MANY years ago, I did a restaurant review column.
It was an enjoyable task but I quickly realised I lacked the finesse and knowledge of, say, a Ron MacKenna, and thus, initially at least, often struggled to describe exactly what was on the plate, especially if I was in the more adventurous kind of restaurant. It would have been a lot easier had I just whipped out my camera and taken a photograph of the dish for publication, but that would a) have been inconsiderate to fellow diners and b) have elicited a grumpy response from the features editor along the lines of: "This isn't what we're paying you for, laddie" (four-letter words redacted).
Restaurants have recently been complaining about diners photographing their food and posting the pictures on Instagram and other websites. The trend, as trends often do, surfaced in New York where, reports suggest, the problem wasn't so much with foreign tourists with their big cameras (they tend to be quite discreet) but diners who use flash on their cameras. Some arrive with small, flexible tripods. A number even stand on their chairs to get a better view of their food. "We get on top of those folks right away or else it's like a circus," one chef grumbled.
The trend, naturally, is growing, fuelled by the ubiquity of mobile phone cameras and social networking sites and the fatal conviction that what you do or say is of abiding interest to people. Actress Jessica Alba got in on the act, posting a not-very-appealing photograph on Twitter of a meal she was about to enjoy. A survey in 2011 found that one-quarter of us shared pictures of food for no other reason than to show "what I ate today".
A number of restaurants have banned photography outright, or at least the use of flashes. Several have taken to allowing customers to photograph their food in the kitchens before it reaches their table. One Spanish restaurant group has now launched a "fotografia para foodies" course.
You'll have your own opinion of people who photograph their restaurant food. You may, however, not venture as far as one contributor to a certain newspaper forum who remarked caustically: "People who go to restaurants and take pictures of food so as to share them on social networking sites are narcissistic bores who should be eliminated immediately."
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