“Foodie” was once a label reserved for hipsters who each cared more than the next about where their chicken came from, what it had been fed, and if it had been happy during its life. Foodies were mocked for being snobby, picky, and on the whole, way too obsessed with their dinner.
These days, we’re all foodies. No shame. Let’s be real: everyone loves food (you kind of have to, in order to survive…). We used to make fun of the hipsters, but you know you were secretly drooling over the food porn they were posting online. Soon enough, it became the social norm to say grace over a meal by taking a photo of your plate.
There are nearly 179 million photos on Instagram tagged #food, and millions more under food-related tags like #eeeeeats. You know not to open your Instagram when you’re hungry, lest you be ambushed by a perfectly crisped grilled cheese or a plump cream-filled donut. We eat with our eyes all day long – and when we finally sit down at the table, we take out our phones before picking up our forks. Instagram has changed the way we eat.
Thanks to the super-sharp lenses and hardcore editing programs on our smartphones, anyone can be a food photographer. It’s turned into a pretty competitive scene out there on Instagram, and people are constantly looking for ways to out-do each other. There are actually online courses for iPhone food photography, and people actually take them. Diners have been spotted using table napkins to diffuse light, stand on their chairs, or even move their table to get a better shot. Some diners admit to ordering dishes just because they know it will make a great Instagram post. For many, the photo has become more important than the food itself.
Many chefs have taken offense and banned cameras from their restaurants altogether, partly because the camera flashes and elaborate staging are so disruptive, and partly because they’re a little hurt that their customers are letting the food go cold and soggy while they fuss around picking the most flattering filter.
But most chefs are using the trend to their advantage. We’ve seen tantalizing food photos get thousands of likes within just a few hours of posting – and many of those likes will translate into reservations for next Friday. It’s great free publicity – and in the competitive world of food, they’ll take it. There’s even a restaurant that allowed diners to eat for free in exchange for an Instagram post. Although (deep in their hearts), they may value taste over appearance, most chefs are putting a new emphasis on plating and presentation with hopes of getting some love on Instagram.
Many chefs have their own Instagram accounts, which they use to keep an eye on the competition and check up on the latest foodie trends – because more than ever, the public has the power to decide what’s hot. Our opinions on restaurants are no longer based on newspaper reviews from critics, but on their social media presence.
Though it may be said that Instagramming is taking away from the dining experience, we have to admit that it has also done a lot of good for the world of food. Once upon a time, our access restaurants was limited to critiques, reviews and the occasional flash-lit photo. These days, we get a beautiful, freshly updated peek into the lives of chefs and the plates of their lucky customers delivered to our smartphones. Before we even step foot in a restaurant, we have the inside scoop on everything from ingredient sourcing to table settings. The bar gets raised every day, and we’ve care a lot more about what we’re being served.
Best of all, the trend has encouraged people to step up their game in their own kitchens. Inspired by what they’re seeing on Instagram, a lot of us have been experimenting with new ingredients, attempting (for better or for worse) some technically advanced cooking techniques, and plating our food as if we’re cooking for the President. And posting it, of course. We’re all foodies now.
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