Restaurants Say, 'Hold the Photos'

Is This the End of the Trend of Tweeting Photos of Your Food?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Food blogger Dan Pashman Tweeted out this meal of pulled pork on potato pancake, calling it "The Heretic." (Photo: Dan Pashman)

Remember when smoking in restaurants was allowed, and a cigarette with your coffee seemed like a perfect way to end a meal?

That trend flicked its last ash into the ashtray of history, as the dangers of second-hand smoke became more apparent and places like New York City and San Francisco instituted bans on smoking in restaurants and bars.  

The smartphone-enabled trend of photographing your food and posting it to Yelp, Twitter or Facebook may be following suit. But instead of a fine, you may be in danger of being publicly humiliated by a restaurant owner or an annoyed diner.  

The New York Times reported this week that there's a growing backlash against amateur food photography. Some restaurants, including Momofuku Ko, Per Se, Le Bernardin, Fat Duck and Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, discourage it. They think it's rude, especially when enthusiastic photographers stand on dining room chairs to get their shot.  

The article revealed that, at some level, food gawkers understand their mid-meal actions to be in bad taste. They've got personal bottom lines: only in casual joints, only without a flash, only if the dish is famous and you want to show the world you're actually about to eat something epic.  

After taking such photos myself, I’ve got a new bottom line: Don't do it. Enjoy the meal, don't document it. 

I was thinking of food spotting last week, when I came up with a 60-Second Stir Fry question for The Sporkful's Dan Pashman on the "most odious food trend."  (He thought I asked him about oats).  Pashman thinks "the war on lard" is worse.  He's enough of a food Tweeter-eater to remember his latest post: "Pulled pork on a potato latke that I called 'The Heretic.'"

That's his picture at the top of your screen.

Unlike me, he has developed no qualms about food spotting.  But, like other unrepentant practitioners, he has rules. 

"If your photo may help to transmit some information that will make the world a more delicious place, then by all means, snap away and share," he e-mailed me. But the impulse has to come from a pure and humble heart. That rules out gloating over the famous shaved foie gras by star chef David Chang, or my pizza post from the Bedford-Stuyvesant hotspot, Speedy Romeo. ("I've been there two times, and the place was packed," I wrote. Aren't I the coolest?)

"If you're taking a picture of something amazing you're eating just so you can rub it in your friends' faces, I recommend you keep it to yourself," said Pashman.  "The key is that there must be some benefit for the viewer of the photo. And jealousy is not a benefit."

This issue is shaping up to be a question for "The Ethicist."  

When is it okay to take a picture of your food?  Is it ever okay, or is it inconsiderate, like texting or talking on your cell phone while dining with friends?  Do you have rules for when you whip out the iPhone for that snapshot of a memorable meal?  Share you thoughts below.


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Comments [6]

Nathalie from Europe

Don't you think that is just a question of common courtesy. Would you take a photo of a person without asking permission ? Would you take a photo of a painting in someone's house without asking ? Taking photos in someone's restaurant is rude, even if you have paid (tacky argument) and besides, I'm convinced that if you DO ask for permission, the politeness behind the question will bring on a positive answer. Start with "please" and "thank you". I don't know many people who are immune to those words.

Feb. 06 2013 06:29 AM
markjay1 from New York

Good god, just eat your meal. The constant need to dramatize and publicize your life must be exhausting and is annoying to everyone else.

Jan. 27 2013 11:06 AM
Ruth from Manhattan

If Le Bernardin doesn't like photographs, a customer might ingest the meal and (at that point owning all legal rights to it) regurgitate it and tweet a photo of the meal


Jan. 26 2013 01:38 PM
Steven from Manhattan

I do feel a little self-conscious about this, especially when I'm seated next to someone doing the same thing. But I've found that a lot of my friends and relatives (especially from outside the city) actually appreciate the photos. It's just not a big deal.

Jan. 26 2013 12:22 PM
Idiosyncratic Fashionistas from Manhattan

We love to blog about good food! Presentation is part of the joy of a good meal, and we like to share it with our readers. If we order a gorgeous meal or cocktail, we want the restaurant to get credit for it. We also photograph ourselves with our meals, and the look of pleasure on our faces is unrehearsed. We've never photographed or blogged about a bad meal, so at least in our case, when we take pictures it's win-win. We put a fun pic up on our blog, and the restaurant gets a good review. We try not to use flash, but if we do, we try to be discreet, and aim it at ourselves or the food, not at the room. As for standing up on a chair, the only time that's ok is if it's your bachelor party, you and all of your guests have already emptied five bottles of Dom Perignon, and are planning to leave a tip equivalent to half of the total bill. Amy Eddings raises a valid question, but the few shouldn't be allowed to spoil it for the many.
The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas, Valerie and Jean
bloggers on behalf of Women of a Certain Age

Jan. 26 2013 11:16 AM
Pat from Brooklyn

Take pictures of your food and share it with whoever the hell you want to!! It's your paid for it. Maybe standing up on the chair is a bit much, but otherwise, don't listen to this bs. Stop all the hand wringing.

Jan. 26 2013 10:09 AM

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