People are more interested in food than ever. We watch reality television about food, and read blogs and magazines about cooking. We have apps on our phones that tell us where our favorite food truck will be parked. Twenty years ago it was McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. Now teenagers can tell you where to get the best bánh mì or churros in the city.
Taking photos of food in restaurants is getting so bad that some restaurants are starting to ban the practice. At my old favorite Bouley in New York you can’t take photos at the table. They will take photos for you in the kitchen and hand over copies before you pay the bill. There are billions of food photos on Google. People love recording their lives online, but it also shows the truth in the saying, “we eat with our eyes.”
“Half the brain is visual in some sense,” says Charles Spence, an Oxford university experimental psychologist who has worked with multi-sensory mastermind Heston Blumenthal. Do you know that you might not be able to identify a flavor if you can’t see its colour beforehand? Or that you can actually taste the shade of packaging? A wine connoisseur might even identify red wine flavors in white wine turned red with food colouring all due to the eyes tricking the mind.
My friend Simon Rogan, who heads the Michelin-starred restaurant L'Enclume (I’ll be there today), doesn’t prioritize color in presentation anymore. It’s all about flavor, he says. Which in my opinion is really what good food boils down to.