The Modern Role of Chefs in America


Past Chefs vs Current Chefs

Present chefs are the modern day Betty Crocker, bringing families together for mealtime and giving friends a reason to gather. What used to be prepared at home, is now very often prepared by someone else. According to Zagat, Americans eat out an average of 4.9 times per week. When Statista compared American household spending on “food out of the house” from 2010 to 2019 they found that the average household spent $3,526 annually in 2019. That is $1000 more than in 2010.

In 2013, the Nutrition Journal published a study which compared food preparation and consumption trends from 1965-1966 to 2007-2008. Although dated, this study helps us understand the treads in our culture and habits. The study suggests,

“Alongside an increase in eating out, people spend less time in food preparation, with an approximate halving of time for women and a small increase for men, a trend which continued into the 21st century. Unsurprisingly, lack of time is reported as a major barrier to preparing nutritious meals, prompting people to ‘buy’ time through the purchase of convenience foods which are often sold ready-to-eat or requiring minimal preparation.”

The Humanity in Cooking for Others

You don’t need these statistics to know that restaurants and pre-prepared foods are valuable to our culture. You can use experience-based conclusions by just observing the world around you. Americans eat out a lot! Realizing how important this role is to society can be a huge reward if you’re a chef. It is not just a job; chefs are literally fueling Americans. With this perspective, chefs can bring a sense of purpose and fulfillment to their work.

In an article called The Very Real Psychological Benefits of Cooking for Other People, the author does a beautiful job of illustrating the humanity in giving the gift of hand-prepared food to others. Matthew Riccio, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, told HuffPost,

“You’re providing instrumental social support by providing them with food, with sustenance, with something they need to survive.” Matthew Riccio, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, told HuffPost.

Participating in an activity like that “can help to encourage a sense of trust, community, meaning, purpose, belonging, closeness, and intimacy. [These] have been linked to things like increased happiness, decreased depression, and greater/more positive overall wellbeing,” explained Riccio. He later suggests, “If you’re cooking for someone, even if they’re not present during the act, it can absolutely bring a sense of closeness in that you’re expressing your love and care for someone.”

“It’s a very intimate activity. And providing them with something that they potentially need, you’re really showing them that they have your support, your love, your backing, and that’s the kind of thing that really, really promotes well-being, positive growth and closeness within relationships,” elaborated Riccio.

Action for Happiness says “Our happiness is intertwined with the wellbeing of our local community. Being connected in a community helps us feel like we belong and this has a big impact on our own happiness, that of our family, and the community as a whole.”

If this purpose-driven realization can be harnessed and cultivated, a modern chef can use it to create much more than a meal. They can use the idea to experience deep happiness and a sense of contributing to their community in a very creative and loving way. If the receiver is paying attention, they will feel the intent behind the creation and also experience happiness and connection.

“A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.”

– Thomas Keller

“Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love.”

– Giada De Laurentiis

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