Thursday, November 5, 2009

Would You Patronise A Restaurant That Refuses To Allow You Take Photograph The Food They Serve You? Momofuku, The Book.

Thanks to Boo from Masak Masak Blog and her tweet, I found out that David Chang, the current enfant terrible, darling and genius of New York Food Scene has released a cookbook. The cover of the book spots a plywood motif and a small lovely peach, in keeping with the decor of his 4 restaurants which interior is mainly constructed from unglamorous plywood and very very industrial/spartan in design.

This includes his Flagship in the East Village, Momofuku Ko. In order to get reservations for the coveted 32 spots for dinner, one does not depend on impressing the receptionist, nor could you claim to be friends with the chef, utilize your concierge at Waldorf Astoria, or part of the entourage of some celebrity. It is done in a very sterile manner through the internet. Reservations are open at 10am one week in advance. From there on, it is something like a lottery draw. With the Gods of the internet on your side and a 1000Mb/s connection, you MAY be able to secure your coveted seat, at your preferred time slot to indulge yourself in some of the most inventive cooking that you might have experienced. Frozen Foie served on Riesling Gelee, The Famous KO egg, steeped in Anise and served with Caviar. A myriad of unimaginable combination of ingredients and cooking methods that works. Cost is pretty reasonable. US 125 for a 8 course dinner lasting 2 hours.

One of the regulations for dining at Momofuku Ko (but not at the other Momofuku outlets) is that NO PHOTOGRAPHY is allowed. While doing the booking via internet, you will come across this clause. For me, it is understandable. Ko is a very small, spartan and narrow restaurant and the seating is not unlike in a Sushi Bar leaving very little space in between other diners. Those who are endeavoring to take the perfect shot and angle will certainly intrude into other diner's space. In fact, David, during an interview with Bourdain came up with a very famous (?disdainful) quote. "It's just food. Eat it!". Link to the video, click here.

This sparked a mini debate among foodies on whether restaurants should allow food pornographers and pimps to take photographs of the food they were being served. It seems quite a few fine dining establishments were not too happy with bloggers snapping pictures of their restaurants in careless abandon in New York.

The points raised were:-

1. Other Diners were annoyed at Foodies who used their flashes incessantly in the restaurant.

2. While trying to get a certain angle of the dish, the foodies invaded other Diner's "space".

3. The presence of foodies photographing their food is very distracting for other diners who felt like a photo shoot was going on at the other table.

It would be a matter of time before this trend of prohibiting photography, especially in fine dining restaurants hits our shore. Link to the "serious eats" website where this was discussed in June, click here.

I hope that I have not been guilty of these transgressions, and hope that other food bloggers will be aware of the potential discomfort food photography can be for other diners. I usually do not bring my Camera out to restaurants when I am on work-lidays because somebody else is sponsoring my trip and while having a meal with my sponsors, who usually go to great lengths to satisfy my lust for food, I cannot appear to be distracted. It would be rude.

I don't know about your guys, as far as the no photography policy in restaurants, I am fine with it. I have to respect the rules of the restaurant that I am dining in. Some require formal attire, some do not allow noisy mobile phones, some do not allow photography. Fine. But, I would like to be informed about it to prevent a potentially embarrassing situation for both me and the restaurant itself. Probably a no photography sign at the entrance would suffice.

As for Momofuku, the book, it was a good read. It is a honest testament of his obsessive passion for Ramen, a tribute to the people who have helped paved his career and a treasure trove of ideas, recipes and facts. The other book on the bottom right is Low Boy, which is an exhilarating journey to the depths of New York Subway with a Schizophrenic Teenager, try to save the world from a meltdown.

I am hoping some of the celebrity food bloggers would start a side column listing restaurants where photography is not allowed, to be updated regularly by the readers. Please do not misunderstand my intentions. It is not a call to boycott the restaurants or to punish them. But I am sure you would like to know beforehand before you lug your 1 kilo DSLR, set it up and after that, told in a nice way that you can't take photos.

Have a nice weekend, everybody!


Lyrical Lemongrass said...

Yes, I would patronise a restaurant that refuses to allow me to take photographs. The manner in which the message is conveyed is important. When the message is respectfully conveyed, be it before the meal, or during the meal, I have no qualms about putting away my camera.

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

agreed. let me know without feeling all "paranoid" and "emo" hehe..then again i havent come across any irritating buggers telling me to put away my 1kg dslr..

although i did note that the shogun jap buffet had a no camera/photography sign..which i suppose is obvious enough isnt?

CUMI & CIKI said...

i just turn off my flash lor :P

in the sea said...

Yes, I agreed that it all depends on how it is handled and in what manner. The shop is a private property and we need to respect their in-house rules sometimes. Just like when someone uses a flash during a meal next to me, I would find it a bit annoying. So a handy camera with powerful function is still needed at all times. Android, no need to get a new one. Keep the LX-3, until there is a model with an aperture close to F1.5 (maybe LX-4 or 5)...etc.

550ml jar of faith @minchow said...

Yup, no problem with as long as it's not communicated in a snotty, condescending manner. I think restauranteurs have every right to control the experience they ultimately want for their diners. Time and place for everything!

thenomadGourmand said...

I can see that all of the above comments said clearly that the "message" must be nicely conveyed and not make us feel like an 'intruder'.
Me n Sean had the most embarrassing & horrifying experience at Neo.
Blardy snotty & we were more "told off" rather than "informed" nicely that they do not allow photography of the interior & the food, citing that "so many" other outlets are copyin their menu.
Hurmph..judgin from my 2 different visits for dinner here, I do wonder why any restaurant would want to copy their menu.

rokh said...

i would not mind either if photography is not allowed, and it is as you say best to mention upfront in order to avoid awkward moments for both parties.

thule a.k.a leo said...

oh well... I'm very simple. Whether they allow photography or not, if the food is good... I will still go for the sake of satisfying my taste bud!

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

tng: i think its the same policy for the whole group..but we were told quite nicely by them at the tamarind springs when i was snapping at their awesome swimming pool..

Thailand Club said...

of course i do, the restaurant has its right to set such rule due to whatsoever reason, we shall respect them

btw, i carry 2 spy tools with me, while the lx-3 was obstructive in the scene then the 8.1 cyber-shot phone will be in service

UnkaLeong said...

Of course
I would, if the food is good :)

in the sea said...

Not sure if you remember there was a watch (Japanese) installed with a mini-camera, about 10 years ago. So we may need something James Bond. :)

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