Monday, January 28, 2013

It’s possible – and even OK – to get decent snapshots of your supper

Maybe it’s because we’re eating out less and pinching our pennies more. Maybe it’s honest admiration of a flavorful if fleeting art form.

Spice-crusted salmon, one of the Triange Restaurant
Week options at G2B Gastro Pub in Durham.
Whatever the reason, it appears that more folks are determined to get everything they can out of their dining experiences. And that includes using their smart phones – discreetly or boldly – to document and share the foods they enjoy in restaurants. 

Whether or not you admit to doing so yourself, it’s hard to imagine that anyone who eats out has never seen someone at the next table pausing in conversation to admire a just delivered dish – and using their camera phone to catapult the still-steaming image forth into global foodiverse.

Many of us don’t feel the slightest hesitation when taking a photo of a chef’s carefully conceived and expertly executed creation. We’ve paid for it, right? We can enjoy it as we see fit.
Well, not at Momofuko, the pricey New York City hotspot which legendary food tyrant David Chang has declared a photo-free zone. According to last week’s New York Times, diners who dare to take a snapshot will be publicly shamed into submission.

Most chefs cited in the report say they don’t mind if customers take and post photos of their famous food, so long as they do not use flash or disturb other diners with antics like standing on their chair for a better angle.
Several top Triangle area chefs agree with the social media savvy Mario Batali, who reassuringly tweeted a humble devotee that it’s fine to take photos in his global empire of eateries – so long as it’s done without flash. In fact, this new-media slice of Southern hospitality abides even at some of the most elegant establishments.  

We view this as flattery when people do it in Herons,” says Scott Crawford, executive chef at the signature restaurant of the posh Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary. “We haven't made any rules because people are usually discreet and respectful of other guests. My only wish,” jokes Crawford, who has a Twitter account (@chefcrawford) but rarely uses it, “is that the lighting was better so the images would be more stunning.”

Even a humble lunch from the Tribune Towers cafeteria
gets the star treatment by food writer Bill Daley. 
Bill Daley, popular food and features writer at the Chicago Tribune, posts photos daily of what he eats and how he gets there. Friends humor him and wait until all meals are properly documented before taking a bite. “It can be a make or break date moment,” he concedes with a playful “LOL.”

Daley, who uses Facebook and Twitter (@BillDaley), thoughtfully silences his phone’s shutter click to minimize disturbance of other diners and always turns off the flash. Well, almost always. 

“Mine went off by mistake last night and I was mortified,” he says. “I try to work fast. I shoot to my phone's camera roll and edit later so the screen isn't always lit. I try to capture the moment as quickly and naturally as possible.”
Bill Smith of Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill doesn’t mind a bit when diners take and post photos. After all, he’s doing the same thing in the kitchen, where he often shares images of new creations that will be featured on that night’s menu. A recent example featured tempting carrot pies. One follower, clearly at ease with the collaborative atmosphere, suggested serving it with a sweet curry ice cream.

Chef Bill Smith recently posted
carrot pies being prepped for
dinner at Crook's Corner.
“People take pictures at Crook’s all the time and as far as I know it has never been a cause for complaint,” says Smith, who tweets as @Chulegre and also posts to Facebook. “We have no policy about it. I’ve done it at other restaurants many times, although I try to restrain myself somewhat.”

At G2B Gastro Pub in Durham, cordial servers stand by as if poised to assist when diners try to capture the composed elegance of Chef Carrie Schlieffer’s food (@carrieG2Bpub). Good humored manager Chris Lynch even shares that his wife, who had resisted getting a smart phone, now takes and posts food photos all the time.

So what is the proper etiquette for a photo-minded foodie? Matt Duckor, who writes Bon Appettit’s Consumed column, says customers should not feel cowed by mega-chefs who try to sap the fun out of fine dining. As a direct response to the kerfuffle, Duckor (@mattduckor) this week advises readers how to get the most of their camera phone while (openly or surreptitiously) photographing their suppers.
It is possible to take decent food photos at the table,” Duckor insists in italics. Rule No. 1: turn off the flash. Take pictures directly above or straight at whatever you’re shooting. No funky filters. And, "Finally, and this is important folks, don't act like a jerk."

"Yes, you're paying for a service," Duckor writes. "No, you don't get to make the rules."

No comments:

Post a Comment