Academic discussions of ethnic foods have tended to focus on the attitudes of consumers, rather than the creators and producers. In his new book, Krishnendu Ray, chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at NYU Steinhardt, reverses this trend by exploring the culinary world from the perspective of the ethnic restaurateur.
“Although immigrants have a long and substantial presence in the United States food system, they appear to have left little trace on American conceptualisms of good taste,” The Ethnic Restaurateur begins.
Focusing on New York City, Ray examines the lived experience, work, memories, and aspirations of immigrants working in the food industry. He shows how migrants become established in new places, creating a taste of home and playing a key role in influencing food cultures as a result of transactions between producers, consumers, and commentators.
Based on extensive interviews with immigrant restaurateurs and students, chefs and alumni at the Culinary Institute of America, ethnographic observation at immigrant eateries and haute institutional kitchens as well as historical sources such as the U.S. census, newspaper coverage of restaurants, reviews, menus, recipes, and guidebooks, Ray reveals changing tastes in a major American city in the twentieth century.