Gastronomy Studies in Search of Hospitality

Article excerpt

This article is a contribution to the current debate on a wider understanding of hospitality and its establishment as a robust academic discipline. A number of academics have recently argued that both the current research agenda and the educational curriculum should be based on a new theoretical framework, not restricted to the economic definition of hospitality. The paper introduces into the search for such a framework the perspective of newly emerging gastronomy studies influenced by Australian academics and practitioners. To this end, some of the common roots of gastronomy studies and new hospitality are analysed as well as some aspects of the common struggle in their attempt to become independent academic disciplines. Hospitality, in trying to broaden its own horizons, flows into the field of gastronomy; meanwhile, gastronomy studies is greatly concerned with hospitality--its research framework and educational models. The perspective of gastronomy studies, however, questions some of the fundamental assumptions of hospitality, such as the sacredness and indissolubility of the hospitality's "trinity", that is, the provision of food and/or drink and/or accommodation. In addition, within the gastronomy studies perspective, hospitality is seen as both a community and cultural industry that cannot escape social commitments. In any case, in its conclusion, the paper identifies a common ground on which the new hospitality and gastronomy should work together, particularly on strategic research aimed at educational models that may overcome the liberal/vocational divide.

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The establishment of hospitality as "a robust academic discipline" has recently been invoked by a number of academics, particularly in England. Many of them believe that, in English-speaking countries, the study of hospitality is in reality the old and "more prosaic hotel and catering" (Lashley, 2000b, p. 4) by another name. The Nottingham Group, for example, has called for a wider understanding of hospitality. Its members have argued that both the Current research agenda and the educational curriculum should be based on a different theoretical framework, not restricted to the economic definition of hospitality. The search for such a framework has ignited a debate to which this paper intends to contribute. In particular, its aim is to introduce into the debate the perspective of newly emerging gastronomy studies influenced by Australian academics and practitioners.

Gastronomy studies and hospitality currently share a common struggle in their attempt to become independent academic disciplines. Hospitality, in trying to broaden its own horizons, flows into the field of gastronomy; meanwhile, gastronomy studies is greatly concerned with hospitality, its research framework and educational models.

As well as introducing both the current search for a new framework for hospitality and gastronomy studies, this paper analyses some of the positions expressed in the debate. The conclusion identifies some common ground on which the new hospitality and gastronomy might work together.

In Search of Hospitality

In 1997 a number of United Kingdom (UK) based hospitality researchers and writers met in Nottingham to explore subjects of common interest. The Nottingham Group, as they became known, decided to tackle some preliminary issues critical to the development of hospitality both within and beyond their own country. In particular, the group is concerned with finding a definition that can free hospitality from the restricted commercial preoccupation of providing food, drink and/or accommodation. Hospitality as a description of activities previously known as hotel and catering is a recent notion, having been adopted by both academic and industry journals only in the last couple of decades as a reflection of "changes in the industrial descriptor used by practitioners" (Lashley, 2000a, p. 2).

The Nottingham Group posits a working definition of hospitality as "a contemporaneous exchange designed to embrace mutuality (wellbeing) for the parties involved through the provision of food and/or drink, and/or accommodation" (Lashley, 2000a, p. …