David Scott is the course instructor for Principles of Gastronomy with Le Cordon Bleu Online Learning. Explore David’s insights of food from a social and cultural perspective, and why it is important to deconstruct the role food and drink plays in culture, society and individual identity.
I have always had an interest in food from a cultural perspective. I enjoyed reading old cookbooks, Mrs. Beeton and similar literatures. I initially wanted to be a chef. I ended up in hotel management, rather than cooking. I spent 20 years working in management positions in hotels around the world, such as Gleneagles in Scotland, St David’s Hotel and Spa in Wales, Marriot Hotel Group in the UK, and (what previously was) The Hyatt at Kings Cross.
I would observe the tourists who were coming through the hotels and eating at the restaurants. I started to wonder about what they were actually looking for and what they were doing. I started to query what eating meant, and what we eat from a cultural and a social perspective. But I was being forced to create a consumer experience in hotel management, which is not necessarily what these people wanted.
I could see tourists wanted a more authentic cultural experience. They wanted to engage with staff, locals and people around them. They wanted to make sense out of their everyday life away from home whilst they were travelling. They were using the restaurant as a way to create some form of stability in their travelling. I didn’t know that then, but I know that now, and that is why I went back to university. To research food from a different perspective and figure out what is going on.
I started (and still am) studying tourism and food, but from a social sciences perspective rather than a management perspective. I found so many interesting things to explore through social sciences, such as anthropology, human geography, sociology. I wanted to find out more about the behaviour of individuals in relation to the spaces and places they eat. I moved on to a Ph.D. and ended up teaching as well as doing further research.
I was previously working in the Gold Coast, Australia for Southern Cross University and Le Cordon Bleu, whilst my partner was working at a university in Dunedin. Some jobs came up in Sweden for us. We decided that in order for us to be together, we would travel to the other side of the world to live in Sweden and work. I am now a Senior Lecturer and Program Director for Dalarna University in Sweden, as well as a course instructor for Principles of Gastronomy with Le Cordon Bleu Online Learning.
That eating at restaurants has become more commercialised, consumer-orientated and almost elitist. When a lot of people begin studying food, they come from this perspective without understanding that food is a lot more complex. Food is fundamentally about culture, society and where the individuals come from. There is a space between culture and society and the commercial world that can be problematic. For example, the term ‘cultural appropriation’ happens a lot in the food world. The next trending cuisine could be Turkish food, or Greek food, because it’s something a restaurant can sell. But food is not about that. That is something different in the course which I teach – we move away from the overtly commercial and look at the cultural and social aspects. We deconstruct restaurants, where they fit into society and how they have changed over time. It helps to offer different perspectives to the complexity of food, cuisine and cultures.
The role that food plays in allowing people to get to know each other. We can move away from enemies, conflict and strangers, as food allows us to share stories and get to know each other. It can break down boundaries and borders. There have been many times when I’ve been in a country completely different culturally to my home country, and I have connected with others through food. Exploring the food of other cultures as well as sharing your own culture through food is an important part of your identity, not just as a tourist but also as a migrant in day-to-day life.
Principles of Gastronomy is a 10-week online short course which explores a social sciences view of food, eating and cuisines. Rather than just looking at it from a western perspective or the roots of the 18th-19th century France (where the term ‘gastronomy’ was first coined), we go even further back. We explore where food is now and why. We look at that with the complexity of food then deconstruct it and understand it. In doing that, it allows us a much more meaningful engagement with food in our day to day lives. We look at your own interest in food and seek where it comes from, why you are interested in it and what does it mean.
Anyone who wants an in-depth background to further question and support their understanding of what they are learning in food. For example, food photography. Why are we taking photographs of food? And why that particular type of food, what does this mean? What is the purpose behind it? The course helps to understand people’s cultural identity through food. It can also allow students to gain a deeper understanding of other courses they are doing, reflect on their own experiences and engage with food in their everyday life.
I believe teaching is a process of discussion. Not just me, an expert, telling someone what to think. I like to engage with students to co-construct their own knowledge and guide them in developing their own perspective. I encourage students to question their knowledge and my knowledge as well, inspiring a thirst for knowledge in the student leading to and understanding the importance of lifelong learning. In Principles of Gastronomy, the way I teach encourages students to think critically of what is going on around them, ask questions and look for answers.
When a student gets in touch and says that I’ve changed their lives. Just hearing that someone has really enjoyed the course and learned a lot. As a teacher, you aim to change society for the better so students become educated citizens, they see what they think needs to be changed, and they change it. So, students saying they have benefitted, and we’ve changed them is really quite mind blowing. I also had a former Principles of Gastronomy student contact me to ask for a referral letter for a university in America. They enjoyed the course so much that they decided to do further studies in food and anthropology. I consider making an impact like that a great accomplishment.
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