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Monday, April 19, 2010

The food paparazzi are everywhere

Recently, I was eating in a new restaurant and I picked up my camera to take an ambiance shot. As I framed the picture, I realized I was focused on someone who was also taking pictures of the restaurant.

It happens more and more. Whereas just three years ago, my little camera caused consternation and rabid inquiry by some restaurant owners, nobody says anything anymore. That's because everyone is taking pictures of their food everywhere, and it's not just bloggers.

The Los Angeles Times has a funny, thoughtful piece on "food paparazzi" in today's issue. Here's a sample:

Maitre d's regularly face diners demanding to be moved away from camera flashes and the sound of firing shutters. Waiters find themselves tongue-tied as customers thrust voice recorders at them to capture a recitation of each course. Some chefs have had enough.

Chef Grant Achatz allows only non-flash photography in his tony Chicago restaurant, Alinea. He, like many chefs, finds himself torn between being flattered by the public's enthusiasm and aggravated over the effect the picture-taking is having on the restaurant's operations.

"They've paid for the meal, so they think they can do whatever they want with it," he said.

Some consumers now believe food should be consumed visually as well as physically.

"What happened to the enjoyment of just eating the food?" decried Andrew Knowlton, the restaurant editor for Bon Appetit magazine.

"People are losing sight of why you go out."

I can't see how photographing your food eclipses enjoyment of taste, but I do find myself responding much more positively to photogenic food now.

(Hat tip: Brian Cohn)

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