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Research. Please help!

l
linz_e_moore Jan 6, 2008 06:02 PM

Fellow Chowhounders, I will soon be starting my thesis for my Masters of Arts Gastronomy, and was considering doing it on the topic "How Celebrity Chefs have influenced food and culture."

Any thoughts/opinions would be greatly appreciated!!

  1. Carrie 218 Jan 6, 2008 08:23 PM

    Quite honestly, I think for Master's investigation, your topic is a bit light and fluffy -- only because it has been such a fodder of discussion on chat boards for years. There is the potential for an extensive thesis *if* extensive cultural analysis is done but literary sources are going to be thin.

    That's just me...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Carrie 218
      maria lorraine Jan 8, 2008 10:35 PM

      Agree on the lack of grit and fluffliness and applaud Carrie for her straight truth.
      And the topic is too big and unfocused. Do you mean JC and her impact, or the RR phenomenon? Consider that your research and academic references will have to be extensive. What do your advisors have to say about this topic?

    2. fruglescot Jan 6, 2008 09:30 PM

      Check out the thread on Chowhound...... "Is food creation art?
      There are some fine examples amongst the intelligent responses

      1. Sam Fujisaka Jan 7, 2008 04:54 AM

        You have a fun task ahead of you. How serious do you need to be?

        On the one hand, what data do you want to use? How will you document that such change has taken place? You'll have to entertain the possibility that CCs have had no significant effect on food and culture. How will you measure their influence? And attibution will be a problem: If you could first track an increase in fearless home cooking of French food (or dropping chickens on the floor) in the US, would that be because of Julia Child or wider interests in food, or to what degree both? Or have food and culture changes taken place in part because of wider, cheap air travel allowing people to have more contact with others. Or to immigration and more "ethnic" restaurants? What about indicators? The proportion of people knowing about the Maillard reaction may have something to do with Graham Kerr.

        At an intermediate level, you could just ask a large sample of people how they've been influenced by CCs. I'd wear a light blue hooded sweatshirt in the kitchen--if I had one and if it were ever cold in the kitchen--a la Jamie Oliver. More seriously, you could ask all culinary school and MS Gas students what influenced them--but that wouldn't necessarily mean that food and culture in the US has been similarly influenced.

        Or, finally, I guess you could install hidden cameras in people's kitchens to find out how often they yell, "Bam! Let's kick it up a notch!" or "Yummo!"

        3 Replies
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka
          littlegreenpea Jan 7, 2008 08:51 AM

          Don't forget RR's "EVOO", which apparently now has an entry in the Oxford American Dictionary.
          http://www.chow.com/grinder/1479

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
            m
            mordacity Jan 7, 2008 12:19 PM

            I don't kick things up a notch, and yum-o will never cross my lips, but I do occasionally yell Bam! when I have cooked something I'm especially proud of. In fact, this expression is leaching into other parts of my life too, as in: "I got an A on my paper! Bam!"

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka
              i
              Indy 67 Jan 7, 2008 02:58 PM

              Oral history is a perfectly valid method of collecting data. Studs Turkel has made a career of writing social history using oral history technique. His book, HARD TIMES: An Oral History of the Great Depression is arguably the most powerful book ever written about that period in American history. It seems to me that the OP could do a satisfactory job writing a master's thesis using Oral History technique. Of course, the OP will have to approach this in an organized way. The OP could identify some celebrities chefs through time (e.g. The Galloping Gourmet [AKA Graham Kerr], Julia Child, Emeril, etc) and locate people who will sit for an interview about said celebrity's impact -- or lack thereof -- on their interest in food/cooking technique. Interviewing the professors in the Gastronomy program would be another good pool of interview subjects. I think Julia Child's long-time editor recently wrote a book. Just asking for reactions to the topic on Chowhound doesn't seem adequate.

              Note to OP: If you don't know what oral history is or how to conduct oral history inteviews, I recommend you get a copy of LIKE IT WAS (ISBN 0-915924-12-9). Although this is written for secondary school students, it is a thorough explanation of the process.

            2. b
              BlueHerons Jan 7, 2008 04:58 AM

              I think it is the opposite.

              An unknown becomes a celebrity chef because of something innovative they do.

              Example; Racheal Ray became famous because she brought food down to the common person. She made olive oil a staple to people who would have otherwise thought it 'exotic'.

              Emeril brought Cajun/Creole to the masses.

              1 Reply
              1. re: BlueHerons
                cayjohan Jan 7, 2008 11:50 AM

                BlueHerons, blast away at me if you must :-) , but I'm feeling a little testy today and am so responding:

                Rachael Ray was always making the food of the common person, i.e., burgers, chili, etcetera. Olive oil was obscenely readily available on my big box store shelves before RR ever, ever hit the 'waves. Not exotic.

                Ditto on Emeril for part: Cajun was always for the masses, Creole to a lesser extent, though it really is a fusion cuisine.

                I don't think there's anything innovative these celebrity chefs do. I DO, however, salute them in that they get otherwise disinterested people excited about cooking, but that's not innovation...that's marketing.

                $0.02,
                Cay

              2. l
                linz_e_moore Jan 7, 2008 07:38 AM

                Thanks for all your opinions. I'm still trying to come up with a topic, and for some reason, I am having a total brain freeze. I know this topic might seem "light and fluffy", but enrollment in culinary schools has more than quadrupled in the last five years. I know a lot of contributing factors play into this, but you can't help but think that the rise of the food related reality shows and the such have played into this somehow. I just thought it was an interesting topic. I'm still definately searching. It doesn't have to be that serious...one topic, not mine, is about the attititude toward screwtop wine.
                I'm trying to brainstorm. If anyone has any interesting thoughts, I would definitely appreciated hearing them. You are all very intelligent people! Thanks again! I'm open for ANY suggestions at this point!

                3 Replies
                1. re: linz_e_moore
                  c
                  charlesbois Jan 7, 2008 07:57 AM

                  To the wine producers around the world, the screwtop is of utmost importance, as it is the best way to keep the O2 out of the wine, but at the same time a perceived symbol of declasse product. So that might not be as light and fluffy as you think.

                  As far as your topic, the cookware industry and the cookbook industry thinks the impact celebrity chefs have on the market is extremely serious. You might want to investigate just how much of the market share celebrity cookware and celebrity cookbooks have. I have to believe it is a fair share and growing...

                  1. re: charlesbois
                    l
                    linz_e_moore Jan 7, 2008 10:52 AM

                    charlesbois, I apologize if I offended you. I certainly didn't mean to imply that the particular topic was "light and fluffy" No offense was intended.

                    1. re: linz_e_moore
                      c
                      charlesbois Jan 7, 2008 10:56 AM

                      Ha, no I'm not offended! (takes a LOT to offend me!) I was just commenting that while others may think these topics are "light and fluffy" the respective industries are extremely serious about these matters. So what may appear to be a "fluff" matter to your random chowhound may actually be not only a serious matter, but a matter that careers can hinge on. in fact, I thought YOU might be offended that people thought your idea was light and fluffy. Just goes to show how the written word, especially on internet boards, can be misinterpreted.

                2. danhole Jan 7, 2008 08:37 AM

                  You should look at this thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/463930

                  It shows how passionately people (CH'ers) feel about their chefs/cooks. There is a lot of praise and a lot of ridicule. It shows how some of the stars have dumbed down the industry and how some have lifeted it up. Very interesting, and long, thread. Good luck! This may give you a different direction to go in.

                  1. Miss Needle Jan 7, 2008 08:40 AM

                    I've really noticed the celebrity chef thing hitting the chains -- ie. Batali selling his wares at Costco, Rocco's Bertolli pasta and Tyler Florence's Applebee (?) menu. That's where the money is.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Miss Needle
                      cayjohan Jan 7, 2008 12:02 PM

                      MissNeedle, I think you've hit on something.

                      "Food" used to be the commodity - think salt, cod, grain for which the Roman Empire hungered. Now we are making the commodity the "chef,' or even more odd, the chef's cookware ("seven pieces available at your local (insert dept. store name) for 55% off retail until next Saturday...") In my historical studies, I have always believed in the advice "follow the money," which Miss Needle hit upon. If one must speak of celebrity chefs, I think this avenue of inquiry might be quite interesting and relevant to the topic you proposed.

                      best of luck - let us know, as you are NOT asking for homework done as others have, but doing your own research in an interested community.

                      Cay

                      1. re: cayjohan
                        cayjohan Jan 7, 2008 12:04 PM

                        Sorry - bad edit - my response was to Miss Needle's post, but my comments for the OP.
                        Cay

                    2. Caroline1 Jan 7, 2008 09:28 AM

                      Interesting subject, but... for me the problem is where to start? From Julia Child forward? Maybe. But how much reference material is available? And for me, reference materiial would be the key. So I'd probably change it to something like a long overview food in general, as in food in the 20th century, or from Roman times to now, or I'd have to go with factors that facilitate change in a more compact time frame such as the impact of television in delivering celebrity chefs to the general public.

                      From a personal viewpoint, I find the history of chefs and the general public's perception of "great food" in the 20th century interesting. You go from Careme and Escoffier at the opening years, the Great Depression and World War II in the middle years, to today's "food mileu." It's also interesting to look at the 20th century by decades. Those opening years were absolute decadence by any standard, with huge sugar sculptures (architectural masterpieces) as centerpieces for the banquets of the rich with nine course meals pretty much standard entertaining fair. Champaign and scaled down excess of the 20s, mostly without the sugar architecture (I think ice sculptures caught on about then), but plenty of "black tie affairs." Then with the stock market crash came Depression Food. Chicken pot pies for a dime, hash and eggs, chipped beef in cream sauce, Welsh rarebit, and biscuits and gravy. World War II brought food rationing, and Spam was a treat! War generated money in American pockets, so there was a lot of money to spend on food in the U.S., just not much available food to spend it on, so Depression Food became War Effort Food. And then the war ended and TV came in with TV dinners, and prepackaged foods. In the 60s, the Kennedy Administration (most importantly Jackie) brought class to American dining, her favorite dessert being creme brulet. And that really paved the way psychologically for Julia Child. Which eventually evolved into what we have today: a gazillion cable channels with at least one "celebrity" chef per channel. There's hardly enough good food to go around!

                      The longer overview of food from ancient times to the present is equally as interesting, and possibly a bit easier to garner documtation on. The food of the ancients, the great beef feasts of the Greeks, with fat, gristle and bones burned as offeerings to the gods. (Never could figure out what the gods found so distasteful about a tenderloin!) The "classical" Romans with their vomitoria and rancid fish sauce to make use of the vomitoria easier, all in the name of true gluttony. Plus the Romans introduced (and practiced) the concept that no one should go hungry: everyone had free daily bread courtesy of the state. Lots of booze being invented in the Dark and Middle Ages, and the Rennaisance. Feasts, the invention of forks, all sorts of fascinating stuff you probably wouldn't have to go further than the internet to document. Do you have ANY idea how much easier life is today simply because you don't have to go to a library and cart home a ton of books for a research project!

                      In either case, it's not quite how Celebrity Chefs have influenced food and culture. I think that's rather a can of worms because it's so very difficult to document without a whole lot of heavy original research on your part. Here on the Chow boards, it APPEARS that CC have a lot of influence, but I'm not so sure that is true for all segments of the population. I met a woman the other day who came for a job interview, and she didn't know what a green onion is! Ain't much chance she has a clue about a RR 30 minute meal. She probably thinks an Iron Chef is someone who cooks in cast iron pots. So... Because this topic will require so much "virgin research," I will say to you in the hated words that used to be said to me: "You might want to think about saving this for a doctoral thesis." '-)

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Caroline1
                        l
                        linz_e_moore Jan 7, 2008 09:35 AM

                        Thanks so much for your response, Caroline 1. How insightful. I'm also considering something on how Food Network has influenced pop culture. Launching these celebrity chefs, reality shows, cookware, cookbooks, etc.

                        The Juggernaut that is Food Network.

                        LoL, I can see it now!

                        1. re: linz_e_moore
                          Caroline1 Jan 7, 2008 12:16 PM

                          Now, THAT sounds like a fun one! Do you have a limitation as to length? Sounds like at least 20 volumes to me. '-)

                          Whatever you decide on, enjoy!

                          Caroline

                      2. jfood Jan 7, 2008 09:52 AM

                        First bit of advice on writing a Master's Thesis is do not try to boil the ocean. Your topic sounds very interesting but is also sounds overly ambitious and broad.

                        - "Influence Culture" - what does that mean, more people eating, more people eating at QSR's, sales at Mortons versus McD? People are fatter and that is a result of RR or Batali? Jfood struggles with this concept on a basic level.
                        - How would you prove there was causality versus correlation? What is the independent variable? The Celebrity Chef and the dependent variable obisity? or the sales of organic beef or is this in reverse? Did the CC influence Society or did society influence the CC? Jfood struggles on how you obtain empirical data to support and run regressions to support the causality
                        - Then you get into the definition of CC. Is this only a FN phenom or does PBS play a role, i.e. Chris Kimbell. How do you isolate which chef, if any, influenced the data if they are in or out of the definition
                        - The influence on food - Food has been changing since the caveman roasted the T-Rex (and Fred Flinstone was the Charlie Palmer of the Day). How do you rationalize the effect of today's CC versus yesterday and how does the advantages of modern technology overstep the influence of the CC. Is Viking and home stoves more influential than RR?

                        Jfood can list a bunch more since the topic, at present, is very broad. Please try to narrow the focus, similar to Caroline1's comments. At present the topic sounds like a High School Essay or one that might be sent in a college application. It's a Master's degree you are shooting for, and to quote one of your subject matter experts you gotta "kick it up a notch."

                        Give some thought and re-post and jfood is sure you will get lots of guidance.
                        Good luck.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: jfood
                          Sam Fujisaka Jan 7, 2008 10:25 AM

                          Regressions don't necessarily estabilish causality. They give the relative importance of each of a range of selected variables. The problem of attribution is always present when correlations are found.

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                            jfood Jan 7, 2008 10:44 AM

                            sorry sam. jfood was typing too quickly. there are many other statistical tools that are utilized to represent causality, correlation, partial causality with partial derivatives and lots of other boring stuff that adds to the weight of the thesis.

                            jfood's favorite is bodies turn into maggots when they die.

                        2. l
                          linz_e_moore Jan 7, 2008 10:42 AM

                          I would never use the ideas of another person to pass off as my own, I'm not stupid, as a person who would do that is. I simply asked for opinions. As I am in the beginning of research, any ideas are welcome, however "broad" my subject may be. I have not committed to anything, I am RESEARCHING. Anyone who thinks otherwise is incredibly misinformed. Maybe I am ambitious. I can think of worse things to be.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: linz_e_moore
                            jfood Jan 7, 2008 11:34 AM

                            L

                            There was a thread a few weeks ago in which a culinary student asked the boards for assistance in answering questions he received in his class for him to present as his own. That OP received from fairly harsh criticism of the effort.

                            It was that thread jfood was referring to, not offering any accusations on your "research.". Sorry for any hurt feelings. Jfood just edited his response above to exclude.

                            1. re: jfood
                              l
                              linz_e_moore Jan 7, 2008 04:23 PM

                              jfood
                              thank you for your response. that student should have been criticized! apologies if i appear testy, i think i am testy. i also have the flu. ha! i appreciate all your help, and always enjoy reading your posts. you are very insightful.

                              1. re: linz_e_moore
                                jfood Jan 7, 2008 05:15 PM

                                little jfood finished her thesis last year and she became a tad testy with her old man as well, goes with the terrotory, but when she saw the "A" it was major hug for dad time.

                                Pick a subject you have passion in, write it, ask for honest input and have a combination of thick skin and an open ear. then decide what you want and go for it.

                                1. re: jfood
                                  l
                                  linz_e_moore Jan 8, 2008 09:51 AM

                                  thanks a lot jfood. i'm developing a thick skin. i asked for opinions, i shouldn't be so testy. thanks again, i appreciate all of your input, positive or negative.

                                  1. re: linz_e_moore
                                    c
                                    ctscorp Mar 27, 2008 08:38 AM

                                    linz -- I'm in the process of writing a doctoral dissertation, and some of the most helpful advice I got was the direction to narrow my research question, and also to allow the research methodology to inform the questions. So, you could, say, write an oral history of FN's influence, or you could cull your data from message boards such as this one, or you could hang out at a restaurant and do an ethnographic study... I guess the point is that the topic can start out broad but that the thesis should reflect not only the content data but the methodology. Academic rigor can apply to even the "fluffiest" of topics; read "Dishing it Out," by Greta Paules -- it was her anthropology dissertation; it's about waitresses; and it's, by all means, an "academic" text. I think there's a lot to discover in your OP's idea, and it can be through highly focused and specific research that you narrow it down. Does that make sense? I've got "dissertation brain," which I think might look -- and smell -- like the inside of durian fruit....

                          2. m
                            moh Jan 7, 2008 11:11 AM

                            In a past life I used to do film studies...

                            An important consideration is the effect of television, film, Internet and other media on the dissemination of food culture. I actually think that this topic is not as much about food and gastronomy as it is about the profound effect that media has had on the accessibility of knowledge. This might make a great dissertation for a film studies/pop culture major. Just a thought! Well, I'm just being a devil's advocate. The joys of interdisciplinary academia... It'll be good for the Masters of Arts Gastronomy too. And if I were on the promotion committee, I would look forward to reading this. Good luck!

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: moh
                              l
                              Lizard Jan 8, 2008 02:35 AM

                              Funny, I was just about to mention the need to conduct research in film and media studies regarding Food Network (there is a decent amount these days) in order to better understand the field, the literature, and the potential methodologies, all of which are crucial in writing a thesis that is both doable and worthwhile.

                              Also, if Linz e wants to use Chowhound as an arena of study, there are also works in Anthropology and in Media Studies on using the Internets as subject.

                              1. re: Lizard
                                m
                                moh Jan 8, 2008 09:01 AM

                                Ah ha... As I said, film studies was in a very distant past life for me...

                                I'll have to wander into the library some time and look up the Food Network literature! I think it would be very interesting! Thanks very much for the info.

                                I do sometimes wonder what my life would be like had I continued in the Film Studies pathway...

                              2. re: moh
                                maria lorraine Jan 8, 2008 10:42 PM

                                >>>>I actually think that this topic is not as much about food and gastronomy as it is about the profound effect that media has had on the accessibility of knowledge.

                                Moh,
                                I was about to say that the thesis about CCs (especially IRT current CCs) isn't as much about food as it is about television. Television drives the information, not the other way
                                around. Television and profits. So the topic isn't as food driven as it might be. JMO. M.

                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                  l
                                  Lizard Jan 9, 2008 12:05 AM

                                  Maria, you're saying what's been on my mind as well (see my above response to moh/linz e). This could be a communications or media studies (or cultural studies or critical studies) thesis, but even then would need a more focused research question, combined with a theoretical framework and methodology. Profits are motive, but that does not preclude other influences and effects: a study of the political economy of the celebrity chef starts to narrow the topic. Or at least ground it and start minimising the risks of broad unprovable statements.

                                  But really, without a sufficient proposal, I've little to offer here (plus I have a stack of others to get through so the fact that I'm here? Oh well...)

                                  Linz e, have you been in touch with your adviser? What is s/he saying? And congrats on working on the thin skin: if you're going for a graduate degree a thick skin is definitely needed!

                              3. gatorfoodie Jan 7, 2008 11:21 AM

                                Check out Michael Ruhlman's "The Reach of a Chef". I bought it a few months ago but haven't been able to get into it yet. From what I remember, the whole book is about your potential thesis topic.

                                1. m
                                  MakingSense Jan 7, 2008 11:23 AM

                                  Hmmm. You might have it backwards. Could socioeconomic factors, mass media and changing food delivery systems make and break "celebrity chefs"?
                                  More people probably know Dale Earnhardt than Ming Tsai, Thomas Keller,and Alice Waters combined. Rachel Ray or Emeril may be another story...

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: MakingSense
                                    m
                                    mordacity Jan 7, 2008 12:16 PM

                                    Good point. One could argue that celebrity chefs are a result of a society with lots of leisure time and disposable income, allowing food to transcend its origins as fuel consumed in order to do other things in the minds of the population at large rather than a select wealthy elite.

                                    1. re: mordacity
                                      Gio Jan 7, 2008 05:37 PM

                                      Or one could argue that celebrity chefs are manufactured by TV pruducers for entertainment only and have influence by virtue of their ability to capture the audience. I'm not saying that it's a good thing, only that it may happen.

                                      1. re: Gio
                                        m
                                        MakingSense Jan 7, 2008 09:08 PM

                                        Excellent point: They have to be able to capture an audience! So many of the ones that are lambasted on CH get great ratings and make it beyond the Food Network to the larger audiences of the network shows and even do commercials because they appeal to a much broader audience than just food savvy viewers. They entertain. They make food enjoyable and accessible to anybody who can defrost or open a jar. First and foremost, they sell.

                                        I think to look at this objectively it is necessary to forget whether we love or hate them, only that it happens - just as you say.

                                  2. scuzzo Jan 7, 2008 09:11 PM

                                    Here's my little bit. I would enjoy a thesis about the link between preconceived ideas and perception. If you hear enough people say this new dish at such and such place is the best ever, you go in with that expectation in mind, and that, I believe, heavily influences how you actually experience the dish. Chef's on The Food Network seem to be chosen for their ability to "sell" what they are doing, which affects how others experience the food. Another example is Haagen Daz icecream. Marketing people have convinced many that it's "European" and therefore high quality or exotic or special or all of the above. I believe Haagen Daz is actually a Pillsbury product, or another well known American company. I once served a dish with raw acorn squash "roses", which were a garnish. I had reputation as a good cook, the garnishes looked awesome and people inhaled them!!! I was shocked that folks ate them, but they all thought they were good. Their minds were heavily influenced before they knew what they were eating. Mind over meals, baby. Discuss.

                                    30 Replies
                                    1. re: scuzzo
                                      Caroline1 Jan 7, 2008 09:30 PM

                                      'Scuze me, Mr. Scuzzo, but WHY do you think "garnishes" should not be eaten? "Decorations" are not to be eaten, such as the candles on a cake, but garnishes -- parsley, radish roses, whatever -- are often eaten. Sprig of thyme? A decoration in my book, not a garnish. :-)

                                      1. re: Caroline1
                                        scuzzo Jan 7, 2008 09:51 PM

                                        Do you eat the watermelon boat??? You're missing my point entirely. I'm trying to make a point about perception and experience.

                                        1. re: scuzzo
                                          Caroline1 Jan 7, 2008 11:20 PM

                                          Didn't miss the point. I agree with the point; that people often "taste" their expectations more acutely than they taste their food. But maybe you missed my point. Obviously YOU intended your squash roses as decoration, but your guests percieved them as garnish. A watermelon boat is a decoration.

                                          1. re: Caroline1
                                            Catskillgirl Jan 8, 2008 12:05 PM

                                            Butting in - I think scuzzo meant that he was amazed that people "inhaled" acorn squash in any form at all - that many people who had not tried it previously would reflexively say "no, I don't like acorn squash".

                                            1. re: Catskillgirl
                                              Caroline1 Jan 8, 2008 12:52 PM

                                              Yes. There was never any doubt in my mind that that is what he meant,

                                              1. re: Caroline1
                                                l
                                                Lizard Jan 9, 2008 12:06 AM

                                                I thought the surprise came from the attempt to inhale, rather than eat the food :)

                                        2. re: Caroline1
                                          maria lorraine Feb 6, 2008 12:02 AM

                                          'Scuze me, Mr. Scuzzo, but WHY do you think "garnishes" should not be eaten? "Decorations" are not to be eaten, such as the candles on a cake, but garnishes -- parsley, radish roses, whatever -- are often eaten. Sprig of thyme? A decoration in my book, not a garnish. :-)

                                          In culinary competitions (and this seems to carry through in professional food service at a certain level), the garnish or decoration must ALWAYS be edible, so a twig of thyme would not be acceptable. The other rule is that the garnish or decoration must also be one of the flavors of the dish, not an extraneous element. In general, I've found these two rules to be widely followed.

                                        3. re: scuzzo
                                          m
                                          MakingSense Jan 7, 2008 09:51 PM

                                          There has been some actual controlled research on this. Cornell? Same identical meal, same service, same wine - BUT they changed the labels on the wine from one seating to the next. In one, it was labeled from Napa Valley and the wine and the entire meal got high marks with the diners lingering over their meals. In the second seating, the label on the wine was changed to another state that has no reputation for wine (something like Wyoming) and both the wine and meal - identical to the other seating - got lower marks - and the diners finished up and left more quickly.
                                          People make many judgments based on perception and preconceived notions. Screw caps on wine may be scientifically better but they scream rotgot to many people. Brown eggs vs. white eggs. European sounding names for American products. You're right, Scuzzo, it's often all in your head.

                                          1. re: MakingSense
                                            cayjohan Jan 7, 2008 10:04 PM

                                            Just detailed on NPR - California wines versus, I think, North Dakota wines (labelwise, as the wines were all the same). HUGE difference in the meal satisfaction reported. Can't remember if it was on "Splendid Table" or another NPR show - try the website for more.
                                            Perception IS truly an issue in our..well...PERCEPTION. :-)

                                            Cay

                                            Cay

                                            1. re: MakingSense
                                              SweetPea Jan 8, 2008 03:04 AM

                                              I agree. I have to monitor myself in the grocery store for anything identified as "Tuscany". I want those products because of what that word means to me on an emotional level. If it says "Tuscany" I reach for it.

                                              1. re: MakingSense
                                                danhole Jan 9, 2008 07:23 AM

                                                And to prove that it is all in your head - I ate chicken salad made, by my mom, for years. I was a teenager before I found out, after ordering chicken salad at a restaurant, that what I had been eating was tuna salad! I was baffled about the flavor in the chicken salad, and asked her to try it - was it a bad batch? Then she told me the truth, but if she had told me before that, that she was feeding me tuna, I would not have touched it! Her "Ham" salad was actually made from bologna, but that's a whole other story!

                                                1. re: danhole
                                                  scuzzo Jan 9, 2008 08:22 AM

                                                  Your story is great, and further proof on the effect of preconceived ideas affecting the experience. Very funny.

                                              2. re: scuzzo
                                                maplesugar Jan 7, 2008 10:02 PM

                                                Raw acorn squash, however beautifully presented, would not, in my book, be palatable.

                                                1. re: maplesugar
                                                  scuzzo Jan 7, 2008 10:10 PM

                                                  I agree completely!

                                                  The garnish by the way... Slice acorn squash along the "equator". Take a carrot peeler to one of the cut edges so the point of the peeler points the "center of the earth" and cut ribbons of squash. Hope I'm describing this well. You get a ribbon of gold with one curvy edge with a thin strip of the green outer skin. Twist the ribbon into roses. They look like gold roses with green edges to the petals. I thought they looked pretty amazing. I wouldn't have eaten them, but people inhaled them! But I knew what they were, and the others did not. Which underscores my point. It's all or mostly in the head!

                                                  1. re: scuzzo
                                                    Sam Fujisaka Jan 8, 2008 03:24 AM

                                                    Agricultural and food systems anthropologists are interested in food preferences and perceptions. An example of which is our work on improved micronutrient content of major crops: we have to pay close attention to taste (obviously), color (in the case of maize and beans), stickiness (rice), cooking time, aroma, suitability to make things like tortillas or bread, as well as a range of agronomic characteristics.

                                                    Closer to home, I've served beef stroganoff using chicken hearts and Virginia baked ham using smoked capybara--people were convinced until I had to convince them otherwise.

                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                      m
                                                      mordacity Jan 8, 2008 05:03 AM

                                                      Capybara? Really? Where do you get such a thing?

                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                        Gio Jan 8, 2008 09:05 AM

                                                        Sam, were they glad you told them? OTOH I suppose that capybara would be an alternative protein in some countries and a delicacy in others.

                                                        1. re: Gio
                                                          Sam Fujisaka Jan 8, 2008 09:42 AM

                                                          mordacity & gio, smoked capybara meat is sold in the open-air market in Pucallpa, Peru (in the Amazon). We had a research office there. I steamed it and seved it with a fruit sauce. Quite convincing. It really was like a good smoked ham--even if actually the world's largest rodent; and everyone loved it even after finding out what it was. But, then, everyone there was used to eating Amazon foods (albeit no one had previously known that smoked capaybara was available).

                                                      2. re: scuzzo
                                                        s
                                                        soupkitten Jan 8, 2008 11:49 AM

                                                        actually a lot of hard winter squashes are edible raw, it's just that people don't realize they are! the skin is also edible and nutritious, similar to the skin of a cucumber-- particularly if you scored a fresh squash grown in healthy soil, it could have been sweet enough-- and the presentation you describe would have mitigated any tough texture issue, just leaving the taste of the raw squash-- the fact that your diners didn't know what it was worked to your advantage in this case, they just tasted the delicious, sweet raw squash and raved about it! reminds me of the time i gave a fellow, visiting chef a sample of a locally grown "sweetmeat" variety squash, & he asked me what kind of melon it was!

                                                    2. re: scuzzo
                                                      l
                                                      linz_e_moore Jan 8, 2008 09:56 AM

                                                      Interesting idea. That was something similar to another idea I had, about how restaurant reviews influence peoples tastes and decisions to visit a restaurant. My mom told me that Sam's Choice potato chips are made by Lay's and cost a lot less, but which sells more?

                                                      1. re: linz_e_moore
                                                        danhole Jan 9, 2008 07:26 AM

                                                        Now that reminds me of the "I hate private labels" thread going around! Amazing what fancy graphics, packaging and cost make us think something is really better than the plain packages and lower prices. It's all in the marketing.

                                                        1. re: danhole
                                                          m
                                                          MakingSense Jan 9, 2008 08:03 AM

                                                          Have you seen this classic Penn and Teller restaurant clip? They serve tarted-up junk food to people in a fancy restaurant who think they're eating fancy food and drinking expensive wine! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9J1b3...

                                                          1. re: MakingSense
                                                            danhole Jan 9, 2008 08:20 AM

                                                            That is just too funny! I love things like that, where they take a proclaimed snob, and put them in the hot seat!

                                                            1. re: MakingSense
                                                              Miss Needle Jan 9, 2008 08:48 AM

                                                              Hilarious!

                                                              1. re: MakingSense
                                                                Sam Fujisaka Jan 9, 2008 09:17 AM

                                                                Fantastic (I would have used what I thought was my patented word, "hilarious", but the patent seems to have run out).

                                                                1. re: MakingSense
                                                                  jfood Jan 9, 2008 09:56 AM

                                                                  That was cul-kicking. Thank you so much MakingSense.

                                                                  1. re: MakingSense
                                                                    Sam Fujisaka Jan 9, 2008 11:48 AM

                                                                    My friends have learned to watch out for the fake vs real that I sometimes serve. Although I would never use canned soups (ref to substitutes for cream of mushroom soup on a simultaneous thread), I'll sometimes make a fast "bechemel" using corn starch, milk, and a minute of doctoring up... or will spend hours on something like a real allemande.

                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                      m
                                                                      MakingSense Jan 9, 2008 12:11 PM

                                                                      Do your friends really care as long as it tastes good? And it's not crap? Mine would probably just laugh since I usually do everything from scratch.

                                                                      1. re: MakingSense
                                                                        Sam Fujisaka Jan 9, 2008 12:49 PM

                                                                        They love it. I do everything from scratch as well, but there are drastic shortcuts. My friends enjoy learning how to do things both the hard way and the easy way.

                                                              2. re: scuzzo
                                                                meatn3 Feb 6, 2008 09:04 PM

                                                                Haagan Daz was created by an individual, not associated with any of the big boys. There was once a fascinating documentary on tv about ice cream & they devoted a good chunk of time to how Haagan Daz was started & it's importance in that industry. Here is a little info:
                                                                http://www.haagen-dazs.com/company/hi...

                                                              3. k
                                                                Kagey Jan 10, 2008 03:15 AM

                                                                Not that you need more advice, and I haven't had time to read all the responses, but I think that the effect of celebrity chefs here in the UK has been fascinating. I wonder: do celebrity chefs exist in countries other than the US and the UK?

                                                                Of late, celebs like Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, etc., have had loads of impact on how people in the UK look at food, and how British food is perceived all over the world. And the impact has gone beyond mere food and culture--Jamie sparked a national debate about school lunches. Hugh is currently on a push against industrial meat production and battery farming.

                                                                Obviously, these people have a more 'trickle down' effect if anything--they appeal to and are mainly watched by affluent people, but if they're having an effect on what people are buying and on what's available on supermarket shelves (and I'd argue that they do), then it might be something interesting to look at.

                                                                1. a
                                                                  auberginegal Mar 26, 2008 09:30 AM

                                                                  I am interested to learn more about the Masters in Gastronomy, which university you are taking it from, how you have found it thus far etc. I'd really love to find out more from you...I I'm sure you are busy with your thesis, but would really appreciate it if you could send me an email? I promise not to bug you too much :)

                                                                  1. ktmoomau Mar 29, 2008 08:49 AM

                                                                    I think celebrity chefs have helped to bring more attention to food in general. I watch a lot more cooking shows than I used to. I have gotten better at using ingredients I wouldn't use after learning about them on TV. I also think that people pay more attention to where they are eating out and appreciate the art of cooking more than they used to.

                                                                    Of course it flows with our culture. We used to do dinner parties and learn to cook in clubs in classes. With Americans being more isolationist aka Bowling Alone style and etc people now learn these talents less from friends and family and more from TV. I think it has mirrored our society morfing into more of a experience and isolated culture. But I haven't studied the issue so who knows!

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