IT SEEMS LIKE ONLY YESTERDAY
that chefs everywhere were noisily complaining about smartphone-toting customers snapping photos of their dishes. At the time they perceived the habit as a slight— food was being neglected and consumed post-prime—and inconsiderate to other customers (flashes). Some chefs even claimed profits were suffering, as time wasted taking snapshots was extending meal times enough to deprive busy restaurants of an extra seating. Flashes were prohibited in restaurants ranging from Per Se and Le Bernardin (in NYC) to The Fat Duck (in Bray, U.K.). And some irascible chefs went even further. David Chang banned food photography outright at Ko (NYC) and Shōtō (Toronto). Needless to say, this did not work. But then, neither did chef Chang lead by example (at last count, he had over 750,000 followers on Instagram, where he mostly posts pictures of his own restaurant food). Of course, Chang is no exception; across the board, chefs have collectively become our most unapologetic addicts of smartphone photography. Instagram is now their preferred medium of self-promotion. And why not? It is like a dream come true: advertising that’s free, has no governing council of standards, and gets great results. We don’t begrudge them the bonanza but we do want to know whether it’s been good for the food we eat. Whether it has helped spread great ideas—or put too much emphasis on looks over substance. Does the trend have legs, or will it soon collapse like the tall food phenomenon back in the ’90s? Our contributors investigated, and provided the following case studies to help you decide.