Instagram Food Porn: Top U.K. Chef Reignites Debate over Diners’ Pics



One of the U.K.’s top chefs has reignited the debate over the appropriateness of diners snapping pictures of their food when they go out to dinner.

Over the last decade or so, the combination of smartphones and social media apps has created a craze for posting pics of amazing dishes at amazing restaurants, as well as average dishes at average restaurants.

Heston Blumenthal, who runs a three-Michelin-star restaurant near London that charges a whopping 325 British pounds (about $425) for a set course, said recently that it bothers him when he sees visitors to his eatery whipping out their phones to snap the food.

“At The Fat Duck, we’ve debated this for several years now,” he told the U.K.’s Radio Times in a recent interview. “If we say to people, ‘Your food’s going cold,’ you put up a barrier between you and the diner.”

Blumenthal, who gained notoriety for his experimental, quirky dishes that include bacon and egg ice cream, meat fruit, and snail porridge, said he’s been tempted to say something to diners but has up to now held back … apart from the time his staff asked one particular guest to stop using a flash.

“Social media is such a big part of our lives, our sight has become almost the more important sense rather than smell or taste,” the chef said. “If I see something beautiful like a sunset, I try to be in the moment, then take a picture afterward. A lot of people are more interested in capturing a photograph so they can post it, which disconnects them from the moment.”

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Blumenthal has so far resisted putting up a notice banning photos at The Fat Duck, an action that a fellow Michelin-starred chef — the acclaimed Michel Roux — took at his restaurant in 2017.

“I’m really getting so upset about people taking pictures,” Roux said at the time. “We put up a card at the door — ‘No photos, please.’ What are they doing? Maybe once during the meal you want to take a little photo of something because it’s unusual. But what about the flavors? A picture on a phone cannot possibly capture the flavors.”

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, a man never hesitant in coming forward, described Roux’s move as “pompous,” adding, “It’s a compliment to the chef the fact that customers want to take pictures of dishes they’ve paid for.”

Perhaps Blumenthal can start taking it as a compliment, too. After all, it’s not every day you’re served snail porridge at a restaurant, so a quick snap as a visual reminder likely seems perfectly reasonable to those forking out 325 pounds for such an unusual culinary experience.

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