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Occupational identity and culture: the case of Michelin-starred chefs

John Cooper (Business School, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)
Charalampos Giousmpasoglou (Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)
Evangelia Marinakou (London College of Hospitality and Tourism, University of West London, London, UK)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 8 May 2017




The purpose of this study is to conceptualise how the occupational identity and culture of chefs is constructed and maintained through both work and social interaction.


The study follows a qualitative interpretivist approach; in total, 54 unstructured, in-depth, face-to-face interviews were conducted with Michelin-starred chefs in Great Britain and Ireland.


Drawing upon the fieldwork, fresh insights into the social structures and processes which underpin the creation and maintenance of the occupational identity and culture of chefs are revealed in the chefs’ own words.

Research limitations/implications

This study generates empirical data that inform contemporary debates about the role of work in identity formation with particular emphasis on the induction–socialisation process. In addition, the findings of this study suggest that identity and culture are interrelated in the sense that the cultural components of an occupational culture operate to reinforce a sense of identity among its occupational members.

Practical implications

The findings suggest that Michelin-starred chefs have a strong occupational identity and culture. Strict rules and discipline are often used in kitchen brigades as a means of monitoring quality and maintaining the high standards of performance. The occupational socialisation of new members is a long and painful process that very often exceeds the limits of banter, and it is analogous to the military induction. The phenomenon of bullying and violence in commercial kitchens is identified as an unacceptable behaviour that needs to be eliminated. This can be achieved with changes in the education and training of the young chefs and the strict enforcement of the anti-bullying policies.


The understanding of chefs’ occupational identity and culture is critical for successful hospitality operations; nevertheless, this is an under-researched area. This study is unique in terms of scale and depth; it is expected to provide useful insights in both theoretical and practical perspective, regarding the formation of chefs’ identity and culture in organisational settings.



Cooper, J., Giousmpasoglou, C. and Marinakou, E. (2017), "Occupational identity and culture: the case of Michelin-starred chefs", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 29 No. 5, pp. 1362-1379.



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