With 183.5 million Instagram posts being tagged under the hashtag #food (and a further 57 million under the dubiously named #foodporn), it is clear that posting pictures of your food before actually eating it has become a seemingly mandatory ritual for many diners. Whether this behaviour is acceptable, however, has caused debate amongst the restaurant industry.
Some chefs abhor the involvement of Instagram in their service, but the development of smartphone cameras has allowed anyone to become a photographer. Chefs are worried amateur photographs are not capturing their dishes in the intended way, misrepresenting the design of the food.
Unflattering photos can be particularly detrimental to chef’s whose personal reputation is what drives diners through the door, such as Chef Gilles Goujon who complained “it doesn’t give the best image of our work. It’s annoying”. Food blogger Stephanie Riss controversially suggested that through the enablement photo sharing, chefs are simply afraid that they are unable to deny badly presented dishes that they serve.
Others have taken advantage of the photo-sharing app, identifying it as a marketing tool and using it accordingly. Jamie Oliver is an example of this, who uses his account to share pictures and recipes of his food and racking up 2.9 million followers in the process. However, the best available photography skills should be applied when showcasing your own food, as Martha Stewart found out the hard way after receiving an abundance of negative backlash for her less than appetising presentation of dishes!
Some are simply disappointed in how social networking is creating a barrier from immersing oneself in the event of going out to eat. Chef Alexandre Gauthier said “Sitting down for a meal should be an enjoyable moment shared with us, not with the social network. Instead of enjoying the moment they are elsewhere”, and has since displayed “no camera” signs in his restaurant, to deter the focus of the meal shifting from the food to likes and comments.
Creating a dish to be enjoyed by guests, but having it left to go cold whilst photos are taken poses another issue that many chefs take with Instagram. Furthermore Gilles Goujon also suggested that in sharing photos of dishes, people are denying the surprise of what food will look like for future diners.
Sharing of ideas
The salient concept of social networking is the sharing of information. The introduction of Instagram created a platform to appreciate food in a more sensory way, and has allowed chefs to share ideas and trends faster than ever before. Chef Jamie Bissonnette praises Instagram’s impact on food, stating “if I wanted to know what was happening in Chicago, I either had to go to Chicago or maybe wait for the next issue of Art Culinaire… now I can know everything happening with friends and even people I don’t know”.
However, others have criticised that the relentless sharing of new trends ideas reduces the relevance of these ideas within the industry. Furthermore the accessibility to the works of other chefs inhibits the creation of unique styles, and as a result of this many plates end up looking the same.
Let us know what you think, is Instagram benefitting the industry by facilitating the enjoyment of food to be shared over the world, or dismantling the dining experience for everyone?