Instagram By Design

By Danielle Powell


Danielle Powell
Congress goers whipped out their iPhones to shoot highly ‘gram-able (and edible) dishes from Seamore’s
Congress goers whipped out their iPhones to shoot highly ‘gram-able (and edible) dishes from Seamore’s

What’s with that lustrous restaurant with 60K Instagram followers? Is it a formula, the photography, or some Millennial fairy dust? This year at the 12th Annual International Chefs Congress, StarChefs brought together a few experts to offer their advice on how to cook up, design for, and strategize to make Instagram magic. Here are the shiny pearls of social media wisdom the panelists shared with Congress goers.

Michael Chernow of Seamore’s and The Meatball Shop | New York 
Through the process of shooting the Meatball Shop Cookbook, Michael Chernow realized “certain materials like slate, chalkboard, and whitewashed wood were used for the background of dish shots.” He applied this knowledge to the next space he designed, making sure that any area a dish would touch was made out of these photogenic materials. When developing recipes, his restaurant crews take the approach that every time a dish comes out of the kitchen, there will probably be a photo shoot. With that in mind, they make sure there are at least three contrasting colors on every plate.

Jen Pelka of The Riddler and Magnum PR | San Francisco  
Realizing that places built for social media are usually packed, Jen Pelka created two “stunt items” for The Riddler’s menu that have a wow factor and are in turn, very ’gram-able. Pelka’s team pride’s themselves on having a serious wine and champagne list, while also offering unconventional, outside-the-box experiences that create moments people want to capture and share. Their stunt items are a “chambong” that people can chug champagne from (#goals), and a tater tot waffle with smoked salmon, crème fraîche, caviar, and fresh herbs.

Laureen Moyal of Paperwhite Studio | New York 
As a designer, Laureen Moyal recognizes that even “the best branding can’t help bad food—it’s where a restaurant’s life begins and ends.” Chefs define their voice through the food they cook, and a restaurant should similarly define its personality in an authentic way through branding, interior spaces, and the dining experience. Instagram-able trends of note that Moyal appreciates include floor-to-ceiling wallpaper, neon signs, over-the-top lighting, coconuts as beverage vessels, and placemats and menus that double as frames for dish shots. 

Liz Clayman of Liz Clayman Photography | Brooklyn  
Liz Clayman offered practical advice for designing a space that photographs well. First and foremost: “no piercing, overhead light beams! Natural light is the dream, and you want nice, soft, diffused light throughout.” When you take photos of your food, kill the lights in the space, bring a table near the window, slip some of your branding collateral in, and guide the viewer’s eye and tell them where to look.

With these pro-tips from food, design, branding, and photography authorities, you can translate “likes” into #buttinseats. See you on the screen!   

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