Nobody Needs Your Facetuned Gnocchi Photos
We're all guilty of cluttering friends' social feeds with our bland food photos; will web3 help us break the cycle?
Let’s talk about food photos for a minute. In fact, let’s be blunt about food photos, as in most suck. Mine certainly do. And, no offense, but chances are yours do, too — sorry, Cindy Sherman. Even the professional kind can. You know what I’m taking about — the too perfect dishes, the restaurant press shots so staged, empty, and lifeless the place might as well be hermetically sealed. Who eats like that? Rarely do these photos capture the essence of a good night out at a restaurant, from the atmosphere to the cuisine to the company, and yet our snapshots persist, clogging everyone’s social media feeds, each post more bland and poorly lit than the last.
Despite knowing this, we are all—myself included—incapable of resisting the food photography flex — why? Simple: because what other keepsakes do we have that capture a given night out at a good restaurant? Sure, we can all pretend to live in the moment, but this is 2023, the grand age of narcism(!), and despite our better judgements, we want some kind of permanent proof to validate one of these experiences. We want signifiers with which to broadcast our identity.
That is to say, whether we like it or not, we are all hypebeasts, even us dining enthusiasts…
Hypebeasts Get Hungry, Too
Despite the pejorative connotations, the hypebeast is here to stay. The archetype is everywhere. In line, online, cruising Complex, Highsnobiety, and even Sotheby’s, flexing on socials, stalking StockX, hoarding and reselling all manners of sneakers, Supreme drops, and other highly sought-after drip. This past weekend, the hypebeast went Hollywood in the form of “Air,” the Matt Damon-Ben Affleck vehicle about the inception of the Nike Air Jordans — the shoe that started it all.
The dining hypebeast is no different. Because what is waiting for restaurant reservation drops, anticipating the next Resy notify, adhering to the “phone eats first” tenet of TikTok, or having planned one’s honeymoon around pilgrimages to places like El Bulli, Osteria Francescana, or noma but behaving like a hypebeast?
And yet, unlike the prototypical hypebeast, who camps out in line for a limited edition sneaker, watch, high-low fashion collab, or the latest Apple product, the dining equivalent of these hardcore consumers has little if nothing to show for their commitment to the ephemeral experience of dining beyond enjoying the experience itself. And so, since we can’t walk away with, say, a limited edition Tom Sachs sneaker to reward our efforts, we resort to posting photos, each one an insufficient, identity-confirming facsimile that we believe will somehow…prolong the experience?
But Where’s the Restaurant World’s Air Jordan?
In the past, and still often today, restaurants have offered things like membership cards, matchbooks, and pens — though how long will these things remain in the age of digital media, paperless POS systems, and vaping? Further back, we had more elaborate form factors. Clubs like Castel in Paris kept bottles of whiskey labeled with patrons’ names. Legendary steakhouse Keens contained some ninety thousand churchwarden pipes for guests that ranged from Teddy Roosevelt to Babe Ruth.
Sure, membership cards still exist, and some restaurants debuted or upped their merch game in order to survive the pandemic, but now—at the dawn of web3—the timing feels ripe to reinvent these keys and keepsakes for the age of smartphones and blockchain tech, which allows us to port our identities around the web. As you know, Blackbird debuted the first bespoke loyalty program on our platform last week with Williamsburg’s GERTIE, and we have many more in the works that’ll rollout in the months ahead. Each of these NFTs will have real world value, and yet beyond their utility it’s their form factor that we find both striking and fun. The designs speak for themselves, each one unique to the restaurant for which they’ve been created, and when you flick through them in your Blackbird wallet there’s a sense of, dare I say, magic. Who needs poorly shot smartphone food photos when you’ve got an array of artist-designed NFT membership cards to all your favorite restaurants? Stay tuned on that front.
In “Air,” a forward-thinking Nike exec realizes he needs to sign a star and build a shoe around that star’s burgeoning brand. He finds it in Jordan, and the rest—including hypebeast culture—is history. The food world already has its stars, too many to name here, now we just need to reward their biggest fans and best customers by reintroducing the type of collectibles that connote regular status.
Maybe then all of us can finally move into our post food porn photo era.
VP, Content (and resident hypebeast)
Blackbird Labs, Inc.