Smile and say cheese.. or meat.. or dessert as food photography takes off

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THERE are mixed feelings among chefs about a phenomena that has been increasing in popularity in restaurants. Taking pictures of your food.

With the improved quality of camera phones in recent years, particularly those with the technology to connect with social networking sites, more and more restaurant dishes are being photographed as soon as they arrive on the table.

“It can be on Twitter before they have eaten it,” said Liam Goodwill, head chef at the Albero Restaurant on Lower Mounts, Northampton.

He said: “I would never dream of getting my phone out in a restaurant, to take a call or to take a picture. It doesn’t feel right that you are whipping your phone out, it doesn’t sit right with me personally. I would never dream of taking a picture. You have just got to use your memory.”

But he does not object if his customers do it.

He said: “If they want to do it then be my guest, I can’t stop people doing it, but it’s not something I would do. You have got to take it as a compliment that they want to take pictures of the food, that they think it looks that nice that they want to take a picture of it. I suppose it’s the same as people who go out for a walk, you see something attractive and take a picture.”

Where it becomes more tricky is when people then share the images on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook or even on reviewing websites. No matter how good the camera phone, taking a picture, usually from a sitting position under restaurant lights does not always show off the food to its best, even if what you have in front of you actually does look fantastic.

Liam said: “It doesn’t matter how good your phone is, the picture is never going to do your food justice, we have had some put on Trip Advisor and I think ‘that looks nothing like the dish I sent out.’”

Things have changed with the arrival of camera phones and instant mobile internet access. Liam said: “Years ago you had your food critic and they wrote about you and took pictures of your food. I think chefs felt much more comfortable with that because that food critic is up for criticism as well. Now everybody is hiding behind a username.”

Patrick Phillips, manager at The Church Restaurant on Bridge Street, Northampton, does not mind at all if customers want to take pictures of the food they serve there. He said: “With the smartphones people are doing it more and more. It’s a way of remembering their food and reflecting on it and potentially showing off to their friends and say ‘look what I had to eat.’ I would say it’s fairly complimentary.

“I’ll often go into the kitchen and say to Michael ‘table six is taking pictures.’ It’s not something I would do myself I would probably be too busy tucking in to the food.

“We would hope that every plate of food is potentially going to be viewed... in a way it is keeping us on our toes.”

Adam Gray, of the Red Lion at East Haddon, is used to his food being under some serious scrutiny, having earned a Michelin star for Rhodes Twenty Four in the city of London where he worked with Gary Rhodes as his head chef. He said people often took pictures of the food when he worked there and they also take pictures of the food at the Red Lion.

He said: “I’m not overly bothered. People are entitled to, they are paying for the meal and if it’s making them happy... We are proud of what we serve.

“They photograph it and put it on Twitter but the photographs never look as great as professional ones. We see it all the time and it’s on the increase as every single phone has a camera and they can put it straight on the internet.

“I wouldn’t sit there and take a photo but as long as it’s not a massive flash and a three foot lens I don’t mind if people do. It can be quite flattering.”