Is FoodPorn Good Publicity?

22 February 2016

It’s an epidemic! Badly taken photos of restaurant food emblazoned across the interweb. Restaurant Guests, heads down, more engaged with their photography than their fellow diners. Frantically snapping away with their smart phones from starter to dessert. Instagram, Facebook, twitter gobbling up Megabite upon Megabite of grub pixels.

Although this is free publicity, some chefs are getting irritated and are considering banning cameras in their restaurants. It’s not just bad manners but could be an infringement of the chefs copyright. Can’t customers just live in the moment, enjoy their food and the ambiance of the restaurant without splashing a Crème Brulee all over their Facebook?

Some leading chefs are worried that the pictures will spoil the surprise for people, especially eateries like The Fat Duck and Le Gavroche that rely on innovation and revelation. Michel Roux Jnr, head chef of the two Michelin-starred Le Gavroche has been critical of this practice. He said “It should be flattering, but it annoys me when I see people taking photos of their food” “It’s disruptive for the people around them and it spoils that persons enjoyment of the meal. Personally, I think it’s incredibly poor manners”

Is foodporn always good publicity? A pile of food taken in bad light with an inadequate camera and posted into the ether may not be very flattering for the Chef who prepared it. Chef’s signature dish looking decidedly like a steaming brown mess rather than a lovingly plated duck.

The upside is the free publicity and the exchange of ideas. Also with the knowledge that their food will be photographed chefs need to doubly ensure that visual standards are high. A good thing I would say. An idea from one chef can be tweaked by another offering the profession constant innovation and improvement.

But, are these foodpics stealing a chefs intellectual property? Should food be treated the same way in law as other forms of art? It is a generally practiced norm to ban photographs in Art Galleries. Shops are also known to ban customers from taking photos of their displays.

A ruling in Germany from 2013 allows for copyrightability of applied arts, making it easier for a chef to sue those who posted photographs of their creations without permission. So think before you photograph your pretzel at a Munich beerhall. The cook is the creator of a work. Before it can be made public on Facebook permission must be asked. What a sad situation! I much doubt that many chefs would enforce this.

If we could introduce a law to prevent sad Facebookers posting pictures of their 7am cornflakes, midmorning muffin, lunchtime slap chips and other unattractive unappetising grub. Along with their cat pictures the new law would serve a purpose.

Personally I like to see food pictures. It never ceases to amaze me how artistic and creative a chef can be. A snap of your dish is the ultimate compliment.