Let’s Talk About Food Porn

Sep 25

Food Porn Cat In The Hat

 

I just recently read an article in Huffington Post written by a woman who despises it when people take photos of their food at restaurants. She ranted and raved about it being disruptive and disrespectful. Well let me tell you, as a restaurant owner, I wholeheartedly disagree. Food photos or “Food Porn”¬†as I like to call it, has been the best form of marketing since word of mouth. Humans are visual creatures, hence the popularity of certain kinds of magazines, if you know what I mean. People respond to what they see visually and that is exactly what us chefs are banking on. We want you, the consumer, to see a photo, to salivate over it, and in turn to make a reservation with us to eat it. It’s that simple. And it works.

As to the notion that it is disruptive I will be the first person to ask folks to put their phones down during their meal. It makes me insane when people are texting or keeping track of the football game scores while I am laboring over and serving them their meal. BUT, if they pull their phones out for a second to snap a photo and upload it to their Facebook pages, and then put them away, I’m all for it. I do think we are all as a collective group a little addicted to our devices and they can be detrimental to our social interactions, but they exist for a reason, one of which is to share things we like with one another. And what could be more personal or universally interesting than what we choose to fuel our bodies with?

I know several chefs and food writers who have serious disdain for “foodies.” They think they are not serious, or overly serious, and they think they are utterly ridiculous. Of course I am not one of them. I started out my career with food as a “foodie.” I was a mere observer and fan from afar. I didn’t start cooking until I discovered I found food to be endlessly fascinating from both a consumptive perspective and a cultural perspective. Now that I am on the inside looking out, I have complete respect for foodies. I know that they butter my bread so to speak. It is because of them that I am allowed to do what I love for a living and if that means they want to snap a photo of my entree before they dive in, so be it.

Perhaps it is us chefs as a collective that take ourselves too seriously. So many have enormous egos and think that they are one of a kind. Don’t get me wrong, there are some incredible artists out there who are doing incredibly innovative work. But in the end, we are all here for one reason and that is to feed people food that is both delicious and healthy. While food can and often is entertainment, if it doesn’t taste good, it is pointless. What we do is immensely important in that it involves something people HAVE to do to survive, BUT, it isn’t solving world peace or curing cancer. Although we could debate that what we do or don’t eat could in fact prevent cancer, but that is for a future conversation.

The point is, some of us need to get over ourselves and approach our craft as something more playful and fun. Something that isn’t above our clientele but that includes our clientele. I may piss off a few of the chefs I know with that statement but that’s life. Look, I take my craft seriously and I believe what I do is special, but I am also abundantly aware that I’m no better than anyone else and that what may set me apart from others is the fact that I do not put myself on a pedestal. I am confident in what I do, but I realize that I am fallible, I am human and that I like engaging with my guests. I want them to have a good time and I want them to feel like they somehow got to know me through the food I prepared for them. And above all I want them to feel like I am one of them. When they take photos of my food, it is like they are capturing images of my soul and sharing them with others. In a way it is almost transcendental. Through those images in some way our relationship can endure and there is something quite remarkable about that notion.

I guess the idea of sharing that much of yourself with strangers can be a bit scary but I always maintain that if you aren’t a little scared of doing something, it isn’t worth doing anyway. The fear of failure or of consequences is what drives creativity. The second you have lost that sense of fear, you have become complacent and you are no longer performing at the top of your ability. The day that happens is the day to either hang up your chef’s toque or to find a way to reinvent yourself. I find for myself that my guests are what keep me “in the game” and seeing their snapshots keeps me acutely aware of what I am doing and how I’m doing it. I am held accountable in front of a lot of people who don’t even know me and that is both thrilling and exhilarating.

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