College of Education Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-14-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Karen Monkman, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Amira Proweller, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Marie Donovan, Ed.D.

Abstract

Traditionally cooking is considered to be women’s work, yet the vast majority of professional chefs, particularly in the upper echelons of restaurant work, are men. These curious gendered patterns stimulated interest in delving more deeply into the gendered nature of restaurant work. Existing research on this topic has concentrated on the front of the house (dining room) but has not addressed the gendered nature of the male-dominated back of the house (kitchen). This study looks at the gendered nature of the professional culinary kitchen (back of the house), how gender relations are constructed through culinary education and in the professional kitchen, and specifically how gender is done in culinary education and the professional culinary kitchen. The inquiry focuses on three research questions: How does gender present itself in the culinary world, how does chef education challenge or contribute to the normative gendered patterns in the culinary world, specifically the back of the house, and how do the experiences of women chefs perpetuate or contest gender binaries?

Using a life history methodology, I interviewed four women executive chefs to collect data about how they experienced the professional culinary kitchen with particular attention to the gendered nature of that experience. In culinary school, the four women chefs felt that both men and women students were treated equally, but in the professional culinary kitchen, they soon found out that the gendered nature of work was not equal; it favored men, making promotion very difficult for women seeking executive chef positions. To understand the data, a feminist post-structural theoretical framework, focusing on difference, language, discourse, power and knowledge, was used as an analytical lens. Patriarchal discourses permeate home, educational and workplace domains where gender stereotypes and double standards made it difficult for the women chefs to navigate the professional culinary world as well as work/life balance. Binary ways of thinking (masculine/feminine) privilege men over women, yet these women chefs have found spaces where they can thrive using their own strengths and resilience to have successful careers in the professional culinary world.

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