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French chefs hit back at 'food porn' photos

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Paris: For some diners, taking a photo of your perfectly-presented plate is a standard way of showing appreciation. But for some French chefs, it is an insult to their art. Now a group of leading restaurateurs among them a man with three Michelin stars is campaigning to end the culture of ‘food porn’ and ban smartphone photos from their restaurants.

A few chefs complain that patrons are so busy taking pictures of the food and posting them on social media that the surprise element is lost. Pic/AFP
A few chefs complain that patrons are so busy taking pictures of the food and posting them on social media that the surprise element is lost. Pic/AFP

“Before they took photos of their family, of their granny now it’s photos of the dishes,” said Alexandre Gauthier, chef at the Grenouillere restaurant in La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil. “There is a time and a place for everything. Our aim is to create a special moment in time for our clients. And for that, you have to switch off your phone.”

The chef said that his customers had sometimes set off a series of flashes, repositioned their tables, taken each photo several times, then posted it on social media — leaving the dishes to go cold. “It’s flattering in a certain way,” he admitted. “But we want to encourage people to relax.”

Gauthier has introduced a symbol on his menus depicting a camera with a line through it. Cameras are not banned, he said, but he wanted to ‘raise the issue’ with his clients. Another chef, Gilles Goujon added that he wanted to ban cameraphones at his three Michelin-starred restaurant. But he was yet to find an acceptable formula of doing so.

“If people take a photo and put it out on social media, it takes away the surprise,” he said, adding that his signature dish ‘oeuf de poule pourri de truffles’ (chicken egg laden with truffles) was now commonly pictured on social media.

“It takes away a little bit of my intellectual property too. Someone could copy me.” The French chefs are not alone in their displeasure. Some restaurants in New York have become so frustrated with clients climbing on chairs to photograph the dishes that they too have banned smartphones.

Did you know?
The term food porn has been used in food photography since the late 1980’s but was coined as ‘gastroporn’ by Michael Boys, a food and female nude photographer

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