Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
Samuel H. Yamashita
©2021 Lindsay M Chu
Throughout history, food and our relationship with it has had numerous implications. Indeed, humans have consumed food not only as sustenance, but also as ritual and as a marker of status and social hierarchy. Though food and the dissemination of culinary practices have greatly diversified in the past century, food and the culinary methods required to make it remain relevant to our understanding of contemporary society, as popular culinary practices and trends reveal our preferences, beliefs, ideals, and aspirations. While there are numerous ways to analyze the cultural impact of food in the current era, this work focuses on food of Los Angeles’s leading chef-auteurs who, through their cuisine, restaurants, and interactions with their audience, enforce a specific set of ideologies in the metropolitan area. My thesis centers on the questions: Can we discern a specific Los Angeles ideology and culinary discourse by examining the city’s prominent restaurants and chefs? And if so, how does this Los Angeles culinary field reflect or alter the beliefs and priorities of the local population? Finally, how does the Los Angeles culinary field and its discourse change under stressful, uncertain circumstances such as a global pandemic, and what does this say about its future?
My thesis reveals how a specific city such as Los Angeles can create a distinctive culinary discourse that both informs and is informed by the city’s local communities and diverse inhabitants. While it has been shown that people’s perspectives, opinions and beliefs inform their community’s cuisine, I argue that in the contemporary era, the inverse also occurs. Analyzing chefs, their restaurants, and audience response from 2019 to 2021, I have found that a city’s food can change consumers’ perspective on their society, their community, and their role within their city, and that the changing nature of a city’s cuisine can inform how residents should similarly change their behavior to align with the consumable goods and experiences they enjoy. This is particularly relevant during times of crisis (such as the COVID-19 pandemic), when customers look to beloved chefs, restaurants and food as a source of comfort and moral reinforcement. Ultimately, the goal of this thesis is to help readers reconsider how the restaurant experience and the food eaten at such establishments symbolize far more than a pleasurable experience. Indeed, the chefs, consumers, and writers connected to food production, food media, and the culinary restaurant world not only create delicious food, but also reflect and shape the ethos of the environments they are situated in. I hope that from this work, we can consider the social, discursive, and communal impact of the food we consume, becoming more informed eaters in the process.
Chu, Lindsay Megumi, "Modern Meals and Mythology: The Los Angeles Culinary Field" (2021). Pomona Senior Theses. 245.