Admit it — you have Instagram envy.
It’s the feeling when you look at some gorgeous photo of a burger or the perfectly placed ice cream cone on your Instagram feed. You then attempt to take a picture of your pasta primavera and it looks like a blurred picture of a worm farm.
If your food-picture game leaves something to be desired, check out Cleo’s Instagram Butler program.
The South Beach restaurant has launched a free service that provides diners with wait staff armed with the tools and tips to make your food photos worthy of a thousand likes.
Restaurant manager Maciej “Magic” Palubicki says the program is free of charge to anyone who asks for it when they come in for a meal.
The key to getting that perfect shot? It’s all about the lighting, according to Magic. “The best food photos are taken under natural light, but that’s not always possible,” says the manager, who doubles as one of the Instagram Butlers.
Guests who opt to participate are provided with an LED ring light complete with three different settings to get the perfect amount of light. In addition, Magic and his team are on hand to provide some handy tricks, along with a helping hand to light your shot.
During dinner, your Instagram Butler can also suggest composition and angles for your shot, and take a picture of you sipping your cocktail.
Cleo invited New Times to experience the Instagram butler service, which started with manager Magic suggesting a take on an Aviation for its lavender hues. Most menu items are picturesque, but flaming cheese always has a “wow” factor. Order the skillet halloumi ($18) and wait for the flames to rise before you snap your shot.
Other Instagram-worthy items include a colorful Greek salad ($11), the Impossible meatball tagine, made with vegan Impossible meatballs ($34), and a trio of kebabs ($31). As each dish arrived, our Insta-Butler did too — holding up a light, moving plates around, and suggesting angles.
Is the Instagram Butler a shtick? Of course, it is. On the other hand, Cleo’s food and surroundings are so photogenic, it makes sense. And the Instagram Butlers flit around the restaurant so stealthily, it’s not obtrusive to diners not partaking in the Insta-adventure.
In the end, did the Instagram Butler work? Sure. The light helped and my dining partner was delighted that her pictures improved. And since the service is free, why not try it out the next time you’re craving hummus and kebabs?
Here are some tips from food and beverage director for Blue Road, Cleo’s parent, Patricia Trias:
- Try shooting the dish from different angles. Dishes like the halloumi are shot best from a 45-degree angle.
- Don’t hold your camera too close. Nothing screams amateur photography like a drink picture that looks more like a funnel than a highball glass because of the lens distortion that results from holding the camera too close and at an unflattering angle.
- Style the shot. Some dishes might require a little rearranging too. For example, the Moroccan fried chicken looks better when you prop one of the pieces on top of the others and shoot it at a 45-degree angle. But be careful not to make it look too contrived. Also, be mindful of the background. Unless you have an amazing eye for table styling, the safest bet is to clear the table of all other objects — including the silverware.
Cleo South Beach. 1776 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-534-2536; sbe.com/cleosouthbeach.