How Chris Santos Feels About Social Media In The Restaurant Business - Exclusive

In a society dominated by smartphones and social media, it's increasingly common to want to document delicious meals and share them with friends and followers. And while we say there's no shame in the game, it's not necessarily a welcome habit among the chefs who spend time executing that culinary experience for you.

Chris Santos would be one such chef. During an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, he explained how he feels about social media and its importance in the restaurant industry. The creative force behind former New York hotspot Stanton Social rose to success by helping usher in the trend of shared plates and communal dining experiences — and that was back when the sharing only took place among those seated. Like many seasoned chefs, Santos was brought up in a time when social media didn't really play a role in people's opinions of their meals. "I went to culinary school in the '80s. For most of my career, you had to make delicious food — it had to look good, but it was really about deliciousness," he shared.

For Santos, it's about more than what you're tasting. His joy comes from bringing people together. "I like to bring food to a table where everyone is interactive and enjoying it. Sharing dining experiences makes for more convivial fun," he said. But in his view, the distraction of snapping pictures takes away from that atmosphere. "As a chef, I don't want people to pull their phones out. I want them to focus on the meal and the conversations that they're having," he explained.

Social media is a necessary learning curve for established chefs

Despite his natural inclinations, Santos admits he's had no choice but to come around to social media's role in restaurants. "It was a painful transition for me over the last 10 years," he said, explaining that "all of a sudden ... if it's not Instagramable, it's not good enough for the menu." But he conceded, "You got to give people what they want."

And Santos is doing just that with his latest eatery, Stanton Social Prime in Las Vegas, which lends itself much more to today's Instagram-driven food world, Santo is featuring dishes like an artfully arranged smoked butter board and a show-stopping 64-ounce tomahawk steak. "Las Vegas dining is all about the show, especially now," he said. And he's entertaining the crowds, and definitely giving them something to post about with his whimsical menu offerings.

While the urge to pull out phones at the table still feels somewhat antithetical to his goals as a chef, Santos realizes that times are changing, and his latest culinary outpost is absolutely a nod to the new world of food we live and dine in. Now, Santos' biggest concern when it comes to the foodie social media craze is learning how to "balance that with keeping the focus on the food itself." Try his dishes for yourself, and we think you'll agree that they taste just as good as they look, if not better.