Proud to Be Part of the Food Paparazzi
June 15th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a journalist who was working on a piece for NPR about food bloggers–or “food paparazzi”–and whether their photos and reviews were helpful or hurtful to restaurants, if their shots are “sleek and beautiful” or “harmful and amateur”. And then she asked if she could use some of my pictures from Colicchio & Sons.

I wrote back and said, “I have to laugh, knowing that you’re asking because those photos in particular are the exact opposite of sleek and beautiful.” She replied, “We do want to show a range of photos, of all qualities, so I’m glad that my request seems transparent.”

I bragged to everyone that NPR was going to make fun of my photos, because like they say, all press is good press. And in actuality, I was excited about the piece, because I have no idea why food bloggers are getting such a bad rap lately. Suddenly, I see articles everywhere about diners setting up tripods and lights, standing on their chairs to get better angles, and letting their food get cold while they take the perfect shot. Obviously my boyfriend and I eat out a lot–literally more than anyone else I know–and I’ve never EVER seen someone use a tripod, extra lights, or their chairs as stepstools.

Anyway, despite showcasing two of my photos, the the NPR article totally disappointed me. I guess the author wanted to take an unbiased stance, but I know I couldn’t have helped but rip into her when the VP of Operations and New Projects at Craft Restaurants said “she doesn’t want amateur food writers influencing people’s dining decisions”.

The same woman also said, “When you feel like they’re having that influence without really knowing what they’re talking about, it’s very frustrating.” Sorry, not really knowing what we’re talking about? Because to enjoy or not enjoy food, you must have endured hours of classical training? Well, I’ve endured years of classical eating, bitch.

I’m sort of just kidding about that, but the thing is: my photos show what the food REALLY looks like under the ACTUAL restaurant lighting. In fact, if I’ve Photoshopped my pictures, then the food looks BETTER than it did in the restaurant.

When it comes to reviewing, I don’t order things I don’t expect to like, and I have a very open mind. If your dish doesn’t delight me, there’s something wrong with it. I’m aware of my biases against seafood, tomatoes, mushrooms, and desserts that don’t fill me up to the point of puking, and I make sure my readers are aware of that bias, too, so they can tailor my reviews to their needs accordingly.

And the idea that restaurants could possibly hate being written about blows my mind. How many times have I gone somewhere (Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant, The Mark, most recently) just because I wanted to argue with someone else’s (the New York Times) negative review of it?

Restaurants should be taking advantage of food bloggers, not poo-pooing us.

8 Responses  
  • Ells writes:
    June 15th, 20103:35 pmat

    Yeah, if someone has to Understand your food, the way people have to Understand poetry, then I doubt I want to eat it.

    Sure, maybe you could be doing some sort of a coy riff off of a french classic cooking technique, but it should still taste good, beyotch.

    Also, you’re totally NPR famous! OMG!

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      June 15th, 20105:23 pmat

      THAT is a great philosophy. I figure that if I understand Wylie Dufresne’s passion fruit/foie gras mixture, I can understand anything.

      INfamous, it seems.

  • chubbychinesegirl writes:
    June 15th, 20105:08 pmat

    its simple.. if ur stuff is good… u want ppl to spread the word… good food is universal… not liking an ingredient can change, but if something is terrible… its terrible… i dont think someone’s palate can be so off that they can know from good or bad…. i think the restaurants who are hating is because they use to be able to hide.. and now its all out in the open. instead of complaining maybe take our opinions and make adjustments to benefit their business.. it’s like getting free focus group!

    and I’m paying for my food so i have a right to take pictures! none of that momofuku ko stupidity please!

  • Jay writes:
    June 15th, 20105:13 pmat

    The last line sums it up, “But in the end, if a chef is making good food, he or she has nothing to worry about. Because it speaks for itself.” I stand by my reviews and my photos and you should too. I find Tom Colicchio to be a little too snooty for my taste. And for the record, I have dined at Craft before and wasn’t overly impressed with the food or service. When I criticize in reviews I always provide a lot of evidence and details. I also cross reference sites like Zagat to see if I am making things up!

  • Krista writes:
    June 15th, 20105:35 pmat

    I don’t totally get the backlash either. I eat out a fair amount and not only have I never seen diners using tripods, flashes or other contraptions, I don’t see anyone taking food photos like at all. Maybe I’m not eating at the right restaurants. You’d think from reading and watching the news that every citizen on earth was a food blogger.

  • thickcrust writes:
    June 15th, 20106:14 pmat

    I heard that story on the air and I was going to email you about it! And then I did an internet search so I could and saw that the story idea has been covered a number of times already, and I figured you’d already heard the arguments.

    But the story brought up something that I didn’t consider because, fortunately, I haven’t experienced it: people setting up photography equipment so they can take pictures. And I hope I never do, because I will certainly embarrass anyone I’m dining with through the lengths I will go through in order to ruin every picture they try to take.

    One last parting thought, mostly unrelated to the topic at hand: Shake Shack is the most overrated restaurant in New York. People are insane for waiting in line in the rain for it. I will including this commentary on every comment I make to this blog.

  • Tracey writes:
    June 15th, 20109:11 pmat

    I’m also still annoyed by the lady’s suggestion that snapping a quick picture of each course wastes so much of the restaurant’s time and ultimately leads to a loss of business. It’s great to know how eager restaurant owners are to shuffle us out the door after we spend money in their establishments.

    (Don’t you like how I used “we”, as if I’ve ever been to any of the places you’ve blogged about?)

  • Bachelor Girl writes:
    June 18th, 201011:47 amat

    This made me unreasonably angry…what kind of a pretentious bitch thinks you have to “understand” food? It’s FOOD. I don’t care what kind of arts ‘n crafts project you’re trying to make with it, it has to taste good. The End.

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