Now I'm not a specialist food photographer by any stretch of the imagination. My culinary tastes are eclectic and often really bad! But when you're a travel photographer you need to be pretty versatile and often get called upon to photograph restaurants and usually that involves taking a few shots of their main dishes.
This is where the telephoto really shines. It's a bit of a fad at the moment to have a very shallow depth-of-field for food photography. One part of the plate really sharp, the rest of it really blurry. You can achieve that a lot more easily with a telephoto lens.
When I photograph food I often prefer to put it in the context of where it's being eaten. In other words it becomes a bit of a food environmental portrait. So what I often do is set the food up somewhere where there's a nice background, or somewhere that will show the restaurant in a good light. Then I walk back from the table and shoot with a telephoto lens. Using a relatively shallow depth-of-field I have the food sharp and in focus and a blurry background, with still enough detail to show what's going on.
The photo above was taken on assignment for the in-flight magazine of the now defunct Australian Airlines. It was taken up at Port Douglas here in far north Queensland and all with natural light. The main thing I like about photographing food in restaurants is that they usually give it to me to eat after I've finished! By the end of the evening I'd photographed about five restaurants and was so full I could hardly move! Now that's what I call a fringe benefit.