Culinary arts pedagogy: A critical enquiry into its knowledge, power and identity formation

Author: Adrian Woodhouse

Culinary arts pedagogy: A critical enquiry into its knowledge, power and identity formation

Adrian Woodhouse
13 November 2015

Woodhouse, A. (2015). Culinary arts pedagogy: A critical enquiry into its knowledge, power and identity formation. (A thesis submitted for the degree of Master of Professional Practice, Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand.) [2.695 MB]


This thesis has drawn inspiration and insight from my journeys into the professional cookery kitchens of haute cuisine, through to my current position as a Principal Lecturer on the Bachelor of Culinary Arts programme at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand. This is a philosophical enquiry and critique of the pedagogies and subsequent teaching and learning practices that underpin Western culinary arts education. It is through this enquiry that I will explore the question: what are the pedagogies that underpin culinary arts education? Using a critical perspective to explore this question, I hope to provide a differing lens on the role of power and knowledge in culinary arts education, and in turn, offer new pedagogical perspectives on both my own professional practice and those of the wider culinary arts education community of practice.

It is my intent that this thesis is a meeting ground where both academic and culinary communities respect their differing cultural perspectives. It is my lasting wish that this work be read by my community of practice so that it may contribute to this community in more meaningful ways than the certification of my academic knowledge. As an academic leader on a culinary programme, I am constantly torn between my academic and culinary identity and the cultures that each practice embraces. To remain respected within each practice I have to constantly morph my identity and language structures, whilst trying to find a balance between “whose knowledge is best”. As Palmer states, due to the unsocial nature of the culinary occupation, chefs view the world from a position of “us’ in the kitchen and “them” on the outside world (Palmer, Cooper, & Burns, 2010). According to Palmer et al. (2010, p. 322) 

Some readers may find the actions and language of the personal insights that appear at the beginning of each chapter challenging, but to present them any other way would devalue the authenticity of the experiences and the meta-cognition I hope to achieve in the supporting academic theory. It is through the collision of the culinary and academic worlds that I hope to engage both communities in critical reflective thought about their professional practice. It is at this time that I would like to remind the reader of the social theories proposed by French philosopher and sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. Bourdieu (1984) suggests that each of us operate within habitus of our various communities and as such we each bring certain lifestyles, values and perspectives to our work. In effect we have our own socially and culturally generated perspectives of the world and its reality. In his theory of reflexive sociology, Bourdieu reminds us that we need to be aware of our own views and bias to better understand the social reality of others (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992). As such behaviours that may seem unnatural to the reader are in essence not part of the social realities or cultural identity that the reader maybe accustomed to (Bourdieu, 1984). 

Keywords: culinary arts, critical theory, identity formation, Freire, reflexivity

Adrian Woodhouse's thesis was supervised by Richard Mitchell.


This thesis is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International.

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