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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014

French chefs rebel against ‘food porn’ photos

AFP   February 20, 2014
First Published: 19:35 IST(20/2/2014) | Last Updated: 19:46 IST(20/2/2014)

The next time you try to take a picture of your dinner at a posh French restaurant, don’t be surprised if an angry chef comes storming out of the kitchen. Fed up with patrons snapping photographs with their smartphones to post on social networks, several Michelin-starred French establishments are trying to crack down on so-called "food porn".

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Food bloggers, and even some chefs, defend the pictures as free publicity, but for many the sharing has just gone too far. Alexandre Gauthier, chef at La Grenouillere in the northern town of La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil, says, "We are trying to give our clients a break in their lives. For that, you need to turn off your mobile."

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Short of formally banning photographs in his restaurant, Gauthier has put an image of a camera with a strike-through on his menu.  He says.

"It is gratifying, but we’re a restaurant without very much light, so they have to use a flash. And with each dish it’s ‘stop everything’, or the photo has to be retaken three times. It’s tweeted, liked, comments are made and replied to — by then the dish is cold."

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Intellectual property Gilles Goujon, chef at L’Auberge du Vieux Puits in Fontjoncouse, says he is increasingly frustrated with the poor etiquette of amateur food photographers.

He says food pictures "take away the surprise" of some of his dishes and "take a bit of my intellectual property". Not to mention that "a photo taken with a not-so-good smartphone is rarely good."

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"It doesn’t give the best image of our work," he says. One blogger at his restaurant several months ago posted a complaint about the doneness of her pigeon, complete with a picture, but hadn’t cut the bird open. "You couldn’t even see how the pigeon was cooked!" says the still-fuming chef.

French chefs are hardly alone. There has been a growing backlash in the United States to intrusive photo-taking, with some top-tier restaurants banning photography.

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But not all chefs are so unwelcoming to the craze for food photos.

David Toutain, whose eponymous Paris restaurant is a darling of the critics, said word of mouth on the Internet has been a boost to his career. "You have to live with the times," he said. "Social networks helped at the start of my career and are helping me now. It’s advertising."


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