San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic and in-house blogger, Michael Bauer, took issue with food bloggers snapping photos of their restaurant meals after he received a letter from an irate diner. “Someone ought to blog about dining next to restaurant bloggers,” the letter-writer complained. “I have now been assaulted by snapshot flashes at Alinea, Manresa and most recently my fave SF Italian restaurant. … After the fourth blinding flash, I warned my companion that with the next flash there might be a catfight.”

Bauer agrees that these shutter-happy diners are a sign of the times:

This is a growing problem, and it largely boils down to good manners. Some people have the notion that if they pay for a meal, they have a right to take pictures (or talk on the phone), even if it annoys others. The problem comes when the rights of one person interfere with the rights of another (to have a flash-free meal, for example).

Most bloggers are mindful of the intrusion and are discreet, but others obviously aren’t.

The complaint itself opens up the floodgates to reader responses, both in sympathy of and staunchly against the restaurant photo phenomenon.

One or two pics seems fine. After all, people have always taken flash pictures at restaurants (but traditionally of themselves, not of the food!) Once it goes beyond that we’re in the nebulous realm where one person’s radius of entitlement intersects another person’s radius of tolerance. All we can do is try to keep the first one small and the second one large.

Ugh. One time, I had the misfortune of eating with some food bloggers. Once the food arrived at the table, they insisted on taking photos of everyone’s dishes. We sat there for 3 minutes waiting for them to finish taking the pictures before we could dig in. If you love food THAT much, shouldn’t your priority be actually eating the food?

I’d no idea that this was such a pressing social problem. Are there that many food bloggers in the Bay Area? I can’t recall seeing any over in the East Bay, not with cameras, anyway. How do you recognize them–do they wear funny hats, or something?

[Editor’s note: no hats, but there is a secret handshake … oh, and what nongourmet rock have you been living under? The Bay Area is lousy with ’em!]

The comments devolve to name-calling:

Bauer’s repeated and gratuitous hit pieces on food bloggers—and in a food blog of his own, no less—are pathetic, shameful, and ridiculous. In fact, I’m actually wondering whether the alleged letter that kicks off this latest assault is even real, or whether Bauer has now taken to just making up fake ‘reader complaints’ so that he can invent yet another reason to go after bloggers.

This whole ‘issue’ sounds like sour grapes from established food critics. Let’s face it. Social media tools allow anyone to comment to a wide audience. Most of these complaints are coming from mainstream media. And as for the diner ‘assaulted’ by a few flashes…did it really ruin your dinner? I find that hard to believe.

Of course, all the real food bloggers weighing in say the same thing: Food shots using flash look like crap; anyone in his right mind would go to all lengths to avoid them.

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