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«Steno, Anne Mia; Friche, Nanna Published in: Journal of Vocational Education and Training DOI: 10.1080/13636820.2014.927901 Publication date: ...»

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Celebrity Chefs and Maculinities among Male Cookery Trainees in Vocational


Steno, Anne Mia; Friche, Nanna

Published in:

Journal of Vocational Education and Training



Publication date:

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Early version, also known as pre-print

Citation for published version (APA):

Steno, A. M., & Friche, N. (2015). Celebrity Chefs and Maculinities among Male Cookery Trainees in Vocational Education. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 67(1), 47-61. DOI: 10.1080/13636820.2014.927901 General rights Copyright and moral rights for the publications made accessible in the public portal are retained by the authors and/or other copyright owners and it is a condition of accessing publications that users recognise and abide by the legal requirements associated with these rights.

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Download date: 17. Oct. 2016 Pre-print version of Accepted Manuscript (AM) of article published in Journal of Vocational Education & Training Volume 67, Issue 1, 2015 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13636820.2014.927901 To cite this article: Anne Mia Steno & Nanna Friche (2015) Celebrity chefs and masculinities among male cookery trainees in vocational education, Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 67:1,47-61, DOI: 10.1080/13636820.2014.927901 Department of Psychology and Educational Studies, Roskilde University, Roskilde Celebrity chefs and masculinities among male cookery trainees in vocational education Anne Mia Steno and Nanna Friche The purpose of this article is to examine how media-generated professional identities in the culinary sector are reflected in Danish male cookery students’ narratives about their own identity, experiences and expectations about the trade.

Hence, this study takes its starting point in studies that show how the broad popularity of the culinary profession – almost exclusively through male chefs – seems to be attracting more male students to the cooking programme. The previous research indicates, however, that there is a risk of unfulfilled expectations when cookery students realise the hard work involved in working in a professional kitchen. It is this contrast between the media presentation and the practical reality of a profession like cookery that we wish to explore from the students’ perspective.

Keywords: Vocational Education and Training; gender and learning; gender and educational training; history of education; gender – professional change Introduction The purpose of this article is to examine how media-generated professional identities in the culinary sector are reflected in the narratives of male catering trainees about their own identity, experiences and expectations of the trade. It contributes to other ongoing studies of the role of celebrity in informing young people’s classed and gendered aspirations in complex ways (e.g. Allen and Mendick 2013). However, rather than a broad focus on more ubiquitous types of celebrity aspirations ( pop stars, actors and royal personages), we introduce a focus on specific celebrity associations for vocational trainees.

This study therefore takes its starting point from research that has shown how the broad popularity of the culinary profession – almost exclusively represented through male chefs in Denmark – seems to be attracting more male trainees to catering programmes (Friche 2010). Previous research indicates, however, that there is a risk of unfulfilled expectations when catering trainees realise the hard work involved in working in a professional kitchen. It is this contrast between the media portrayal and the practical reality of a profession like cookery that we wish to explore from the trainees’ perspective.

The purpose of the article is twofold: first, to identify celebrity chefs as accessible figures of professional chef identities that constitute part of the context to which male catering trainees must relate (Bureychak 2012); and second, to examine how trainees’ perspectives are shaped by and in turn help to shape certain ways of ‘doing masculinity’ in education and training programmes in catering (Hjort and Nielsen 2003). Theoretically, we base our analysis on a conceptualisation of (culinary) masculinities as socially constructed in the tension between hegemonic masculinity and risk on the one hand, and marginalised femininity and compassion on the other hand (Connell 2012; Connell and Messerschmidt 2005; Mac an Ghaill 1994). Culinary professionalism is, we shall argue, imbued with this tension and interacts with masculinity in contrasting ways. We, therefore, make use of Colley et al.’s notion of vocational habitus (2003) as a way of illustrating how young men orient themselves in relation to these tensions (see also Broch 2012; Connell 1983).

The article builds on work carried out as part of a larger study on the intersectionality between studies of adolescents’ gender and identity in secondary education in Denmark (Jørgensen 2013). By analysing empirical data on both cookery and catering trainees and media representations of chefs, the study integrates the reading strategies of cultural studies with the critical perspective of masculinity studies in educational research.

Culinary training in the vocational field in Denmark The Danish Vocational Education and Training (VET) system is based on three main principles. First, it entails a dual-training principle; that is, periods of school-based learning alternating with periods of training in an enterprise (in this case, professional kitchens). School-based periods take up one-third of a full VET programme of approximately four years, while periods of workplace training take up two-thirds of the time. Thus, the dual-training principle is both a pedagogical principle and an organisational–institutional one. The norms and routines of the profession are inculcated in work placements, while specific technical skills and theory are introduced at school. Secondly, the dual system is based on a principle of social partner involvement, whereby social partners are involved in both overall decision-making about and daily operation of the VET system. Thirdly, it is founded on the principle of lifelong learning. This is achieved through the system’s flexibility, which allows trainees the possibility of taking part of a qualification at a given moment and later returning to the system and adding to their VET qualification in order to access further and higher education. VET programmes are typically divided into two parts: a basic course, which is broad in scope and provided at schools, and a main course in which the trainee specialises in an occupation (e.g. catering, diet assistant) (Danish Ministry of Education 2013). The male trainees referred to in this article were attending a basic course at a vocational school.

The culinary VET programme qualifies trainees for employment in professional kitchens (e.g. restaurant, canteens and cafés). The core values of the occupation that the programme promotes are creativity (the creation of menus and innovation of new dishes) and attention to quality ingredients and hygiene (where the trainees draw on their senses such as colour perception, smell and taste). Furthermore, the trainees need to ‘stay cool’ and be able to manage the cooking of several hot dishes simultaneously without losing sight of the flow of starters, main meals, desserts, ingredients, cooking time, arrangement in plates, etc. School-based training aims to teach the theory of nutrition and hygiene as well as knowledge about ingredients. In the workplace, the trainees learn about the basic cooking of both hot and cold meals, control and quality assessment of ingredients, planning of menus, sales and customer service (Køkken Hotel & Restaurant Uddannelse 2014).

Constructions of masculinity and vocational habitus Media-generated masculinities of professional figures within the culinary sector are highly relevant to understanding the narratives – and especially the gender constructs – of male catering trainees, since these express a less explicit but nonetheless powerful hidden curriculum. Dominant symbolic and visual representations of masculinity can be regarded as mechanisms that set the framework for and support a hegemonic masculinity (Bureychak 2012, 141). This suggests that representations of celebrity chefs influence male catering trainees by illustrating particular, hegemonic, ideal types. Connell (2012) argues that only a few men perform and/or embody a prototypical, hegemonic masculinity in everyday contexts. But some fictional male characters or extraordinary male personalities (such as the successful celebrity chef ) can become a symbol of such hegemonic masculinity. The adult man’s body is staged discursively as a symbolic contrast to what is perceived as feminine, womanly, boyish and unmanly (Broch 2012).

While the concept of hegemonic masculinity may be criticised for being too narrowly determined and for ignoring competing masculinities, we still find this idealtype a useful concept to illustrate tensions in how trainees take up media portrayals of celebrity chefs in different ways and how this relates to gendered identities. When we refer to masculinity as a concept, three conditions are implied. Firstly, we are talking about masculinities in the plural, and we therefore mean that different masculinities are socially constructed and that perceptions of masculinity are associated with various social groups and cultures and can therefore coexist. Secondly, we consider masculinities as hierarchically constituted, which assumes that gender is placed in a social context where permanent struggles for hegemony take place and where some forms of masculinities are more dominant in relation to other forms of masculinities and femininities. Thirdly, we understand masculinities as collective characteristics: masculinities are cultural constructs or institutionalisations inflecting the individual’s attempts to construct an identity as male or female (Hjort and Nielsen 2003, 17).

Connell has studied groups of Australian men for whom the construction of masculinity is in crisis as their sexual, social or structural position conflicts with historical traditional ideas about hegemonic masculinity (2012, 90). An example of this is young men who are affected by structural unemployment and who are therefore in conflict with traditional notions of the man as the primary breadwinner. This potential crisis is not very remote from the conditions that male catering trainees in Denmark risk experiencing in a trade with high unemployment rates in a context of economic crisis. It may be particularly relevant to investigate structures and identifications with particular types of masculinities in such crisis situations, since these may lead to confrontations with classical hegemonic images or to new-idealisations thereof. Ensuing challenges to traditional perceptions of masculinity can result in men orienting themselves towards feminine values such as caring and empathy, while a new-idealisation can be observed as men who cultivate the hegemonic, welltrained and strong masculine body and emphasise aggression, confrontation and competition (Connell 2012, 123).

Building on this dual tendency, we draw here on a contrapuntal distinction between risky behaviour and compassionate rationality, inspired by a study of masculinity in rescue work (Weinestål, Bondestam, and Berg 2011). Exposing oneself to risk, experiencing risk or participating in violent situations is often linked to masculinity constructs. Based on the heroic figure as essential to masculinity constructs, firefighters, for example, must be strong, intelligent and brave. But this hero status also depends on exercising compassion to the victims they rescue. This compassionate rationality constitutes an essential counterpoint to risky behaviour. In the catering business, the concept of risk is relevant too, since working environments in professional kitchens are often characterised by a high tempo and by the handling of extremely hot objects and liquids, sharp knives and other tools that risk damaging the chef physically and mentally. On the other hand, compassionate rationality is represented by the care that the chef must take in preparing food nutritiously and hygienically.

Within this field of tensions and expectations about chef trainees doing masculinity in legitimate ways, we apply Colley et al.’s notion of ‘vocational habitus’ (2003).

This concept has been developed in respect of dynamic learning processes of becoming (a skilled worker) which are expressed in the unwritten or hidden curriculum, rather than the explicit curriculum. It is, therefore, relevant in analysing how

the young men in our study navigate between different expectations and narratives:

being willing to take risks and to show personal bodily strength and fortitude; but also talking about and showing compassion for others.

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