FOOD PORN For local chefs (left to right) Jamie Bissonnette, Michael Scelfo, and Matthew Jennings,
Instagram is a way to share their work — quickly and casually — with peers and food fanciers around
Facebook jumped on it for $1 billion, so it must be true: Instagram, with its stable of custom filters turning any snapshot into a keepsake-worthy print, is this online-addled generation's manifestation of meaningful. I dig it because it makes me look like I have a small fraction of a skill I don't normally possess, but that's me.
After a few weeks as a member of the — now all-inclusive — Instagram literati, I've discovered that even though taking pictures of your food is still the fastest way to elicit an eye-roll from most of your social-media followers ("Made this ravioli from scratch! #homemade #culinarygenius"), it's still fun as hell. In this vein, three of New England's most in-demand chefs have turned to the app as the number-one way to share their kitchens with both their peers and their fans. I sat down with each of them to find out why they've begun throwing a filter on every movement in the kitchen.
@MSCELFO: MICHAEL SCELFO
Executive chef, Russell House Tavern
TIME ON INSTAGRAM: 4-5 months
A plate of chef Michael Scelfo's beet carpaccio is sitting in front of me, and resisting the urge to snap a quick, inconspicuous picture while we talk is proving to be very difficult. The neon magenta of the red beet slices is bleeding over to the golden ones, and the effect is vaguely psychedelic.
This urge is something Scelfo doesn't fight, to gorgeous results. As he scrolls through his photos, passing his phone across the table to show me one of his favorites — beef-tongue meatballs — he flicks through a series of gory prep-driven shots.
"I do tend to take a lot of photos that are really raw photos of breakdowns," he admits, adding that some of his friends requested a warning. Glimpses of butchering — an obvious fact of kitchen life — appear frequently on chef feeds. The shots are more enlightening than gristly. "I think Instagram softens it up a bit and makes it more palatable."
It's hard to tell if Scelfo is a good photographer or just really good with the app, but his posts are fantastic. He says that the ability to communicate with high-caliber chefs in such a casual way is another one of Instagram's best features.
"It blurs the lines between us, and it gets rid of that level of status between elites and everyday guys like me," he says. "The food world is all just coming together, and it's these tools that are making it happen."
@JAMIEBISS: JAMIE BISSONNETTE
Executive chef at Toro, Coppa
TIME ON INSTAGRAM: 3-5 months
"That's a big fucking burger that guy has in his hand," Jamie Bissonnette says suddenly, glancing down the bar at Fenway's Tasty Burger. "I don't think I could get that in my mouth."
For Bissonnette, Instagram is just another arm of the tight-knit community love between New England chefs — which can now extend across the globe.