The other side of Insta fame

The other side of Insta fame

Pastry chef Vinesh Johny says social media gives instant publicity to chefs but it also puts pressure on them to up their game.

Vinesh Johny

A few weeks ago, I was in Croatia, cooking with some of the best chefs in the world. Everything from the beautiful scenery to the produce there was absolutely incredible and it only made sense that I clicked a few beautiful pictures I could upload on Instagram.

But I’m a chef; capturing scenery is not my forte. So I decided to make a dessert that is Instagram-worthy. I made vanilla poached cheesecake with pickled green apples, apple and fennel sorbet, apple gel and fennel cake.

The picture of the dish, once uploaded on my account, got a number of likes and admiring comments. However, I didn’t plan the dessert for Instagram. My focus was on how complex the flavours will be for the guests. That’s why I added the pickled apple with white wine vinegar to the soft cheesecake, which was served cold.

Though the preliminary focus is on the taste, social media has fuelled the importance of presentation. Gone are the days when you hear about the food and visit a restaurant. Pictures (and videos, in this case) speak louder than words.

Thanks to Instagram and the number of food pictures shared there, chefs have to make sure that they present their desserts in such a way that customers will want to try it out just by looking at the picture.

The crunchy texture of the green apple and sugar
design added the oomph factor.

When I joined the industry many years ago as a pastry chef, it was very difficult to find a food photographer. Even if you discussed the topic of food photography, it meant that you were doing it for a commercial purpose.

And now, everyone I know is a food photographer in some way or another. While some make money out of it, a large population takes pictures just to show the world what they are eating.

It doesn’t take much to become a good photographer. The great cameras in almost all smartphones, coupled with a knowledge of good angles, good lighting and a few contrasting elements, will make for a great picture.

It’s also a great
advertising technique for chefs as Instagram allows one to publicise their dishes with just the click of a button.

And it’s not just the customers who are sitting with their phones poised over their plates.

Chefs have taken to social media to give sneak peeks of their work before the final product is out.

I am part of this category though I don’t post a picture or video of an unfinished product. However, I like to show my followers the behind-the-scenes action.

Since most of my followers are aspiring bakers or professional chefs, I use Instagram stories to show them what and how I make dishes. They want to see traditional recipes that have my own spin and how differently I remake a dessert.

Instagram is also challenging chefs to go back to the basics and continue learning. We ought to remember that the customers are smarter than we think. They know exactly what they want and how they want it. And since social media has made instant feedback possible, we need to raise the bar with each product.