Camera Cuisine and the Plating Phenomenon

Restaurant reviewer Pete Wells of the New York Times has recently written a critical essay entitled “Your Eyes Are Happier Than Your Stomach: Dishes Worthy of Instagram, but Not Your Appetitle”.

In it, he notes that “cameras are on chefs’ minds far more than they were a decade or so ago, when most pictures of food were taken in studios under blazing lamps. Now the picture itself is the story.”

With the popularity of phone cameras and DSLR cameras that can operate in lower light, diners have become a critical piece to the P.R. process of many restaurants.  While there are restaurants who discourage photo taking by patrons, there are many who embrace the trend and foster this by serving camera-ready plates to their volunteer publicists (i.e. patrons).  In essence, creating meals for both the consumer and photographer.

Wells sees this new trend as “plating” instead of cooking.  The way a food photographs has, in some cases, become more important than how the food tastes.

I can completely understand the public’s fascination over a well presented dish.  As a consumer, I also appreciate the taste without complications from manufactured fussiness.