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Food Porn

Fri Jan 11 2019

What is the importance of food presentation for event catering?

By: Richard Kim
Tags: food presentation, event experience, event planner

​“Color is forever a part of our food, a visual element to which human eyes, minds, emotions and palates are sensitive. Perhaps through eons of time, man has come to build up strong and intuitive associations between what he sees and what he eats. A good meal, to say the least, is always a beautiful sight to behold.”

from Birren (1963) in ‘Color and human appetite’. Food Technology, 17: 45-47

I'm not sure if the phenomenon began in Reddit, but there are subreddits named r/[insert-your-favorite-thing-here]Porn. Of course, there are no sexually explicit images, but eye-candy for whatever your hobby:

  • r/EarthPorn "Reddit's premiere landscape photography subreddit"
  • r/HistoryPorn amazing photos for "Amateur Historians"
  • r/AdPorn amazing photos for "Advertising Executives"
  • r/AVPorn "Photos of beautiful Audio and Video equipment for you to drool over"

And of course,

  • r/FoodPorn amazing photos for "Hungry Hungry Hippos"

​There is one subreddit that I cannot get enough of: r/GifRecipes. It's basically FoodPorn, but with gifs. ​

Pizza Dough Recipe

Aaaaand now you're hungry


​There is something so visceral about eating with our eyes that we forgive companies for putting up misleading pictures for their menu items. We mock McDonald's for their antics, but we know deep inside that it would be impossible to sell a McChicken with pictures like these:

McDonald's Sandwiches

Realistic Pictures of McDonald's Sandwiches. Yum...


In fact, compared to the quips and jabs we throw at McDonald's now, Ithink there would be even stronger pushback against them if they ever decided to put up realistic pictures of their sandwiches. We want to be deceived.

​There are so many events in which the food is on amazing display, but tastes normal. But that may not matter. When we see pictures of an amazing setup, we may just like the idea of what we see. Visual aesthetics are center stage when presenting events to other people, so if the food complements the staging and lighting, then taste, texture, and smell play supporting roles. ​

It's no secret that we eat with our eyes, but how much does aesthetic arrangement affect our experience of food? We know that we won't have some aesthetic weight coefficient we can apply to different aesthetic aspects to an arrangement. Consider this study from by Charles Michel, et al. from Flavour Journal.

Figure 1

Figure 1 from "A taste of Kandinsky: assessing the influence of the artistic visual presentation of food on the dining experience", a study by Charles Michel, et al.


People overwhelmingly believed that the Kandinsky-inspired presentation tasted better and they were willing to pay a good amount more for it on average.

Because of the service fee and the cost of food in Midtown Manhattan, perception of value is a top priority for vendors and event planners. Although it must be interesting to break down what color compositions and lighting techniques are contributing to taste and to what degree, presentation may play a larger role for events than it does for restaurants. At restaurants, we expect to have our cake and eat it too, but at events, everything from the smile from the gentleman at coat-check to how boring the presenter was contribute to an attendee's experience.

Therefore, to leave a long-lasting impression on attendees, a more fruitful conversation with caterers and event spaces may be to spend a little bit to place a purple, edible flower to make your cookie platter pop a little bit. ​

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