During my first visit to Zou Zou’s, a clubby East Mediterranean restaurant that specializes in flaming cheese platters and $ 130 riffs on halal-cart-style street meat, I invite someone like me: a fellow anonymous restaurant reviewer – of sorts. After the waiter brings the glammed-up table platter, my friend, the man behind the TikTok account @stephtravels_nyc, pulls out a device called the Lume Cube and starts filming our appetizers.
The duration of filming is not short.
Stef – who insisted on recognizing only her first name, citing general privacy and corporate day work – gently panned her iPhone around a collection of elegant Ramekins: carefully whipped hummus with black garlic, cabocha squash with chopped almonds, and tah under green white foam. Panning takes more than 120 seconds. The Manhattan-based Tiktokar has brought his friend Olympia, an engineering student, with him to manipulate handheld lighting while filming. Perhaps, at some point during the meal, you accidentally let the flash off while taking photos of your rigatoni or whatever, turning your head to a nearby table, and creating some momentary embarrassment? Imagine turning off that flash for two minutes straight.
A waiter arrives, probably to check that we’re enjoying our first Tokai. This is for zero, because no one has tasted anything yet. In the third minute, Stef and his assistant engage in a slow motion dredging of bread in a soft bowl through the gram foam. The light is still on. In the fourth minute, a manager arrives and asks us if we can try to blind fellow patrons a little less, and at the restaurant … we’re also taking note of what we’re doing. Frightened by the small scene we saw, I thought of retreating to the bathroom stall with a strong martini. “We’re rude,” says Steve.
It is not until the fifth minute that we start eating. What has just happened is the most intense clash of hand pose, lighting, arrangement, filming, and re-filming I’ve seen for crudeites and drowning. After the next tour, I’ll write a 1,000-word review, but after this solo tour, Steph will announce a “rec” (that’s fine), or “wreckage” to the place where the 30-second video was placed on Tiktok. “It’s a small hobby that has helped Stephen gain more than 5 million views for his quick analysis of New York City’s so-called” overhype “restaurants and his unusually critical displays.
In the world of effective and edible social media, the still shot of a spread mozzarella stick – its golden crust stuck in a curd-bound band of milk – has given way to clips where viewers can see someone inserting a tube of that substance into their mouth. Over and over This cultural transition – looking at a cable that food influencers adopt short-form videos – looks mundane as we plunge into the abyss. Somehow, though, this Epicurean pivot is more tectonic and complex than meets the eye – and perhaps not all bad. Short-form videos and their low-fi aesthetics are changing the way we evaluate dishes that are still much more useful to consumers than Instagram artwork. And the rise of TikTok is shining a light on the emerging class of digital creators with the power to transform the restaurants we all care about – even if short-form video doesn’t always level the playing field for under-represented restaurants.
All of Steff’s guerrilla camerawork – with a flash that could light up the airport’s runways – and others like him could quickly cause restaurants to feel like reality TV show sets. This is not possible, considering the effort required to shoot, edit, caption, and upload these clips. Instagram’s debut in 2010, with fewer access barriers than videography (you just click and post), did not turn restaurants into fully ad hoc photo studios, with diners sometimes sitting here and there in chairs to get dessert. Uni Tostada’s shot.
The early Instagram era, however, played a role in reshaping the restaurant experience, shifting its problematic role in making food viral – and our perceptions of it. This helped make the food a little more democratic, giving the patrons a clearer and more accessible picture of what they were actually facing. There was, and still is, something good about previewing each course of a flavor menu before dropping $ 1,000 for two. It helped to inject a dose of visual transparency into the opaque piece of the New York restaurant scene. But that transparency sometimes comes in the form of a stylized visual beauty, often with clearly overhead shots – aided by advanced phone cameras that hide – hands dissected to catch flies from the share plate. It wasn’t quite Cezanne, but there was (and still is) a certain stable life beauty for everyone.
Of particular interest about our imperfect TikTok world is the delay in the prevailing beauty. Some of the most promoted clips shot in the video app do not boast of natural-light-duplicate colors like popular Instagram shots. A TikTok video usually has the production value of a senior prom video. It is rarely a work of art, but it is undeniably functional. And for those who are tired of having a certain Instagram mentality of food as a rare item of worship, it can be very refreshing to see people picking up their Toro Tartare or corn dogs and eating them.
When a dish of fiery cheese appears on Zou Zou’s, Stef gives Olympia special instructions on how to engineer the bridge, and spends four minutes manipulating the stretchy product. Like the West Side hotspot, Gracie’s bridges look real and flawed in the video. When any of us eat something, it becomes sludge.
Steff’s own reviews generally follow some of TikTok’s standard bylaws, both good and bad. They rarely last more than 32 seconds. Thumbnail images usually boast a color palette reminiscent of birthday cake springs. The camera rarely spends a second or more looking at a single dish. The light is not so artistic or shady as it is equally bright. And Steff’s camerawork, like that of his peers, is close and personal; The videos depict drippy burgers and grilled meats as if your face were three inches above the given plate.
The style certainly speaks volumes about TikTok’s algorithms. And that can be frustrating: search for #restaurantreview or #nycrestlike on TikTok and most things are as informative as in-house television channels in regional hotel chains. You’ll find birthday sparklers, burrita spills, spaghetti curves, giant cocktails, whatever, with syrup, anything with cheese, and good people putting food in their mouths. Many of the top performing videos on these searches also feature a colorful view of the local food scene, New York’s visual wine brunch, Italian spots, scene-y Euro hangouts, sticks, Mexican party spots, skyline venues with Euro rentals. , Places where cocktails emit smoke, and that endlessly exemplary Katy Perry pop affair restaurant world, Smith (“Are You?”).
Food ticks actually feel trapped in their own beauty at times, due to the tendency to connect our brains to approximately constructed doses of digital uniformity. And sometimes really unique players end up from time to time, be it users like alaHalalNYC or places like Cuts & Slices and Work Hinge, but short form video sites can sometimes serve as another example of how social media works. Acting as a true forum for diversity can have a profound effect on how we perceive our world.
Where things get particularly interesting, however, is when TikTok uses a predictable style of storytelling to express the emotions that might come as a surprise when Stef sees a standard Instagram caption. That’s to say: she’s often the most critical, welcoming counterpoint to the impressive restaurant’s zeitgeist “here’s a great spritz.” Nearly 600,000 viewers watched her hard-nosed reaction to food on three Michelin-starred Per Se, during which she repeated its repetition and “glory Ritz cheese crackers,” attacking the venue for a swipe at an entertainment. And just under 90,000 people watched off her Via Carota, which she craved for frozen cheese, oiled pasta and a messy salad. The 23-second game against Carota was set to the tune of Gayle’s “ABCDEFU”.
In Zou Zou’s, a server simultaneously swings with a detailed but simple tableside bass presentation. The staff opens the fish from the shell of the grape leaf, allows the steam to rise, removes the extra virgin olive oil from the shiny sprouts, then uses a bronze grinder to bathe the meat with freshly added sea salt ice. Steff’s rated fish takes a quarter of its official unveiling time: “For $ 75, I’ll drop it.”
Such brief barbarians, say, lightening or appropriation, are similar to the style of quick, useful advice you can find from Yelp reviews, compared to professional critics who struggle to balance culinary advice by unpacking uncomfortable truths. And that’s okay, because most people have a tendency to seek reviews for in-depth inquiries about obscure truths in order to make practical decisions (“I should order this steak”). TikTok’s tendency to combine quick videos with occasional AI voiceovers and text overlays makes it feel more likely to be a review platform than photos with captions. What’s even more helpful in this regard is that TikTok seems to feel very comfortable with food that doesn’t look good. That way, if you look at stunt food videos in the past and look at some smart creators like Tong-in-Cheek VIP List or Muslim Foods, TickTalk can feel close to the raw and relevant microblogging of the 2010 Tumblr era.
At one point, when Zou Zou’s sends a complimentary capture dish – which means there’s more filming – I ask Steff if she goes to a given restaurant more than once, or if she returns for a follow-up review after the negative. . She cites her budget and the fact that she does not consider herself a critic. In fact, where a professional critic is paid and given a budget to make multiple trips and to deal with complex cultural and relevant issues regarding the restaurant, Steph says his business usually operates at night. She says she pays for most of her meals but about 30 percent of her visits are compressed.
As Zou emptied Zou at midnight, the waiters brought a “cup of onion” to the fried chicken in the smoke. TikTok camerawork and lighting feel quick for this course, maybe because there are no flaming things bridges to talk about, or maybe because I’m getting used to it, like the camera once felt a bit unconcerned in a restaurant. I noticed that Steff was not drinking. She says it’s not so much about addiction as it is about keeping a steady hand during the film.
In fact, Zou Zou’s video shows clean camerawork. And she evaluates Zou Zou’s rec. We agree to have dinner again, but I will not be on assignment, I have some strong words about that revelation.