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Kitchens: The Culture of Restaurant Work

Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: 2
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Kitchenstakes us into the robust, overheated, backstage world of the contemporary restaurant. In this rich, often surprising portrait of the real lives of kitchen workers, Gary Alan Fine brings their experiences, challenges, and satisfactions to colorful life. A new preface updates this riveting exploration of how restaurants actually work, both individually and as part of a larger culinary culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94289-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Food reveals our souls. Like Marcel Proust reminiscing about a madeleine or Calvin Trillin astonished at a plate of ribs, we are entangled in our meals. The connection between identity and consumption gives food a central role in the creation of community,¹ and we use our diet to convey images of public identity (Bourdieu 1984; MacClancy 1992). The routinization of feeding is one of the central requirements of families (DeVault 1991) and other social systems. The existence of profit-making organizations to process and serve food reveals something crucial about capitalist, industrial society. As is true for mills, foundries, and hospitals,...

  5. ONE Living the Kitchen Life
    (pp. 17-53)

    The day begins slowly. Entering an empty, clean kitchen on a cool summer morning, one has little sense of the blistering tornado of action to come. That the room has no air-conditioning or windows hardly matters when the door to the dining room and the backdoor are left open. Slowly workers arrive to prepare for lunch. Mel, the day cook, enters at about 9:oo. The maître d’ slightly after. Some busboys arrive early to prepare the dining room. Later a pantry worker, another cook, a potman, half a dozen servers, and a bartender show up. Phil, the owner, and Paul,...

  6. TWO Cooks’ Time: Temporal Demands and the Experience of Work
    (pp. 54-79)

    As a principle of social life, temporality affects the life of an organization as much as physical space or hierarchical organization (Maines 1987).¹ Indeed, organization and time are intimately connected. For an organization to run efficiently, schedules must be meshed (Cottrell 1939; Zerubavel 1979), and work products must be generated at a regular or intermittent rate that permits the organization to prosper (Baldamus 1961).

    The way that people experience the passage of time is a central, yet frequently ignored, feature of organizational life. Industrial capitalism depends upon temporal structure and synchronization (Thompson 1967); time is a resource like material and...

  7. THREE The Kitchen as Place and Space
    (pp. 80-111)

    In the previous chapters I analyzed the doing of food preparation; here I focus on the organizational work that surrounds culinary activity. In all occupations work is surrounded by activities that belongtothe workplace but are notofthe work task itself. An occupational scene comprises more than its essential activity; it also includes that which surrounds this activity. The label of an activity is only part of what those in that job category are supposed to accomplish. When coupled with an organizational division of labor, with workers with other titles, relations among activities can become complex. The are...

  8. FOUR The Commonwealth of Cuisine
    (pp. 112-137)

    Workplaces are sites of fellowship, of culture. In a sense, an organization is a minisociety: a world with social structure and culture. The organization is a place where people care about each other; they may not like one another and may scorn or resent their colleagues, but they docare. Activities of co-workers matter, directly or indirectly.

    Restaurants as small organizations are communities, often consciously. With the modest number of employees found in most restaurants—rarely does a restaurant have over one hundred employees—workers know each other by name, often have learned vast amounts about each other’s biography and...

  9. FIVE The Economical Cook: Organization as Business
    (pp. 138-176)

    Business organizations cannot be understood as independent islands, as privately constructed worlds of meaning. They belong to a robust economic system. Conditions of political economy influence the doings of workers (Burawoy 1979). For instance, technological change within an industry affects the dynamics of worker interaction, even though workers (or individual entrepreneurs) had little input in the planning and implementation of these changes or their economic impacts (Finlay 1988). De-skilling has profound and surprising consequences on the structure of occupations, increasing some workers’ status at the expense of others (Grzyb 1990). For instance, the structural and interorganizational needs of Hollywood production...

  10. SIX Aesthetic Constraints
    (pp. 177-198)

    In view of workers’ demands for autonomy and organizational constraints on that autonomy, how is “good” work possible? Sociologists of work have been little concerned with questions of how work gets done, as that doing relates to questions of style and form: the aesthetics of work. The conditions that produce “quality” have been ignored, while the technical, functional, and goal-directed doings of workers and workers’ attempts to undercut authority in the workplace have been emphasized (Fantasia 1988; Hodson 1991). This approach treats work worlds as instrumental systems, downplaying that what is useful to the management or consumer may or may...

  11. SEVEN The Aesthetics of Kitchen Discourse
    (pp. 199-218)

    Talk is poetry; sociological poetry, rhythmic webs of connotative meaning bound together within a social structural matrix. Meaning depends upon a community of shared understanding in which strings of lexical items are interpreted. When we talk aboutthings, we do not directly refer to the whole of our thought; our language is necessarily imprecise and capable of variable interpretations. Much of what we know we must leave unstated—full explication is impossible (Garfinkel 1967; Pollner 1987).

    In practice, however, speakers draw from each other similar evocations. We strive “to induce a sameness of vision, of experienced content” (Isenberg 1954, p....

  12. EIGHT The Organization and Aesthetics of Culinary Life
    (pp. 219-232)

    Organizational interaction is embedded within a complex set of structural and cultural relations. A kitchen does not stand apart but is integrated into a division of labor, organizational ecology, political economy, and even the world system. By describing organizational control and aesthetic production, I have attempted to demonstrate that a perspective emphasizing interpersonal interaction and the power of meaning (an interpretive sociology, grounded in symbolic interaction) can be tied to a more structural and macrosociological view of social order (Manning 1992). Culture is not an autonomous realm (Sewell 1992)—a view that too often is a failing of microcultural analysis....

  13. APPENDIX. Ethnography in the Kitchen: Issues and Cases
    (pp. 233-254)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 255-266)
  15. References
    (pp. 267-292)
  16. Index
    (pp. 293-304)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-308)