Celebrity Chefs and the Social Construction of Taste in Contemporary British Society

Lengyel, Ariane (2023) Celebrity Chefs and the Social Construction of Taste in Contemporary British Society. Doctoral thesis, University of West London.

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This thesis examines how celebrity chefs have become an integral part of contemporary
British culture through television and the media, serving as arbiters of taste and cultural
intermediaries. As a figure of contemporary culture, celebrity chefs reflect shifting attitudes
toward cooking, eating, ethics, consumption, class, and culinary capital.
Three paradigms were used to examine the construction of taste. Based on an
anthropological and structuralist perspective, the first theory proposes that taste is culturally
shaped and socially controlled. A second approach asserts that taste is influenced by
external factors and political and economic changes. Finally, a post-modern approach,
places the individual at the centre of the construction of taste.
Using a case study approach, the study developed a template initially based on the review
of literature which was then overlaid with the additional themes that emerged from the
scrutiny of chosen television shows and cookbooks of four celebrity chefs: Jamie Oliver,
Gordon Ramsay, Mary Berry and Nigella Lawson. The themes that emerged are: paradigms
of the construction of taste, class, capital, habitus, food as identity, lifestyle, chefs and the
media, gender roles and persona, education, civic and moral discourse, foodporn,
authenticity, legitimacy and expertise, professionalism, ethnicity and culture.
The key findings of the study found that the interpretation of the texts showed that the
influence of the chefs can be understood as key factor in understanding the social construct
of taste in modern British society. This study has shown that both the books and the television
shows contain recursive themes that enable the chefs to act as cultural intermediaries by
influencing beliefs about food, taste, class, and gender. It is these messages that in turn
shape the tastes of their audiences. This thesis has added to the existing body of knowledge
by explicitly positioning the celebrity chefs as co-producers of taste and cultural identity.
Potential research directions could include interrogations on audience reception and identity,
empowerment and accessibility, authenticity and cultural appropriation as well as values and
attitudes. The research can assist practitioners in harnessing the popularity and appeal of
the chefs. Restaurants should strike a balance between providing premium experiences and
ensuring affordability in order to appeal to a wider audience. They can also use the influence
of the chefs in marketing and development of new products and services. To prevent
unauthorised appropriation of recipes, practitioners must emphasise the importance of
context and sensitivity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Identifier: 10.36828/xvqy0595
Subjects: Hospitality and tourism > Culinary arts
Hospitality and tourism > Hospitality
Depositing User: Marc Forster
Date Deposited: 22 Dec 2023 15:59
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2024 07:23
URI: https://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10595


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