You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Go the whole hog, Heston Blumenthal - ban phones in your restaurants altogether

The i logo The i 14/01/2020
Heston Blumenthal in a kitchen © Provided by The i

Try to imagine the scene. You walk into a top restaurant and there is a family sitting at a table and they are all smoking. How shocking an image would that be? How beyond the pale would this behaviour seem? Yet we don’t think twice when we see a family group in such circumstances and each one of them is peering at a mobile phone.

This is a commonplace occurrence, but surely it is a similarly disquieting sight. I would like to think that, in time, over-attachment to a smartphone may turn out to be equally toxic, and just as socially unacceptable, as smoking.

The Michelin-garlanded chef Heston Blumenthal is the latest figure to join the growing backlash against the use of mobile phones in public. He is considering banning smartphones from his celebrated restaurant, The Fat Duck, because, like many chefs, he objects to the now ritualised photographing of dishes by amateur foodies for social media.

Blumenthal believes that the true value of his cooking comes from an overall experience of sight, smell, taste, even sound (one dish was served with an iPod so that diners could eat to the accompaniment of crashing waves), and the pause, before even the cutlery is picked up, to take a photograph results in people becoming “disconnected from the moment”.

It’s not only the food that goes cold, but the sensory magic. “If I see something beautiful like a sunset,” the chef said in an interview with Radio Times, “I try to be in the moment, then take a picture afterwards.”

Blumenthal’s food, innovative, groundbreaking and experimental, is, in many ways, designed for the Instagram generation. Who wouldn’t want to take a picture of red cabbage gazpacho with grain mustard ice cream? Or snail porridge with Iberico ham and shaved fennel? We’d all want to show off to our friends that we’d be lucky enough to experience what Blumenthal calls, without any irony, a “journey, centred around a nostalgic trip full of playful memories, filled with curiosity, discovery and adventure”.

a person holding a plate of food © Provided by The i

The celebrity chef believes taking photos of food distracts from the experience of eating (Picture: Unspalsh)

I find it disappointing, however, that the chef is not, if you pardon the phrase, going the whole hog. Blumenthal perfectly understands the commercial relationship between feeding his customers and feeding social media, and is stopping short of an outright ban on phones. Instagram has many thousands of posts about The Fat Duck, and the requirement for an establishment to stay au courant in a highly competitive landscape is met by a constant presence on social media.

Blumenthal said he is worried about instituting an outright ban on phones in his restaurant because he feels this would put “a barrier between you and the diner”. But why not be brave, Heston? You’re the man who gave the world bacon and egg ice cream, so you’re not afraid of going out on a limb. You’d be doing everyone a favour by having a zero tolerance policy on phones.

The boastfulness that social media inspires is a pernicious aspect of the modern age, and nowhere is it played out more enthusiastically than in a restaurant. Every picture of a plate of delicious food screams: Look at me!

Blumenthal is a pioneer in the kitchen, showing that food can excite each and every sense. I hope he will take a leading position in ensuring his patrons enjoy the experience through their own lens, and not through that of the smartphone.

AAHLHma

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from The i

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon