While more and more camera-wielding diners snap photos of food before eating, not all eateries allow it
|By Huang Lijie|
The popularity of food blogging and the proliferation of pocket digital cameras and camera phones have spawned a rash of amateur food photography here.
The reasons they cite for such behaviour run the gamut from offering eye candy on food blogs to capturing a rapturous gastronomic moment, to be re-lived by looking at the pictures.
Camera-wielding diners have become such a force that some restaurants, including Shunjuu, a Japanese eatery in Robertson Quay, have had to scrap their no photo-taking policy.
Mrs Tan-Wee Chen Yen, 36, owner of Shunjuu, which opened in 2003, says its no-photography rule was abolished last month to 'keep up with the times'.
She says: 'Photography wasn't allowed because the food doesn't look as appetising when shot under the restaurant's dim lighting and we didn't want people to see those misleading images on blogs.
'But now, there are so many pictures taken by diners circulating online, including pictures of food from Shunjuu, that we have realised there is no stopping them.'
Of the 25 restaurants LifeStyle interviewed, 19 allow diners to take pictures. These include swanky eateries such as Les Amis in Shaw Centre and Iggy's at the Regent hotel.
After all, it is hard to begrudge enthusiastic diners keepsakes of a cherished meal, says Mr Michel Lu, 37, executive director of fine-dining restaurant Prive on Keppel Island, which permits photo-taking.
He adds: 'We allow it at our restaurant as long as it's not intrusive to the other diners and bright flash isn't used.'
The restaurateur also says that he snaps pictures of memorable dishes with his pocket digital camera when dining out and he shares those images via e-mail with a group of gastronome friends.
Indeed, some have grown so passionate in their pursuit of the perfect tableside Kodak-moment that a recent workshop for 20 people on how to take better food pictures received more than 40 applications. It was co-hosted by food blogger Dr Leslie Tay of ieatishootipost.sg and a major camera brand.
Restaurants that forbid photo-taking of food within their premises do so mostly because they are wary of copycats.
Contemporary Chinese restaurant Bosses in VivoCity and Hong Kong-style cafe chain Central Restaurant do not permit phototaking.
Owner Jun Low, 40, says: 'We appreciate the positive publicity that comes from bloggers who post pictures of their enjoyable dining experience at our outlets.
'But we can't be sure that those who take photos aren't competitors looking to copy ideas. We've seen many of our unique creations appear in other restaurants.'
One such example is its kai lan on ice, where the boiled vegetable is served on a bed of ice shavings with a soya sauce and wasabi dip on the side.
So while it can be tough trying to catch diners who sneak in a few pictures when the wait staff have their backs turned, some restaurants continue to impose a no photo-taking rule.
Ms Carolyn Tan, 38, vice-president of marketing and corporate communications for the Tung Lok group of restaurants, which includes My Humble House at the Esplanade, explains: 'We come up with new and innovative dishes regularly and while you might find pictures of them in certain publications, the no photo-taking rule in our restaurants helps us keep the culinary creations exclusive for a little while longer.'
Not all with the habit, however, are food bloggers or contributors to food review websites.
Some, like Ms Adeline Wu, who is between jobs, do not post the pictures she takes online. The 24-year-old, who has an interest in cooking, stores them on her computer and refers to them when she wants to replicate the presentation of a dish when cooking for guests.
Likewise, businessman Martin Goh, 60, who does not keep a food blog, has a detailed archive of food pictures on his computer to help him recall good dining places and dishes to recommend to friends.
Ms Gwen Lee, 32, director of photography gallery 2902 Gallery in Mount Sophia, does not find this habit surprising, given Singaporeans' love for food.
She says: 'The foodie nation that Singapore is means that when people snap pictures to document their lives for the purposes of amusement, entertainment or personal sharing, it would likely involve taking photos of food.'
Dr Tay of ieatishootipost.sg, 39, says his friends and family used to be a little impatient when he started his food photography hobby in 2006.
He says: 'When the food gets to the table, people just want to eat.'
But they have since grown accustomed to his habit, although his wife does sometimes ask him to stop snapping if he gets carried away, so that his two children, aged six and nine, can eat.
University student Stefanie Chao, 24, who does not photograph food, finds this habit annoying.
The avid foodie recalls being at a swish Italian restaurant last year when a diner sitting at the next table asked to photograph her vegetarian pizza.
She says: 'There should be a proper etiquette for this. I don't mind if people photograph food at their table but what that diner did crossed the line. She should've just ordered a pizza if she wanted a picture of it.'