Apparently Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts has a big enough budget it doesn't even Instagram its own food porn, it just borrows someone else's. Natalie's at Camden Harbour Inn found itself on the receiving end of this "compliment" recently when co-owner Raymond Brunyanszki opened a Save the Date from the Waldorf in New York City. According to the invitation, an upcoming Taste of Waldorf Astoria will feature "Five Waldorf Astoria Master Chefs and five James Beard Foundation Rising-Star Semi Finalists" presenting their creations for consideration.
Instead of sharing some of the no doubt delectable work of these ten chefs, though, the Waldorf used an image that Brunyanszki himself had commissioned and which featured a dish made by his executive chefs, Shelby Stevens and Chris Long. Brunyanszki scratched his head over the strange choice, noting via a press release, "It is a beautiful picture, and an even more delicious dish, but never in a million years would I have expected to find one of our chefs' creations used to promote an event that they have no connection to."
Camden Harbour Inn posted a tongue-in-cheek summary of the issue on its Facebook page, winking at the Waldorf for appreciating the food so much and inviting guests to come to Camden to try the dish since it's not available in New York (and since Stevens and Long were not invited to the event nor credited for creating the dish pictured). The company then took a more serious tone in a follow-up comment, asking the question on everyone's mind: why not just feature a dish created by one of your many celebrated chefs to advertise your event celebrating your many celebrated chefs?
...please understand that at this point we are unable to address any questions about the legality of the use of this picture. We believe that both the photographer who sold the pictures as the Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts should have known better. From a branding perspective we find it difficult to understand why a company employing so many chefs including James Beard Foundation nominated chefs is not using their own food photography especially when you promote a dinner event. It is pretending to be something you are not and that is really unfortunate. Most of all we believe that credit should go where it belongs. In this case to our very own and unbelievable talented Executive Chefs Chris Long and Shelby Stevens who created this dish. Camden Harbour Inn commissioned the photographer and paid for the photography. The picture was mend for promotional activities as well as PR and branding. [sic]
The hotel and its PR firm gBritt said they are working on resolving the issue; in the meantime, though the issue is a strange one, it's unclear whether foul play is at work. As one commenter on Camden Harbour Inn's Facebook page pointed out, "Under federal law the copyright always rests with the photographer unless the client buys all rights. Even with commissioned work." It's possible the Waldorf licensed the image properly and simply made a gauche blunder.
Have you tried the Save the Date Dish, Beets Four Ways with Sherry Ice Cream and Microgreens? A source from the restaurant said it should be back on the menu at Natalie's by Friday at the latest. Here's hoping the spat results in a cook-off — or perhaps dance-off.