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The End of #FoodPorn As We Know It
Some NYC restaurants are banning food photography, will Toronto follow suit?

Image via flickr / heloukee

In response to chef and patron complaints about snaps and flashes dominating the restaurant experience, some establishments are taking back control of their ambiance and image by removing the opportunity for ‘food porn’ photos. Several Manhattan restaurants have enacted food photography bans, which range from ‘no flash allowed’ to asking patrons to put their phones away when seen snapping a pic of their plate. Cell phones have been banned from dining establishments before for being noisy and disruptive to other diners, but it now seems the distraction of folks bending over backwards to achieve the ultimate picture of their sushi is the root of more issues than loud ringtones.

At Bouley Restaurant in NYC, chef David Bouley brings those that want to take a picture of their food into the kitchen. Instead of upsetting patrons who want to photograph their food, the restaurant’s alternative seemingly offers to improve the quality of the image: “We’ll say, ‘That shot will look so much better on the marble table in our kitchen,’” says Bouley. Limiting photography to the kitchen is just a temporary solution for Bouley Restaurant, which aims to provide their patrons with a digital image of their food before they even get the bill so diners can continue to share and post pictures of their meals online. Seems like a lot of work for something most would be happy to snap and Instragram themselves, but apparently the behaviour of those that partake in the food porn trend in New York is so disruptive that it needs to be reigned in.

It’s somewhat funny to think that hordes of hipsters and faux foodies with iPhones and picture filters are the reason for new rules in restaurants, but the rise of the food porn trend has been a source of frustration for those who don’t partake. Whether it’s due to images of rustic salads cluttering their news feeds, or because amateur food photos usually look grainy and kind of gross, food photography can get annoying fast. But is a ban really the solution?

Toronto restaurants don’t have any enforced bans on food photography, but there are signs these rules could come. At Momofuku Shoto — the highest-end restaurant in their three storey building on University Ave. — flash photography is not allowed. This is a far cry from the outright ban on photos in one of the chain’s New York restaurants, Ko, where patrons are asked to put their phones away if seen taking a picture (much to the guilty party’s embarassment in a restaurant that fits twelve). But it seems stricter rules are on their way based on the phrasing of the restaurant’s FAQ on the matter:

Momofuku Shoto FAQ

The general consensus when it comes to the food photography ban seems to be that it’s silly and, more importantly, won’t stop most from photographing their food the way Instagram intended. Many attribute such ridiculous rules to what they’ve dubbed New York’s “nanny state“– the city seems to have more limitations on what their residents can and can’t do than a private boarding school. However, Toronto has been known to pick up tips from NYC, especially when it comes to cell phones — even if it doesn’t work out in the end

Yannick Bigourdan, co-owner of Nota Bene on Queen St, says the NYC photography ban won’t be reaching his restaurant. Birgoudan wants to keep the atmonsphere in Nota Bene energetic, fun, and active — and that means allowing patrons to partake in the food porn photography trend. In terms of disruption to other diners, Bigourdan believes that, like when cell phones were new, patrons’ commen sense will eventually take over and they will auto-regulate themselves.

With taking pictures, it’s really become something that’s so common with people; they want to have an experience, they want to share it, and a lot of people communicate that way. [...] People want to be free to do what they want, and you have to have faith in them to do the right thing,” says Bigourdan.

At Fancy Franks Gourmet Hot Dogs in Kensington, manager Tuan Nguyen echoes Bigourdan’s sentiment of wanting to allow diners to communicate via whatever medium they want, “[We] welcome all our guests to take photos of our product to share with others,” said Nguyen. The use of these social media platforms where the food porn trend can act as publicity for the restaurant, and allows them to gain feedback from their customers, are seen as pros for food photography by Nguyen.

Since it doesn’t look like Toronto restauranteurs are eager to take our food photography privileges away anytime soon, we can all breathe a sigh of relief for our dinners/photo subjects. But let the tale of the NYC restaurant photo ban be a warning to us all — in other words, don’t stand on your chair to get that eye-in-the-sky shot of your bacon and eggs, it’s not worth it. Just ask Manhattan residents whose Instagram accounts are now going hungry. 


Hallae Khosravi is an intern at Toronto Standard. Follow her on Twitter @hallaek. 

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