INTERVIEW WITH A CHEF
This paper presents an interview with Chef S. B, an American chef who works in the private sector at a fairly upper scale guest ranch in an isolated area of Wyoming. Chef S.B. was selected for the interview because he was available (being a good friend of someone I know) and simply because I find the profession interesting. I expected that the chef would enjoy his profession.
Chef S. B. completed a ‘data sheet’ as to the location, benefits, salary and duties associated with his job. These data indicated that he lives on the ranch where he works in free private housing. The ranch is open year round; however, he gets two four week long vacation periods. He works full time, five days a week with two days off. The main job requirement is proficiency with the grill with all food being cooked to order. Chef S. B. works the dinner/evening shift and is responsible for everything from prep to clean up. His salary is well above the American medium income and he receives a good benefits package.
In addition to collecting data directly from Chef S. B., a database search using the word “chef” was also conducted with the search being confined primarily to studies of American chefs. The obtained literature informed that there is a growing trend in America for people to study culinary arts due to an increase in people eating out of the home (Borja, 2004: 37-39). Indeed, the demand for the profession is growing at such a rate that Reese (2004: 31-45) states that by 2014, it is expected that a total of 13.5 million workers will be needed for the growing restaurant and food-serving industry in America.
The basic method was the semi-structured interview using questions derived from the existing research on chefs and their job satisfaction. However, the interviewer was allowed the flexibility of asking questions that were not pre-written if answers provided in the interview seemed to warrant it. The semi structured interview was selected because according to Ragin (1994: 71-129), it allows for attention to be focused on a given issue and provides detailed information about that issue. The issue in this study focused on elements of the job which provided Chef S. B. with a sense of job satisfaction.
The interview was video-taped at a friend’s house. The text of the interview was transcribed and a content analysis was conducted to look for themes related to job satisfaction. Neuendorf (2001: 2-17) describes this method of analysis as one that focuses on determining the presence of certain words and concepts in written text for their relevance to certain preselected issues so as to make inferences about the issue or issues.
The themes and issues that were selected for the content analysis centered around job satisfaction. These were selected because a considerable portion of the literature on chefs consisted of studies regarding job satisfaction. Based on studies by Robinson (2005: 347-355) as well as Leschziner (2007: 78-102), the developed questions explored the occupational job satisfaction variables of creativity in cooking, skill required, working conditions and length of the working day, and the quality of relationships with kitchen staff and other chefs.
Findings, Analysis, and Conclusions
Chef S. B. felt very satisfied that he had the skills required to do the job. He said, however, that the working day was very long and he felt tired a good deal of the time. In fact, his lowest level of satisfaction was with the length of the working day. He described his relationships with kitchen staff and other chefs as ‘mostly good’ and ‘mostly satisfying’ although he said there were times when there was conflict.
The chef felt that he had a lot of freedom to be creative in his job and this satisfied him greatly. This particular finding is in line with Robinson (2005, 347-355) who found from his interviews with chefs that job satisfaction was highly predictable as a function of the amount of freedom chefs had to be creative. Robinson (347-350) also found that long hours of work were very dissatisfying to chefs but if the job was satisfying in other areas, they were able to overcome this. Thus, several of the findings of this study are in line with previous research.
In conclusion then, Chef S.B. found his profession to be a satisfying career. Thus, as I expected, the job was enjoyable to him. However, there were aspects of the job that were not as enjoyable as others.