Cooking up creativity: Understanding how organizational culture and structure influence culinary creativity

Eva Jessen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Creativity and innovation are considered key components of any successful business in almost any industry and haute cuisine restaurants are no different – but how does creativity flourish within an industry where most organizations are characterized by strict hierarchical structures and autocratic leadership styles. The purpose of this thesis has therefore been to investigate how organizational culture and structure affect culinary creativity in haute cuisines restaurants, with a focus on a northern European culinary capital. The thesis reveals that the organizational culture found in the restaurants included in this study, display a constant focus on improving both cooking skills and culinary products, as well as a constant process of new product development. The head chefs are not only skilled in the art of cooking but appear to be excellent at communicating their goals and ambitions to their staff, as these ambitions were echoed by the rest of the cooking staff. However, it has also become apparent that chefs perhaps to a too great extend rely on the guidance (and approval) of their head chef, which has fostered a culture where chefs do not offer their ideas (or thoughts) unless specifically instructed to by the head chef. This paper also reveals an organizational culture where head chefs, due to the institutional impediments of authorship, are reluctant to put dishes on the menu that they cannot claim authorship of. A restaurant’s reputation is closely linked to the reputation of the head chef, which means that the head chef takes on the role as artist whereas other chefs in the kitchen are regarded as craftsmen, whose it is to execute the head chef’s culinary visions. However, the higher the level of skills achieved by a chef, the less content her or she will be in the role as craftsman. As there is only room for one ‘artist’ in the kitchen, the most skilled chefs will seek new opportunities outside the restaurant. The restaurant thus loses one of its most skilled and valuable resources, who in return moves on to be a potential competitor. The predominant organizational structure found in the industry has not changed much since the introduction of the French brigade system several centuries ago, and although this organizational structure allows for little individual freedom, it does allow for a great flexibility needed when exploring creative ideas. Finally, this thesis also argues for an inclusion of the restaurant industry in the overall framework of the creative industries, which many authors have neglected to include or address.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages81