French Chefs Object to Instagram at the Dinner Table

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Chefs strike back against the scourge of food porn
Wikimedia/Robin Zebrowski
Several French chefs are discouraging food porn at the table.

Slapping an Amaro filter on a picture of dessert from a Michelin 3-star restaurant might be a surefire way to rack up a few likes on Instagram, but France’s fine-dining chefs are getting increasingly cranky about the practice.

According to The Local, chefs in France have even taken to slapping “No Pictures” signs on menus in an attempt to slow the tide of amateur food photography.

"There's a time and a place for everything," said Alexandre Gauthier, chef at La Grenouillere. "We are trying to give our clients a break in their lives. For that, you need to turn off your mobile.”

Gauthier has slapped a little picture of a camera with a bar through it on his menus to discourage the practice.

"Before they used to take photos of their family, of their grandmother, but now it's photos of dishes. It is gratifying, but we're a restaurant without very much light, so they have to use a flash. And with each dish it's 'stop everything', or the photo has to be retaken three times," he said.

Using a flash in a restaurant would definitely raise some eyebrows, though there are those who would object to Gauthier’s suggestion that a picture of one’s grandmother is inherently more worthwhile than a picture of a truffle. Obviously many people feel that food is a valid subject for amateur photography, otherwise people would not be doing this nearly so much.

Chef Gilles Goujon of the Michelin 3-star restaurant L'Auberge du Vieux Puits objects to food photography on the grounds that the pictures aren’t always very good.

"A photo taken with a not-so-good smartphone is rarely good. It doesn't give the best image of our work,” he said. “It's annoying."

Goujon also complained that when people post pictures of his dishes online, it ruins the surprise for his future diners and said the pictures “take a bit of my intellectual property.”

Banning the photography might not be an option, though. Many people want to be able to snap quick pictures with their iPhones, and being told not to do so after paying a lot of money for a Michelin-starred dish can rub patrons the wrong way. Gauthier even specifies that the “no cameras” sign on his menu is less of a formal ban and more of a guideline.

"It's complicated to ban it," Goujon said. "I'm trying to find the right way to say it on the menu but haven't found the proper formula so it doesn't make people angry."

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