What makes a restaurant “authentic”? That’s the question at the heart of a new study by Truman State University sociologist Stephen Christ, who spent two years researching the social organization of Mexican restaurants in the U.S.Christ interviewed staff at 54 Mexican restaurants across the country, including 12 where he worked alongside the employees. His findings, recently published in Organizational Cultures: An International Journal, found that the power to define a restaurant’s authenticity rests not with the cooks, but with the customers.
In the Midwest, where Christ based his fieldwork, the predominantly white clientele had little exposure to traditional Mexican cuisine. Even when they did seek out new, “ethnic” flavors, they were wary of dishes that seemed too exotic or too spicy. To please these uninformed diners—and, more importantly, to maximize profits—Mexican restaurants watered down recipes, substituted ingredients, and modified traditional cooking methods.
The impulse to pander to customer tastes is not unique to ethnic restaurants, of course. Chefs of all stripes make similar compromises every day. But the stakes of authenticity—to a particular cuisine or culture—are especially high for an ethnic restaurant serving diners outside the ethnic group. In this case, the perceptions and palates of a mostly-white consumer base determined, to a large extent, what was served.
http://www.citylab.com/navigator/2015/09/what-makes-a-restaurant-authentic/405151/ << Full Story Courtesy Citylab