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INSIDE TRACK: Evolution of office Christmas lunch frame by frame

The office Christmas lunch is nothing like it used to be.

I'm not talking about the halcyon days when it was permissible to have a glass or two of wine and come back to work late, giggling in a haze of booze-fuelled bonhomie. Or indeed not to have to return to the office at all, having been granted permission to continue the revelries elsewhere in collegiate anonymity.

Rather, what has really changed is the restaurant dining experience itself thanks to the increasing likelihood that you'll be sitting beside someone who insists in photographing their food before eating it. For them, a dish being served is the cue for noisy pushing back of chair, hasty re-arranging of place setting, and fussing to get the best shot.

The number of food bloggers and tweeters is growing faster than a gourmet's waistline. They are for the most part (at least in Scotland) well-meaning amateur foodies who, according to one, are "trying hard to give pleasure to their readership". Whatever; what's really happened is that in order to feed the ever-hungry blogosphere they've become hooked on filing real-time reports from the restaurant floor, and to hell with everyone else.

Hostility is brewing. In New York, some chefs have banned photography because of the disruption to other diners caused by flashbulbs and tripods. A blogger I know uses two smartphones: one for the spotlight, the other for the photos. Some ask to be moved because their table is too dark for photography.

Apps such as Instagram and Hipstamatic, with a range of food-specific lenses and software filters, deliver speed, discretion and quality - vital for the blogger and tweeter who would rather not be noticed while they're taking photographs and uploading reviews. Of perhaps more concern for chefs is that their carefully constructed dishes are being misrepresented by amateur snappers. Add to that their deep-seated suspicion that bloggers are self-appointed food police with nothing else to do but go out to "get" them, and you get the picture.

So far, food bloggers in Scotland have been astonishingly benign. Most say they don't upload anything they don't like. One top Scottish chef I spoke to said "there's a camera at every second table every night" at his restaurant and that he and his colleagues must accept there's nothing they can do and regard them as an occupational hazard.

Rather than make a fuss, they prefer not to censor, mindful perhaps of the unedifying experience of Claude Bosi of the two-starred Hibiscus restaurant in London's Mayfair, who challenged a blogger who'd given him three stars out of five on TripAdvisor.

Their online spat went viral; Bosi ended up with egg on his face and the blogger with thousands of new followers.

Have some pity, too, for the professional food photographer, who can spend hours trying to get a humble corned beef sandwich to look good enough to eat. There's a huge difference between how even Michelin star quality food appears on the plate compared to how it will look on the printed page.

The term "word of mouth" has never been so loaded.

Contextual targeting label: 
Food and drink

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200211