Why are people so obsessed with Instagramming their food? It seems it doesn’t matter where you go, you’re bound to see at least one person striving for that perfect shot of their dish. Foodstagramming is a frequently debated topic in the food world, and diners themselves, sparking much debate—positive and negative—over its place in the food world. Which is where our interview subject comes into play: amidst a sea of endless photo snapping, filter decisions and cold entrées, Christine Flynn seems to be having more than enough fun with this new phenomenon and is Instagramming each and every single moment of it. Flynn is Executive Chef at Toronto's iQ Food Co but you may know her better as her Instagram alter-ego Chef Jacques La Merde.
With over 128k followers, Chef Christine Flynn has taken people's obsession with Instagramming their food and turned it into a cult following. Her account takes white plate after white plate of perfectly tweezed processed junk food and turns them into high-end works of art. She has shined a light on not only our obsession for perfectly manicured plates with barely there ingredients but on our obsession with social media and living a curated life. For Flynn, La Merde was an escape and a way to make people laugh: "Lots of people post (on Instagram) for lots of different reasons" she says. "With Jacques La Merde, I’d post to make people laugh, but through my personal account, I would be sharing recipes and ideas with a larger network of chefs in the community."
Lots of people post (on Instagram) for lots of different reasons. With Jacques La Merde, I’d post to make people laugh.
The food and the Internet community can be a pretty serious place sometimes, so to have a relatively unknown alter-ego like Chef Jacques La Merde stepping-up to basically tell everyone to lighten the hell up was quite refreshing. "Taking photos of your food might be self-indulgent and a wee bit silly, but it's not deplorable," Flynn says. And she's right. Food is traditionally a community event, a bonding experience, a shared joy. Why are people getting their panties in a bunch over a little bit of food porn being sharing through channels on the Internet like Instagram or Facebook? Chefs like Flynn and others like Matthew Jennings or Matty Matheson have been using Instagram not just for food but as a marketing tool to promote themselves as a brand.
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With Flynn's alter-ego, months went by with journalists and fans trying to guess the identity of the person behind the account with speculation going so far as saying it was some of the top male chefs listed above. "A lot of people still have no idea that it’s me (running the account) and I prefer it that way," she explains. "I like to be the man behind the man, and do what I can to help others.” Because of this, she takes the time to listen to others comment and editorialize on what for her is a passion project but has arguably turned into something more. She explains, "I don't like to editorialize my work too much. I love listening to what other people project as my intent. I learn more that way."
A lot of people still have no idea that it’s me (running the account) and I prefer it that way. I like to be the man behind the man.
The irony of creating tweezered plates with run of the mill, convenience store ingredients is that it made Flynn become more creative in her current executive chef job at iQ Food Co. "I would look at everyday objects through a new lens," she says. At iQ, we’re working with fresh ingredients, and learning more about how to do so in high volume that look visual and taste delicious. It's challenging and dynamic."
The parallels between her life as Jacques (the Instagram personality) and Christine Flynn (the executive chef) are taking her in positive and bright directions. "I’ve had some amazing opportunities for learning, teaching and travel and access to new and different ways of thinking and approaching roadblocks," she says. Things she's excited to share with her team at iQ Food Co. On April 25, she’ll be taking part in the Chefs Pecha Kucha at Terroir Symposium, an annual gathering focused on bringing together creators and innovators in food industry. This year's theme is on arts, technology and culture - something Flynn knows a thing or two about.
What’s next for Chef Jacques La Merde and Christine Flynn? For her it's simple: "I’m going to keep working, it’s fun."