurant a try. I guess that it can work the other way, too. Nobody wants their caption to read, "They expect me to eat this?"
Zach Bredemann Corporate Chef, Kona Grill
I have absolutely no issue with it; I'm guilty of doing it all the time! When I look out in our dining room and see a guest taking a photo of our food, it makes me feel good. They obviously like something they see and want to share it with the world.
Romeo Taus Owner and Chef, Romeo's Euro Cafe
Most of these people are excited about the food they have ordered and they want to share their new-found "best thing I ever ate" with their social media BFFs. If the right lighting is used and a camera with best resolution, I say go at it!
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Chef Joe Meyers, s.e.e.d. café at the Madison Improvement Club
People photograph your food because they like the way it tastes or they think it looks beautiful. I take it as a compliment. They did pay for it after all, so I suppose they technically own what's on their plate.