Jeremy Reed scored among the most exclusive reservations in the restaurant world: a table for two at the French Laundry to celebrate his 30th birthday. But Reed did something almost unthinkable in this social media age.
He didn’t post a single photo of the food.
Pictures from the Michelin three-star restaurant are guaranteed to garner a rush of “likes” among the culinary minded on Instagram and Facebook. Reed did post a photo of his menu autographed by its famed proprietor, Thomas Keller, but Reed quit snapping pics after that. There were no shots of the French Laundry’s famed opening course, “oysters and pearls.” That delectable Devil’s Gulch ranch rabbit with Brentwood corn and black mission fig? You’ll just have to take Reed’s word that it was amazing.
The food was simply so good that Reed would rather ingest it than treat the meal like an iPhone photo session. Reed’s now leaving this sentiment on social media when he has a stellar meal as “food so good I didn’t Instagram it.” Or, in the world of hashtags: #foodsogoodididntinstagramit.
Reed, an advanced sommelier who works at The Kitchen, also used the cheeky hashtag to describe the barbecued tri-tip at Husick’s Country Store in Clarksburg. In the midst of one meal at a Lake Almanor eatery, he posted on Facebook, “Get people to stop using phones in restaurants! New hashtag. #foodsogoodididntinstagramit.”
Reed has launched his “just say no to food photos” campaign as one business wants to make Instagramming easier for hungry shutterbugs. The South African Internet service provider MWEB recently introduced a device called #dinnercam, a portable photo studio that’s purported to “take social media food shots to the next level.” The #dinnercam has yet to reach the mass market, but for now can be found at the Cape Town restaurant El Burro.
The #dinnercam rig uses Wi-Fi, various lighting options and a seamless white backdrop to ensure those taco plate photos don’t show a weird horizon line. After snapping a meticulously staged food shot, diners can snag a free photo print by posting to social media using the #dinnercam hashtag.
On the official YouTube video of #dinnercam in action, MWEB describes the device as a tongue-in-cheek project that’s “designed to start a debate about on how WiFi and the Web are changing everyday life in public spaces.”
Reed certainly sees the camera phones come out when he works the floor at The Kitchen, the highly acclaimed restaurant which was a James Beard Award nominee in 2012. One recent diner even brought an iPad with a thick leather case, which was held over her face to capture video of the night’s dinner service.
The Kitchen and other local restaurants don’t have any “no cellphone pics” policies. In fact, sharing tasty-looking food photos on social media amounts to free advertising for the restaurant. Food experiences are a natural share on the Internet and otherwise, whether it’s Instagram or publications like Feast.
Reed’s not trying to be a buzzkill or to press for any strict rules against food photos. He simply wonders if folks are missing out on the full dining experience when they’re so preoccupied with snapping the perfect food photo. It’s like all the camera phones that get whipped out at concerts, and folks more bent on maintaining a proper camera angle than engrossing themselves in a guitar solo.
“Sometimes you just have to put your phone away and enjoy your company and the meal,” said Reed. “(At French Laundry) it was one of those courtesy things for my wife that I didn’t want to bust out my phone in the middle of my birthday dinner. I’m not going to be on the phone on what’s probably the only time I’m ever going to be in the French Laundry.”
Reed initially came up with the idea of not posting food photos after ravishing a bacon burger at Ella Dining Room & Bar. He used to be one of those guys who loved posting pics of trophy meals online. But in this case, Reed posted on Facebook that he simply got so caught up in the burger that he forgot to take a picture.
Not taking a picture just might be the ultimate compliment to pay a chef.
“If you refrain from taking pics, maybe you won’t remember the meal as candidly, but you will probably enjoy it a little more,” said Reed.
Just remember: #foodsogoodididntinstagramit.