Social networks savor food photos

  • Article by: AIMEE BLANCHETTE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 6, 2013 - 9:38 AM

Taking photos of food and sharing them online is quickly becoming popular. Most local restaurateurs welcome the practice – as long as there’s no flash.

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Mike Madison regularly photographs meals in restaurants.

Mike Madison, a Minneapolis rapper, is a self-proclaimed foodie. In fact, he’s so fond of food that he regularly takes pictures of the meals he’s served in restaurants and posts them on photo-sharing apps, such as Instagram, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Madison has never been asked to put his iPhone away when “foodstagramming” the tasting menu at La Belle Vie or the burger at Nightingale in Minneapolis.

Then again, Madison says he’s discreet and never uses a flash.

“That can definitely affect another patron’s experience — when another table is doing an eight- to 15-course tasting menu and there’s a flash going off constantly like it’s a nightclub,” he said.

Still, he is so committed to sharing food photos that if one of his favorite dining spots adopted a no-picture policy, Madison would no longer frequent that restaurant.

Good thing he lives in the Twin Cities rather than New York City, where restaurants are cracking down on amateur restaurant photography.

Owners of some upscale New York establishments are discouraging flash photography, according to the New York Times. Restaurant owners say the practice is disturbing to other guests, but skeptics say the new rules are an attempt to keep amateur, poorly executed photos from circulating on the Web.

Some restaurants are taking it a step further, banning cameras and phones altogether, saying the trend has gotten so out of hand that diners are standing on their chairs to get shots of their plates from above.

Very few metro area restaurants have followed suit.

The Bachelor Farmer is one of the exceptions. The Minneapolis restaurant has had a no-cellphone policy since it opened. In small print, the bottom of the menu reads: “As a courtesy to other guests, kindly refrain from cellphone use and flash photography in our dining room.”

“People have come to accept that cellphone use in a dining room is taboo,” said co-owner Eric Dayton. “Flash photography is in the same category.”

Dayton maintains the policy isn’t designed to prohibit all foodstagramming.

“There are some people for whom photographing their meal or sharing photos of dishes online enhances their experience and enjoyment of the restaurant. We have no problem with that,” he said. “We draw the line if it disrupts someone else’s meal.”

Most Twin Cities chefs and restaurant owners welcome customers who share pictures of their food on social media, saying it’s a form of free advertising.

Bill Summerville, co-owner of La Belle Vie, agrees that disrupting other diners is the issue. So photographs are allowed in his Minneapolis restaurant, as long as the flash is turned off.

“I get that some restaurants don’t want their food misrepresented online, but that’s an extreme point to take,” he said. “We’re flattered when people want to take pictures of our food.”

Customers at Heartland in St. Paul photograph more than just the plates coming from the kitchen. They snap pictures of the interior, the market, and even the meat locker, which has a large window for them to see inside, said chef Lenny Russo.

While Russo encourages shutterbugs, he admits there is one drawback: the quality of the photos in some foodstagrams isn’t that high.

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