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This research focuses on the working conditions, professional lives and identities of immigrant cooks working in Paris with a view to improving, through a better understanding of these aspects, their accessibility to the workforce and potential career paths. France is the home of the restaurant and is historically a country of welcome and refuge for migrants. In the past ten years the rhetoric surrounding immigration and migrants has changed and there is growing negativity surrounding this population group despite the many studies pointing to migrant workers’ positive contributions to societies and economies. The culinary industry relies on, and will continue to rely on, migrant and immigrant labour to satisfy sector growth within its labour intensive operation model. Following an interpretivist epistemology, this phenomenological exploratory research reviews the relevant literature surrounding immigrant cooks. These secondary findings are discussed within a focus group of immigrant cooks in Paris and the transcript was analysed using template analysis. The results of this analysis helped form the questions for the individual semi-structured interviews with immigrant cooks. Interviewees were encouraged to discuss topics important to them and their experience as immigrant cooks in Paris. Transcribed individual interview data was analysed using thematic analysis and two main themes were refined. The first theme ‘Challenges’ had two sub themes: (1) human resource issues, and (2) integration and segregation. The second theme ‘Attitude’ also had two sub themes: (1) what it means to be a cook, and (2) gastronomy.
The results of this research show that the cooks interviewed identify as professional culinarians with a love and respect for French gastronomy. However, they also feel that they are on the outside of the gastronomic world and are used rather than valued for their inputs. Drawing on the philosophy of hospitality, which centres on openness, vulnerability and generosity, this research concludes that the French hospitality industry needs to be more hospitable to its own employees, particularly its immigrant cooks.
Further research is required to expand this first investigation into the identities behind the statistics of immigrant cooks as their contributions to gastronomy and the culinary industry increase in importance.
Gough, S. The Parisian immigrant cook: who are you? Masters thesis, DIT, 2018.