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Add restaurants to list of places where you can’t take photos

Food bloggers and everyone who enjoys documenting their dining experiences with a camera, you have been warned: In this week’s New York Times Dining & Wine section, reporter Helene Stapinski writes about a growing backlash against those who snap photos of every dish that gets served to them.

What seems like an innocent activity – taking a photo of the restaurant’s signature dish to remember by or to share with friends via e-mail or social media – is being frowned upon by chefs and diners alike. Sure, the use of huge cameras and bright flashes can be a nuisance to the people around you, but even the discreet use of a smartphone camera sans flash is a big no-no. One diner at New York City’s Momofuku Ko was chastised for photographing a dish with her iPhone, despite her subtleness.

Chefs and restaurateurs say they ban photography because of the major distraction that comes with it, with some diners even standing on chairs or bringing in heavy equipment to shoot their plates. “Some people are arrogant about it,” said Moe Issa, the owner of Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare. “They don’t understand why. But we explain that it’s one big table and we want the people around you to enjoy their meal. They pay a lot of money for this meal. It became even a distraction for the chef.”

While restaurants have either put the kibosh on photography or the use of flashes, some chefs like David Bouley try a different approach. When Bouley sees patrons whip out their cameras, he invites them to the kitchen to snap photos of their food there instead.

Some diners are sympathetic to the chefs’ cause. One person interviewed describes the ordeal of dining out with her father because of his need to photograph the food. But food-loving photographers say they are paying tribute, in addition to providing free publicity.

So, are chefs and restaurant owners biting the hand that feeds them? After all, most restaurants are small businesses that rely on word of mouth, and having their establishments promoted through blogs and social media is an effective use of free marketing. Or are they simply preserving the sanctity that is fine dining?

(Image via Karin Hildebrand Lau/Shutterstock)