February 6, 2013

Soup to Nuts: Serving up a photo op

From clam shacks to five-star destinations, smartphone-toting diners increasingly are shooting what's on their plates, a trend that the restaurateurs we spoke with are, for the most part, OK with.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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A diner uses her iPhone to photograph a serving of butter-poached lobster risotto at David’s Opus Ten in Portland’s Monument Square.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Blogger Meredith Perdue shared a photo that she took of oysters at Eventide in Portland. Perdue never uses a flash and always asks the wait staff for permission before using her camera. Other photos taken by Perdue can be seen below.

Photo by Meredith Perdue

Additional Photos Below

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Most chefs would be happy to have their food on the Map & Menu blog. Not only are the photos professional quality, but the couple do not consider themselves to be food critics, so they only post photos of and write reviews about food they really like.

That's unusual -- these days, it seems as if everyone's a critic -- but it turns out Maine chefs don't worry too much about bad or amateurish photos of their food appearing online anyway.

"It's discouraging when it goes on some blog with a nasty review, especially if it's a bad picture taken with an iPhone," said Anne Verrill of Grace. "But it's also done really great things for us blog-wise. I think if people have the opportunity to review you in a thousand different venues anyhow, positive or negative, I don't think the picture is going to be the thing that hurts you, ultimately."

It's not likely food photos are going away anytime soon. Last week, the restaurant reservation site OpenTable announced it was buying Foodspotting, an app for sharing restaurant food photos, for $10 million. Maybe OpenTable will be able to weed out some of the worst shots of peoples' burgers and foie gras.

Maine chefs think this focus on food brings up some broader issues in the community.

Desjarlais wonders, when she sees someone so fussy that they must photograph every morsel, if this is a sign of what food has become in our society -- the star of the evening instead of a pleasant vehicle for social interaction. "Food is a great partner" when it is shared with good companions having good conversation, she said. "When it takes such center stage, it feels uncomfortable sometimes."


David Turin, owner of David's and David's Opus 10 in Portland and David's 388 in South Portland, says he has always taken it as "an enormous compliment" when someone posts a picture of his food on Facebook or Twitter, even though he doesn't always understand why.

"I'm frequently surprised at what people will take a picture of," he said. "The most beautiful Caesar salad in the world is still a Caesar salad. I've had people Facebook things like that, or you'll see it on Yelp."

Turin reflected how things have changed over his career, which now spans 30 years. When he started out, chefs were "schlubs" who worked in windowless kitchens "and god forbid anyone should ever see behind the curtain."

Today there are open kitchens everywhere, and chef's tables right next to where the food is being prepped. And it's almost a guarantee that the people eating at that table will have cameras.

"There's this whole era we've had of chef as celebrity, which I think is great fun -- it's almost unbelievable to me -- but the next incarnation of that, the furthest iteration, is chef as egomaniac," Turin said, laughing.

Turin said he supposes food lovers today see what's on their plate as "fungible art" created by chefs who are, in their own way, creative artists. "You eat it, it's gone," he said. "So how do you remember it? Well, take a picture."

Even chefs, it turns out, are not immune to the temptation to pick up a camera.

Clark Frasier found that out last August, when he and partner Mark Gaier were in Los Angeles for a food and wine festival.

"We went to dinner (at Red Medicine)," Frasier recalled. "The presentation was so great, I was just like 'Oh wow, this is just visually a knock-out presentation.'

"I just took pictures of it all."

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: MeredithGoad


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Additional Photos

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Blogger Meredith Perdue shared a photo that she took of a breakfast scramble at Local 188 in Portland

Photo by Meredith Perdue

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Blogger Meredith Perdue shared a photo that she took of Brussels sprouts at Boda in Portland.

Photo by Meredith Perdue

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“You eat it, it’s gone. So how do you remember it? Well, take a picture,” said local restaurateur David Turin. This dish is red wine-poached pear, sweet ricotta, with a sweet balsamic redux at his David’s Opus Ten.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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