How to Take Delicious Instagram Food Photos: 6 Pro Tips for Shooting Hotter Than Hot Food Porn

As a part of my job as a food writer, I am constantly photographing my meals. In fact, sometimes I feel like I spend more time snapping pictures of my food than I do eating it. The extra effort is worth it. The best shots – the ones that have the power to make viewers literally salivate or exclaim, “I want that in my belly now!” – get posted to my Instagram account @nevinmartell or are sold to a variety of print and online publications.
How to Take Delicious Instagram Photos

I shoot exclusively on my iPhone 6 using the Hipstamatic app because of its versatility and extensive variety of filters. Additionally, using a phone camera allows me to do my work relatively unobtrusively in a restaurant, so I’m not disturbing other guests while I painstakingly document my dishes and drinks.

Though it seems super easy to just whip out your phone and snap a few shots of the steak you’re enjoying, it’s actually quite difficult to make it look good. We’ve all seen the bad shots people keep posting to social media. They’re often poorly lit, out of focus, and have no clear subject. Worst of all, they make the chef’s or mixologist’s hard work look downright unappetizing.

Food photography should inspire a sudden hunger or an unfettered desire. That’s why they call it food porn. So, if you want to shoot wow-worthy pics that rack up the hearts and make your friends envious of your dining regimen, follow along to learn how to take delicious Instagram food photos.

Light

Utilize natural light whenever possible by shooting next to a window or outside. If you can’t shoot during the day, never use a raw flash. Instead, get another diner to cover the front of their iPhone with a white napkin and turn on the flashlight app to create a soft light.

How to Take Delicious Instagram Food Photos

Beautification

Sometimes you need to do a quick mini-makeover of a dish before you photograph it. Wipe smudges and crumbs off the plate, arrange garnishes attractively, and pull sandwich halves apart so the fillings are visible. Remember to take pictures quickly, because ice cream melts, sauces congeal, and greens wilt.Continue Reading

En Fuego! The 100 Hottest Restaurants in America 2016 #OpenTable100

This spring, you’re invited to add some serious  sizzle to your next dining experience at one of the 100 Hottest Restaurants in America 2016. These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 20,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

100 Hottest Restaurants in America 2016

Featuring stylish restaurants from celebrated chefs as well as those popular with celebrity diners, the complete list includes honorees in 27 states, such as Santina in New York, and Talde in Jersey City. California has 25 winning restaurants, followed by New York with 15 and Florida and Illinois with seven each. Texas has five while Colorado and Georgia have four winners apiece. Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Nevada each have three winners. Arizona, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, and Utah count two winners per state. Connecticut, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee are also represented.

The winning restaurants are highly regarded for their lively ambience, and many feature vibrant bar and lounge scenes with an after-hours feel. New restaurants made a splash with more than a fifth opening their doors in 2015 alone. While American cuisine was quite popular, Asian, global, Italian, Mexican, and sushi eateries also made strong showings.

Don’t miss our slideshow for a glimpse inside some of this year’s winning restaurants.

Chef Gavin Kaysen of winning restaurant Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis and chef Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster Harlem will be taking over our Instagram to celebrate the 100 Hottest Restaurants in America 2016. Be sure to join him! And follow the hashtag #OpenTable100 on Instagram and Twitter as some of our favorite food and lifestyle mavens visit hotspots in select cities.

You can also read about the top trends emerging from the hottest restaurants in America on our Open for Business blog.

Without further ado, we present the 2016 100 Hottest Restaurants in America 2016:Continue Reading

Chef Sarah Grueneberg: The ‘Monteverde’ Behind Chicago’s Hottest Pasta Spot

Just when you think Chicago has enough Italian restaurants, along comes soulful Italian Monteverde, slinging some of the best handmade pastas the city’s seen in years, and you’re suddenly asking yourself how many portions per week of ragu alla napoletana is too many (answer: as many as your bank account will permit).

The creative force behind this four-month-old temple to pasta in Chicago’s West Loop is Spiaggia vet and Top Chef season nine runner-up chef Sarah Grueneberg. She caught up with OpenTable on transitioning from executive chef to her first solo venture, the beauty of pasta made to order, and the importance of creating a strong culture at work.

Chef Sarah Grueneberg

A native of Houston, Texas, Grueneberg has a fascination with food that started early. Because her mom traveled a lot for work, she’d spend her free time cooking chicken fried steak and making pickles with her grandmother or out fishing with her uncle before frying up the day’s catch for dinner. She was about 13 when she decided she wanted to be a chef. “For me, it was always about my family and bringing people together around the table over food, and also realizing that I could actually be a chef,” Grueneberg says. “I realized around that time that not everyone else liked to cook.”

She finished culinary school in 2001, landing her first job as garde manger at the Houston outpost of beloved New Orleans restaurant Brennan’s. There she cut her teeth on French-Creole classics like oyster stew and shrimp remoulade under then-chef Chris Shepherd (who now owns Houston contemporary American hotspot Underbelly). “Chris really took me under his wing; he had a huge impact on me,” she says. Within four years, she’d worked her way up to becoming the restaurant’s youngest (and first) female sous chef at age 22 before deciding it was time for a change.

Taking flight…

She took a job in Chicago as a line cook at Tony Mantuano’s fine-dining Italian institution Spiaggia. But the move from the intensely rich sauces of Texas Creole to the minimalist handling of seasonal and regional Italian ingredients, coupled with her own preconceived notions of Italian cuisine as the red sauce- and mozzarella-laden dishes of her childhood, proved challenging. “I thought I knew what Italian food was, but I really had no idea,” she admits. “It was a real struggle for me at first — the notion of finishing a simple dish with a bit of olive oil and lemon.”

After briefly considering leaving it all to become a flight attendant, Grueneberg let herself fall in love with Italian cuisine — the peppery, fruity flavor of great olive oil, the beauty of al dente pasta made to order, an affair cultivated by annual trips to Italy with the Spiaggia team. It was also during that time that she met longtime friend and future business partner, Meg Sahs.

Chef Sarah Grueneberg

By 2010, she was named Spiaggia’s executive chef. But the confidence she gained competing on Top Chef, on which she reached the finals, and increased conversations with Sahs about opening a restaurant together fueled a growing desire to strike out on her own, which she did in 2013. “Meg and I were having dinner together in California,” she recalls. “It was like a movie moment. I looked at her, she looked at me, and we both said, ‘Let’s do this!’ She started a writing business plan right away for a little pasta-centric concept.”

Asking Grueneberg how she and Sahs came up with the name Monteverde elicits a long, nostalgic laugh followed by an admission that some ask if it’s a Costa Rican restaurant (it shares the name of a mountainous town there). The name is the Italian translation of Grueneberg, or “green mountain”, in German. “The first time I went to Italy, I was in the kitchen with my friend (balsamic vinegar producer) Andrea Bezzecchi. He said, ‘Now in Italy you will be known as Sarah Monteverde,’” she says. “We thought of so many names, but in the end, it had to be Monteverde. Plus, you can take monte or verde lots of other places.”

Pasta as theater

Monteverde’s menu is a tantalizing amalgamation of soulful Italian dishes anchored by handmade fresh and dried pastas, plus a handful of dishes that showcase early influences on Grueneberg’s culinary identity. The sleek, 95-seat space is anchored by a raised workstation behind the bar that quite literally elevates pasta making to theater. Perched at the L-shaped butcher-block bar, you can watch as a veritable army of pasta makers hand-roll ribbons of pappardelle, thumb oricchiette, and sheet, fill, and cut yards of ravioli.

These pastas shine in classic (tipica) dishes, such as pappardelle with meaty beef and lamb ragu and pecorino and nontraditional (atipica) dishes like cannelloni saltimbocca — pasta roulades filled with lamb, prosciutto and sage garnished with fried sage leaves and cauliflower — or cacio whey pepe, with tangy, cheesy ricotta whey standing in for pasta water.

Chef Sarah Grueneberg

In simple tortellini in brodo, mortadella-stuffed pasta swims in rich, long-simmered housemade chicken stock. A refined yet invitingly shareable small plate of Broadbent country ham and mozzarella with local hydroponic tomatoes oozes with Emilia Romagna influence. In an ode to Grueneberg’s grandma, comforting stuffed cabbage — filled with softened cabbage hearts, thyme, Parmesan, egg and Saltines — rests atop earthy porcini bolognese and creamy polenta.

In another homage, this time to the Italian Sunday supper, five-day ragu alla napoletana features fusilli tossed in a pork bone and roasted tomato sauce topped with a hulking red wine-brined, tomato-braised pork shank, housemade sausage, and fat pork and soppressata meatballs. “I wanted to showcase food the way it is classically, but also push the boundaries of an American who studied pasta for years with worldly ingredients and techniques,” Grueneberg says.Continue Reading

2016 James Beard Award Finalists: Chefs + Restaurants

The picks are in for the final nominees for the 2016 James Beard Foundation Awards. Even though not every chef or restaurant listed here will go home with the award, trust us when we say that you will have a sublime dining experience with any of them. We’ll be cheering them all on in Chicago on May 2nd at the awards ceremony; you can purchase a ticket, too, in case you didn’t know. Congratulations to all the 2016 James Beard Award finalists!

James Beard Awards 2016 Finalists

Finalists include:

Best New Restaurant
Death & Taxes, Raleigh, North Carolina
Launderette, Austin, Texas
Shaya, New Orleans, Louisiana
Staplehouse, Atlanta, Georgia
Wildair, New York, New York

Outstanding Restaurant
Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, Colorado
Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, Alabama
The Spotted Pig, New York, New York

Outstanding Service
Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, New York
Eleven Madison Park, New York, New York
North Pond, Chicago, Illinois
Quince, San Francisco, California
Topolobampo, Chicago, Illinois

Outstanding Wine Program
Canlis, Seattle, Washington
FIG, Charleston, South Carolina
Sepia, Chicago, Illinois

Outstanding Chef
Sean Brock, McCrady’s, Charleston, South Carolina
Suzanne Goin, Lucques, West Hollywood, California
Donald Link, Herbsaint, New Orleans, Louisiana
Michael Solomonov, Zahav, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Michael Tusk, Quince, San Francisco, California

Rising Star of the Year
Alex Bois, High Street on Market, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Grae Nonas, Olamaie, Austin, Texas
Daniela Soto-Innes, Cosme, New York, New York
Alan Sternberg, Cerulean, Indianapolis, Indiana
Edward Sura, Perennial Virant, Chicago, Illinois

Outstanding Pastry Chef
Meg Galus, Boka, Chicago, Illinois
Maura Kilpatrick, Oleana, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Dolester Miles, Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, Alabama
Dahlia Narvarez, Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles, California
Ghaya Oliveira, Daniel, New York, New York
Jennifer Yee, Lafayette, New York, New YorkContinue Reading