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Title: The occupational identity and culture of chefs in United Kingdom (UK) haute cuisine restaurants
Author: Cooper, John
ISNI:       0000 0004 2740 0979
Awarding Body: University of Strathclyde
Current Institution: University of Strathclyde
Date of Award: 2012
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This study seeks to conceptualise how the occupational identity and culture of chefs is constructed and maintained through both work and social interaction. In addition, this study may also generate findings of relevance for human resource management (HRM) in the hospitality industry in relation to the enduring practical issues of training and the recruitment and retention of chefs, which have long been recognised as managerial challenges within the hospitality industry. Indeed, hospitality managers have attempted in vain to resolve this staffing crisis by changing management and recruitment practices, but seem to overlook the complex cultural issues that underpin the work and identity of chefs. Therefore, this study may indirectly help to get to grips with these HRM issues, by providing a better understanding of the occupational identity and culture of chefs. On a more generic level, this study aims to generate empirical data that informs contemporary debates about the role of work in identity formation and the structure of occupational identities in our contemporary society. This study is thus an attempt to assess, in light of the experiences of chefs, the untested argument that contemporary work holds little meaning for today’s workers. The research was planned in two main stages, an initial stage using unstructured, in-depth, face-to-face interviews as preparation for entering the culture, and a subsequent stage of ethnography (overt participant observation) and reflective interviews. The first stage was used to investigate the chef’s self-concept and explore how chefs construct their own reality on the basis of a personal framework of beliefs, attitudes and values. In-depth interviews were conducted throughout Great Britain and Ireland with fifty-four Michelin-stared chefs. The second stage was used to penetrate the ‘back region’ (Goffman, 1959) of the chefs’ world in order to go beyond what the chefs say about themselves (in the face-to-face interviews) and explore the shared system of meanings that help to perpetuate a sense of cohesion, identity and belonging that defines ‘being a chef’. Ethnographic studies were carried out in four different Michelin-starred kitchens, with participant observation conducted in each kitchen over a period of thirty days on average. Drawing upon the fieldwork, fresh insights into the social structures and processes (i.e. the kitchen ‘ideology’, symbols, rituals, rites and myths) which underpin the creation and maintenance of the occupational identity and culture of chefs are revealed in the chefs’ own words.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral