Leadership in the master apprentice setup in gourmet restaurant kitchens: Using metaphors to make sense of complex dynamics

Pablo Reyes-Perez de Arce & Simon Dissing Halskov

Student thesis: Master thesis


Apprentices form a large part of gourmet restaurant kitchens, and head chefs are obliged to hand down knowledge and skills. In the mean time, driving business while simultaneously teaching apprentices creates a paradox: there is not always time for head chefs to teach and for apprentices to learn. Consequently, the master-apprentice setup in the context of the gourmet restaurant kitchen holds complex dynamics influencing leadership, which often are ambiguous and therefore hard to make sense of. The ambiguity-centred perspective sees leadership as a contradictory phenomenon that can be used in different ways by different people. By combining the roles of leader, followers and context, the perspective offers valuable insights as it focuses on how leadership is interpreted and responded to in the ‘messy’ real world. However, this can indeed be a difficult task. Hence, three dominant metaphors for leadership are presented: head chef as parent, head chef as teacher and head chef as commander, helping to explain how leadership is constructed in the master-apprentice setup in gourmet restaurant kitchen. Because metaphors represent the individual’s construction of reality, it presents a more holistic view of the individual combined with the situational context of her or his life. Hence, metaphors provide a deeper approach to understanding leadership. To investigate how complex dynamics play out in real life, we have chosen to use a case study within the restaurant chain of Cofoco. Hence, the majority of data is collected through field studies. In this way, we are able to understand how a kitchen truly works from the inside. The case study highlights smaller perhaps less significant but no less important dynamics that provide results that are valuable. Conclusively, we demonstrate that leadership is indeed a complex matter. Therefore, leadership means understanding the subtle nuances of human interactions in a certain context.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages91