Like Justice Potter Stewart, I cannot definitively say what constitutes food porn, but I know it when I see it. Food porn isn’t erotic in a traditional romantic sense (Although South Park aired a 2010 episode about it in which Randy gets a little too involved with the Food Network). Rather, it’s the glamorization of food with images—and thanks to Instagram and other social networking platforms, it’s become a colloquial phrase. Capitalizing on that trend are two 24-year-old University of Colorado grads with their new website, MrFoodPorn.
Mixing photos and prose, Noah Rinsky and Josh Seigel use their site as a Manhattan-based forum for detailing their experiences with high-end food. Writing about expensive dining can quickly turn people off, so they opted for a silly name and quirky logo—a messy man all suited up, with a turkey leg in hand and stains dribbled on his lapel—to garner a wider audience. And to keep Mr FoodPorn from being too indulgent (the site’s ‘About Us’ section reads, “We’re devourers of all things fleshy, bready, and over indulgent; eaters to the first degree, scaling the highest meringue-mountains of wanton culinary delight!”), Rinsky and Seigel devoted a page to two hunger-fighting charities, Food Bank for New York City, and City Harvest. Giving back is important to them, and I’m sure it helps the conscience when you’re sinking your teeth into those sugar-cured bacon strips, which Rinsky won’t eat because he’s kosher. Instead, Seigel gives him play-by-plays of the bacon-wrapped matzo balls at Traif in Brooklyn.
They seek to add substance and creativity to the language around food porn. Instead of simply photographing your deep-fried dinner and adding a #nomnom hashtag, Rinsky and Seigel describe exceptional meals for their audience, who can read leisurely while salivating freely. They both work in the food industry, so they write about the culinary world beyond just the dining experience. In this excerpt, Mr FoodPorn describes his high-stress experience as a trainee waiter at the upscale Manhattan restaurant Eleven Madison Park.
“What is so unique about the river that runs along this vineyard?” he asks, and I assume that the metaphor will become more lucid if I’m ever allowed in the inner circle. Or is he just quoting The Master?
“I-I’m…” stutters the seasoned waiter. “I’m not quite sure.”
A look of disgust consumes the manager’s face as he calls on another server, who he applauds for saying something that I find cryptic at best, moronic at worst. I keep asking myself if I even want this job, and I consider the money; the huge bills, the massive tips; fifteen courses, hundreds of wines, five-thousand-dollar tabs. I do. I really really do want to work here. Before entering the dining room, I watch servers fold napkins as they go over the menu with me. The napkins must be folded identically and each stack must be the same height. When this is through, I’m asked to go look at myself in the mirror and am told that my collar isn’t right. I search without finding error, and a server is nice enough to fix it for me. Dinner service starts and I follow Jacob, my server for the night, into the grand dining room. Eleven Madison Park’s ceilings seem to expand and soar, and the huge windows give the impression of Old World Europe. The job is constant movement, and I sweat right through my cotton shirt. Each table is assigned a team of servers. There are so many that I’m afraid of knocking something over, so I ask Jacob what happens if I do.
Rinsky and Seigel just threw a launch party for Mr FoodPorn, and according to Seigel, who’s been tracking analytics, the site has been steadily gaining readers (he recently quit his day job to work on the website full time). While they continue to develop and grow the site, more poutine and calf liver will no doubt be consumed—and, of course, viscerally described, bite by bite.