|Two— Cooks' Time: Temporal Demands and the Experience of Work|
|图书名称：Kitchens:The Culture of Restaurant Work|
图书作者：Gary Alan Fine ISBN：
出版社：Berkeley: University of California Press 出版日期：1996年
As a principle of social life, temporality affects the life of an organization as much as physical space or hierarchical organization (Maines 1987). Indeed, organization and time are intimately connected. For an organization to run efficiently, schedules must be meshed (Cottrell 1939; Zerubavel 1979), and work products must be generated at a regular or intermittent rate that permits the organization to prosper (Baldamus 1961).
The way that people experience the passage of time is a central, yet frequently ignored, feature of organizational life. Industrial capitalism depends upon temporal structure and synchronization (Thompson 1967); time is a resource like material and personnel. Much research—notably those studies inspired by the tradition of Taylorism—attempts to improve the efficiency of work. Time is a cost that must be minimized, but how time is experienced by workers is not considered.
Observing work life reminds us that features external to the doing of work constrain the use of time, and temporal constraints influence how work is experienced. Time can be transformed into a mechanism of social control, as is dramatically evident to those who labor on assembly lines but also is true for those who work in medical clinics or restaurant kitchens. Workers develop techniques to cope with demands on their time and, as a consequence, gain a measure of temporal autonomy (Lyman and Scott 1970, p. 191; Hodson 1991, p. 63), carving out temporal niches . Time operates on several levels: from lengthy periods of work (seasons, weeks, days) to smaller chunks of time (portions of days, or the time taken to achieve particular work tasks).
Time passes whether or not a worker or sleeper experiences that passage, and both "objective" and "experienced" components of time affect organizational life (Flaherty 1987). The philosopher Henri Bergson emphasized that effects of time cannot be fully separated from how it is felt (1910, pp. 236–37). Time, like organization itself (Strauss 1978; Pettigrew 1979), can be negotiated or used symbolically, and is treated as if it were concrete. The experience of time is created by workers, given the constraints on their actions (Roy 1952, 1959–1960; Roethlisberger and Dickson 1939).
Five dimensions are critical to temporal organization: periodicity, tempo, timing, duration, and sequence (Lauer 1981, pp. 28ff; see Hawley 1950 and Engel-Frisch 1943). Periodicity refers to the rhythm of the activity; tempo, to its rate or speed; timing, to the synchronization or mutual adjustment of activities (Moore 1963, pp. 45–47); duration, to the length of an activity; and sequence, to the ordering of events.
Each dimension connects to the demands of the workplace. Although they are "objective" features of time, their effects depend on how they are experienced. The workers' negotiation of these dimensions is particularly likely when temporal organization ("too much" or "not enough" time) is felt as unpleasant or dysfunctional; as a result, workers adjust their routines to increase their satisfaction while accepting organizational demands. Workers create temporal niches—to do their jobs in a satisfactory and satisfying way while "creating" personal time (Ditton 1979; Bernstein 1972). They synchronize their activities to create an efficient routine in the face of uncontrollable and unpredictable durations and tempos. Workers strive for autonomy from management's and clients' temporal demands. The structure of time is a critical means of social control.
Successful restaurants are those that use time effectively. Anyone observing a moderate-size kitchen could not miss the central position of temporal organization in defining workers' reality. Time is as important to cooking as any herb. For food to be cooked properly, the cook must be simultaneously aware of the timing of multiple tasks. Awareness of duration is essential, distinguishing a rare steak from one that is charred, crunchy vegetables from mush, and sour milk from fresh. Sequence, too, is integral to the temporal organization of cooking, as is obvious to anyone who has ever used a recipe (Tomlinson 1986). Synchronization of tasks is more complex but equally essential for preparing a plate on time. Starch, meat, and vegetables must be ready simultaneously; on the counter a product rapidly loses sensory appeal. Periodicity and tempo are linked to the pace of orders, not to the individual order.
Because of the relevance of each temporal dimension to professional cooking, restaurant kitchens are an auspicious site to investigate how temporality is tied to organizational life. Every occupation must deal with these dimensions, if not always as directly or obviously.
The External Environment and Restaurant Time
All organizations have a temporal structure—times when they are "peopled," when they are "operating at full capacity," and when they are preparing and recovering from peaks of activity. How an organization fits into the temporal life of a community provides the basis for how the organization structures the time of employees (Engel-Frisch 1943, p. 46), which, in turn, affects their emotions and attitudes.
Processing the Customer
Organizations must make products available to those who are likely to be interested; they must maintain and staff an "output boundary" (Hirsch 1972, p. 643). In the service sector an operation must be open when clients are likely to be present—when organizational "output" can be provided to clients. Clients, in turn, expect different classes of organizations to maintain different hours (e.g., banks, supermarkets, or taverns); further, they have different temporal expectations based on the location (bars in SoHo as opposed to Salinas, or bookstores in Berkeley and Bexley). To maximize profit, the establishment needs to be closed when it is not profitable to be open (although some establishments may use long hours as temporal loss leaders, so that customers believe they are "always open"). An efficient service establishment should have no more employees on duty than necessary to cope with customer traffic (Leidner 1993, p. 63) although, again, some establishments may employ more workers than needed to insure that customers will expect that they will be served quickly. Indeed, lines are often longer in "off-peak" times than at relatively busy times because fewer workers are on duty to handle the customer flow.
Operating in a highly competitive environment, restaurants must respond to the timing of customer demand, at least as perceived by management. Although regularities exist, the temporal organization of business changes from season to season, month to month, week to week, and day to day. Management's concern is to select when the restaurant will be open, a decision that may lead to organizational failure (Miller 1978). In the United States restaurants have no widely accepted times of operation, reflecting the diversity in American schedules (Melbin 1987). Few industries have regular hours—the formal "banker's hours" of a previous generation are no more, as organizations compete with each other for temporal access. Each restaurant I observed had a different schedule of operation:
Blakemore Hotel: Main Restaurant: Lunch: 11:00–2:00, Monday–Saturday; Dinner: 5:30–10:30, Monday–Saturday; closed Sunday. Coffee Shop: Breakfast and Lunch: 7:00–3:00, daily.
La Pomme de Terre: Lunch: 11:30–2:00, Monday–Friday; Dinner: 6:00–10:00, Monday–Saturday; Brunch: 11:00–2:30, Sunday.
Owl's Nest: Lunch and Dinner: 11:00–1:00, Monday–Friday; Dinner: 4:00–1:00, Saturday; closed Sunday.
Stan's: Lunch: 11:00–2:30, Monday–Friday; Dinner: 5:00–12:00, Monday–Saturday; 3:00–10:00, Sunday.
We often classify restaurants by hours of operation: luncheonettes, all-night diners, tearooms, supper clubs. Restaurants that cater to breakfast eaters often announce that in their name: the Egg and I, International House of Pancakes, or Al's Breakfast. In addition, location influences hours of operation. We do not expect restaurants in the suburbs, central business districts, inner cities, and bohemian neighborhoods to keep the same hours (Hawley 1950). Some restaurants are closed on Sunday; some, on Monday. Some serve breakfast; many don't. Some serve lunch every day; some, only on weekdays. Some are always open; others are open only for lunch and dinner; some cater to late-night crowds.
The hours of a restaurant depend on the market niche to which the owners aspire. Hotels whose guests are potential hotel-restaurant clients typically have food service throughout the day and evening, and room service at night. Gourmet restaurants such as La Pomme de Terre have shorter hours because walk-in customers are rare, and because they can afford to have customers come to them for a unique service. Neighborhood restaurants such as Stan's are open on Sunday afternoons when a traditional "family dinner" is served. While Stan's has customers at that time, if La Pomme de Terre were open then, it would be empty. La Pomme de Terre, with a clientele from a different social class, serves Sunday brunch.
To a degree, restaurant hours determine the times that the cooks work, but the two sets of hours are not identical. Cooks arrive several hours prior to the opening and generally work until after the restaurant closes. Unlike more tightly structured organizations, managers and head chefs are flexible in scheduling cooks, and schedules change weekly with cooks having some say. Schedules respond to "external" forces, such as the number of reservations and special parties. Head chefs occasionally tell cooks to take the day off, leave early, or appear on short notice. While cooks are not on call, the head chef and the manager are aware of who is willing to work extra hours.
The irregular and unpredictable need for workers gives the chef or manager power within the workplace. In coordinating schedules, he must keep his staff happy and treat them in ways they consider fair—both in the number of hours they work and the sequence of those hours (see Zerubavel 1979, pp. 21–22). The chef has an interest in allowing his most competent cooks to work more frequently than those less conscientious, but this choice may create friction. Unlike fast-food restaurants (Leidner 1993, p. 62), in only one restaurant that I observed were hours assigned for social control: a head chef decided to discipline a dishwasher by cutting his hours to teach him to show more deference to the cooks.
The extreme case is when workers are laid off to cut labor costs. This not only causes strain by having fewer people to do the same work but also sends a signal about management's intentions and makes all workers feel less secure. The decision of the Blakemore Hotel to terminate the popular assistant chef caused considerable dissatisfaction, in part because workers felt overburdened, and in part because they felt that management didn't care. From the standpoint of the hotel it was a necessary decision in that labor costs were too high when compared to income (Field notes, Blakemore Hotel).
Employers in all industrial segments have similar problems although these problems take different forms. How does one synchronize the staffing of an organization? In pure production units (e.g., factories) machines may run at any time, and electricity may be cheaper at off-peak hours; but it may be difficult to find workers willing to adapt to off-peak schedules.
While the temporal structure of a restaurant is greatly affected by its desire to attract customers, other external influences affect internal decisions. Every organization must maintain an "input boundary," as well as the "output boundary" discussed above. Simply put, a restaurant requires ingredients (foodstuffs) for its internal production. Most restaurants contract with middlemen or brokers for food to be delivered at set, albeit negotiable, times. These deliveries are arranged to occur before the restaurant needs the food, when the restaurant is not busy, and when cooks or other kitchens workers are present to check or sign for the goods. The restaurant and the vendor select a mutually agreeable time, and cooks need sufficient time to store the food and to prepare whatever portion of the delivery is expected to meet the demands of the day's customers.
Food itself has a temporal dynamic. Most food spoils the longer it is kept—beef and wine that "age" are, to a point, notable exceptions. As a consequence, high turnover is crucial not only for revenue but also to avoid losses from spoilage. Restaurant management sometimes attempts to manipulate customer choice through specials or by having servers "push" a dish. The clients' decisions, in turn, affect cooks by forcing them to spend their time cooking some dishes and not others. To the extent that some dishes are easier or more pleasant to prepare or are prepared by special workers (e.g., main-course salads or broiled dishes), culinary life is influenced by the "life" of the food.
While food has its own dynamic because of spoilage, other objects deteriorate over time or go out of fashion, and this puts pressure on workers to "move" them. Medicines and film have expiration dates, which customers may check. Fabrics become mildewed, and toys, dresses, and automobiles are subject to changes in fashion and technological innovation. Some clothes—swimsuits and overcoats—have their seasons and styles. Although food may be a particularly dramatic instance of how the timing of material objects push workers, it is not unique.
Living the Day
Kitchen work has both rhythm (periodicity) and tempo that stems from customer demand. Restaurants have slow times and times of incredible demand; each influences how cooks respond to their environment. Some cooks use a theatrical metaphor with its images of preparation for a performance, the emotional "high" of the performance and release after the curtain descends:
Life in a restaurant is not structured by the clock per se, but by events such as lunch, dinner, or banquets, indirectly set by the clock (Marshall 1986, p. 40). Cooks rarely look at the clock and may profess surprise when, after a busy evening, they learn how late it is.
Professional cooks face the problem of synchronization in that they are not merely cooking "dishes" but for "tables" or "parties," and must prepare several dishes at once, each timed differently (e.g., steak and fillet of sole). Cooking to order is an occupational challenge to be overcome by skills of synchronization: the recognition of a temporally grounded division of labor. This skill determines their competence in the eyes of others, distinguishing the professional cook from the home cook:
How is synchronization achieved? What organizational procedures promote this competence? Each restaurant had a slightly different system for achieving the orderly production of food, but each relies on the presentation of tickets by servers to cooks—the temporal linkage or sequencing of occupations sedimented into a structure. From the presentation of the ticket, cooks know that they have a set amount of time until the dishes need to be ready, until servers and their customers will complain. As they know approximately how long each dish will take to prepare, taking these constraints into consideration they can organize their work and gain some temporal autonomy.
The point at which the main course is needed is an approximation based upon the length of time that customers are expected to spend eating appetizers or are willing to wait. While cooks would like to know the exact times that dishes are needed, servers and customers desire food to be ready when it is wanted—different for fast and slow tables. The preparation of food involves a delicate negotiation among cooks, servers, and customers, with each having demands, constraints, rights, and privileges. For example, servers frequently inform cooks that they need dishes sooner or later than expected. To some extent this is modified by flexibility built into the structure:
The chef at La Pomme de Terre describes himself as an air-traffic controller, suggesting that dishes have the potential for "stacking up" and, if processed in the wrong sequence, they can create disaster. A chef, like any worker with multiple responsibilities, must manage the demands of the kitchen. Another cook at a different restaurant used a similar image of flow control in describing his difficulties: "You have to be really thinking about timing. It's really kinda like a science. You can control the flow. You can control if they [the servers] are running [i.e., if there are a lot of orders]" (Field notes, Owl's Nest). Still, the temporal ordering of dishes is so imprecise that cooks sometimes joke about occasions when they do well in the face of expectations of failure, as when Howie, the sous chef, comments to Mickey, a server, about a slow order:
Timing food reflects a concern with synchronization—a division of labor among cooks and servers. The cook must internalize the ordering and timing of dishes to permit the production of fifteen different dishes, each at the peak of quality, and must believe that other cooks are acting similarly. Cooking decisions are not analyzed at leisure but are split-second decisions, barely permitting a comment between co-workers.
Ideally cooks as crafts artisans would be autonomous, leading to satisfaction with the temporal organization of work (Baldamus 1961; Ditton 1979). Such a world is impossible in restaurants and most industrial workplaces. Cooks are challenged when they cannot set their own schedule: "Where it's busy enough that it requires somebody to help me, I really have to concentrate. People, waitresses come up and ask questions. It's really hard. When we're busy enough, I can't break my stride or break my train of thought. Sometimes I just tell them to be quiet and go away" (Personal interview, Blakemore Hotel). Like all focused workers, cooks must "bracket" the extraneous events that swirl around them while establishing a rapid rhythm and coping with organizational demands. When the tasks have been completed, they can luxuriate in those events that they had previously bracketed, sometimes not "really working" for an hour or more (Marshall 1986, p. 40), creating a temporal niche: "The previous night the Owl's Nest had 116 customers, a heavy Friday evening. This included a party of 25. Fortunately there were no tickets behind that order [i.e., they didn't have to cook for other customers]. Larry tells me: 'It can be hard when you have other tickets up. We were lucky last night. It's hard when you have four tickets right behind it. You just want to sit down and rest after it'" (Field notes, Owl's Nest).
Workers have expectations about when their work begins and ends; sometimes to their frustration these expectations are dashed. Workdays should have temporal cues, of which the factory whistle or school bell are models. Unfortunately breaking the serenity of work, customers arrive late, important clients want special meetings, or the boss demands overtime. Once routine and legitimate tasks become an imposition: "At 11:30 P.M. the cooks are almost finished cleaning the kitchen, when a new order comes in from a 'regular' who often arrives late without a reservation. Larry is so annoyed that he throws a lamb chop bone and later throws a sharpened knife across the counter, fuming 'That's what's really frustrating. You're ready to close and another order comes in. You get kinda cranky sometimes'" (Field notes, Owl's Nest). Frustration with the violation of temporal boundaries applies to an extension of the opening boundary as well as the closing boundary. Although the Owl's Nest is open for lunch at 11:00 A.M., cooks are disoriented if customers arrive before 11:45 A.M. They're not ready for lunch to begin, and they resent it. Within their rights, customers arriving when the restaurant is open in practice disrupt the rhythm of the cooks' work. Cooks typify when their "real work" should occur, even though this expectation may be shattered by a client's exercise of his or her rights. As at colleges, where early morning meetings are taboo, "real" hours differ from the "official" hours of the organization.
The effects of an organization's environment on its temporal structure is dramatically evident when the system is loaded to capacity. In the kitchen this is the rush, but it has equivalents in many organizations: emergency rooms, fire stations, theater aisles, airline counters, and toll booths. Seen collectively, clients do not use services at regularly spaced intervals. For some workers (ushers) the rush will be predictable; for others (emergency medics), much less so. Every restaurant, especially those that are successful, has a rush—a period in which the demands of customers threaten to overwhelm the capacity of the kitchen employees to cope—a time at which the restaurant is "slammed" (Kleinfield 1991, p. C24). Customers, unaware of the "backstage" problems, expect their food when they are ready for it. Food should be served after what "feels" like the proper interval, neither rushed nor delayed—comprising the mysterious variable of "good service." In an attempt to control labor costs, managers hire just enough staff so that the kitchen is on the edge of chaos but not so few that customers are dissatisfied with the service.
From these demands derives the experience of the rush. External demands produce a pattern of action by workers, and this use of time produces the lived experience of the rush (Denzin 1984). Its felt emotion—what Henri Bergson (1910) refers to as durée —differs from other "times" (Flaherty 1987).
The rush represents a distinct behavioral characteristic of restaurant life, which is noted for its demanding tempo (and associated rhythm) and intense pressure (Schroedl 1972, p. 187). The journalist John McPhee (1979, p. 78) describes the temporal life of a master chef: "As his usual day accelerates toward dinner-time, the chef's working rhythms become increasingly intense, increasingly kinetic, and finally all but automatic. His experience becomes his action. He just cruises, functioning by conditioned response. 'You cook unconsciously,' he says. 'You know what you're going to do and you do it. When problems come along, your brain spits out the answer.'" Those I observed relied on similar metaphors. "You're fighting a battle of chaos," one cook explained. Another emphasized that coping with a rush involved "keeping calm. Lining up the station. Getting ready. The setups. Getting organized before the rush" (Field notes, Owl's Nest).
The rush feels similar at each restaurant, even though vastly different numbers are served. A rush is characterized by rapid movements (proper sequencing) and little talk, except for brief, subcultural exchanges ("an ivory downtown," "nine tops, three shrimp, all baked, all medium") or curses and insults. Because of the clattering of pans and plates, the kitchen is noisy, making the rhythms of work seem discordant or nonexistent to an observer (e.g., Kleinfield 1991, p. C24). The number of cooks present is barely sufficient to handle the expected number of customers. When more customers than expected arrive or when mistakes happen, the kitchen extends the duration of preparation; the customers do not get their food "on time," and the servers may receive smaller tips. The food may be of lower quality than when the restaurant is not so busy. The success of the restaurant during the rush rests on a thin line.
Although cooks operate similarly during the rush, they experience it differently. Some cooks claim to enjoy the rush and relish the pace. Others find it unpleasant. The experience differs from person to person and from day to day. One cook remarked: "You can't keep up with your orders. It feels like you have to do everything in a second. Back and forth and back and forth. I don't like the feeling. It's not good. . . . You just feel like you're gonna cave in and collapse" (Personal interview, Stan's). In contrast, others noted:
These cooks are like "trauma junkies" among emergency medical technicians, who enjoy those calls that demand their skills (e.g., heart attacks), as opposed to "pukes," which are boring calls, not requiring training (Palmer 1983). They are like detectives challenged by the game of matching wits with criminal suspects (Stenross and Kleinman 1989).
Although personality, age, ethnicity, and gender affect how workers experience their busiest periods, most cooks whom I observed indicated that their reactions depend on the "quality" of the day. The rush has a situated quality, determined by what has occurred before and during. This is evident when a cook notes that his "high" occurs when work is "smooth." Cooks (and other workers) may use a drug metaphor to explain feelings of mental transformation: "It can be a downer or an upper. When you're all set and you're ready for it, it can be great. When things are happening that aren't supposed to, it can be a nightmare. It's a good night when you look at the clock and it's already ten-thirty" (Field notes, Owl's Nest). As with drugs, the emotion is not merely chemical but also social. Cooks distinguish between days in which things go well and other days in which things have not been prepared or external forces break their expectations: "I ask Ralph whether he enjoys the breakfast rush. 'Some days I do; some days I absolutely hate it.' [Then I ask him] what does it depend on? 'How smoothly things are going. It can be very stressful. Mr. Businessman has to get to his meeting, so you have to get his eggs on the table quickly. . . . You've got to perform'" (Field notes, Blakemore Hotel). Despite the situated character of the rush, several cooks remarked that their reactions are "automatic" in that they do not consciously plan or control their emotions or behavior resulting from the demands made of them. They have incorporated the response to the rush into their behavioral repertoire. This image of the rush is similar to "flow" in leisure (Csikszentmihalyi 1975). Cooks can be so caught up in the tempo and rhythm of their work that all else is transfixed. Just because these experiences respond to external forces—an interaction between self, other, and context—doesn't mean that they are consciously willed. Cooks remarked:
Of course, emotions can be manipulated by the self—commodifying one's feelings (Hochschild 1983; Gordon 1981). People can make themselves angry; happiness can be encouraged as when one is admonished to smile in order to get in a good mood, as service workers know well. While the public presentation of emotion is not as relevant in the kitchen backstage, something similar happens when cooks "pump themselves up" and experience an adrenaline rush. They brace themselves for the "flow" experience.
Through the interplay of external forces, behavioral demands, and emotional responses, elements typical of the rush may characterize a day as a whole. Most days have a temporal routine that workers expect. Yet, circumstances can give a day a distinct character (e.g., a crash near a trauma center, an art gallery opening, a community festival, or a blizzard). Cooks are dissatisfied with days that are either too pressured and disorganized or too slow and routine. This distinction speaks to the degree to which workers can step back from their work and gain control over time: what Erving Goffman (1961b) speaks of as the distinction between underdistancing and overdistancing. Too much pressure (a too demanding tempo) does not permit cooks enough role distance from their tasks; mistakes take on exaggerated importance because time does not permit the cooks to step back and regroup, and because they find it difficult to claim that the error does not mirror their true ability. Continuing a rhythm, operating in a rapid tempo, cannot be easily altered if customers are to be satisfied. Other days prevent cooks from demonstrating their professional competence by not allowing for a rhythm and tempo of work. Little is demanded, and consequently the cook's attention is not firmly tethered to the job—cooks are overdistanced. They search for the entertainment that a slow pace cannot provide (Sutton and Rafaeli 1988). Too many side involvements compete for attention, coupled with insufficient organizational demands.
To appreciate how demands exhaust and frustrate cooks, consider a day destined to be remembered without fondness at Stan's Steakhouse:
Anger and tension fill the kitchen. Cooks are sarcastic to servers, and servers bother cooks for their dishes. No one has the time to do things right or be polite. The customers received an odd bargain: inexpensive steaks, sloppily prepared. When one cannot maintain control, reestablishing it is difficult until a lull allows the staff to regroup. That night, the lull never came. One cook claimed frustrating nights like that are what he dislikes about cooking: "Being so busy you can't put the food out [well]. . . . You've got to put the food out so fast, you don't care what it might taste like. You put it out for what it looks like. Maybe sometimes you might forget something, put it in there late. You might have to cook it fast, like under a broiler [not in a stove]" (Personal interview, Stan's). On these nights cooks do not think of themselves as professionals—as cooks —although they must continue to cook. Errors in timing, such as problems of synchronization or judging duration, tend to cause this loss of momentum and consequent frustration (Adler 1978), particularly when problems are serious or repeated:
Cooks make external attributions for bad nights, keeping their sense of competence intact (Nisbet et al. 1973). They provide accounts for their "misuse" of time. Sometimes, however, a discrete problem cannot be easily identified, and the frustrations of a bad night and poor timing are expressed through generalized anger, a stereotype of culinary life (Orwell 1933, p. 109). The temporal strains provide justification for anger, a justification used after the fact with which all sympathize. Temporal strain is not only a cause but also an account. This strain leads to a work environment in which emotions are fueled and then legitimated.
Emotion in the kitchen or other work spaces need not be defined as negative. The idea of catharsis readily justifies anger. One cook, who routinely rages, argued anger is valuable: "To let your emotions out, but not on somebody. . . . If something happens where you burn your hand or you forgot to put something on, that irritates you. 'Damn!' It's good to get that first emotion out, to get that out of the way, so that you can go on to the rest of the night. If you don't let it out and you let it bother you, it's going to build up, and all of a sudden you're going to burst and it's going to be worse" (Personal interview, Owl's Nest). Anger permits time to be controlled: permitting workers to "go on to the rest of the night." By expressing anger, one closes a frustrating event and reestablishes rhythm. Whether this catharsis is effective is less significant than that it is believed to be. Anger is seen as a means of achieving temporal stability and coping with the behavioral reality of the kitchen. Of course, while anger may have therapeutic benefits for individuals, it also raises collective tension and may be contagious. What may preserve the temporal order for one may undermine it for others.
Just as days that are too stressful are disliked, so are those when "nothing" happens. Boredom is an affront to workers and a misuse of time (Molstad 1986). The Owl's Nest, which expects about 100 for a busy lunch, may have as few as 30 customers. Some evenings La Pomme de Terre draws only 20 diners, whereas on a good night they serve 75. At first, slow days are pleasant in that stress is not palpable. Yet, on these days the restaurant underutilizes cooks and does not permit them to feel that they have earned their wages. Cooks dislike "standing around, waiting for something to happen" (Field notes, Owl's Nest) and joke about the absence of customers, as in this exchange between Paul, the head chef, and Eddie, the maître d':
The inability to fill one's time with a productive activity is frustrating. This is different from break times, which are inherently satisfying. In slow periods, there is no work to which to return; the pleasure of leisure is its contrast with work (De Grazia 1964): "When you're standing around for an hour and a half with nothing to do, you really feel useless. 'What can I do, Paul [the head chef]?' 'Oh, gosh, nothing.' That's what I don't like, the standing around. I have better things to do" (Personal interview, Owl's Nest). At these times no external demands impinge. Slow days are not only boring, but cooks also claim that their cooking suffers. One might imagine that on a slow day, cooks would devote time to insure that each dish is perfect. A slow day might be seen as a luxury to a cook who is often so overworked that dishes are sent out without the care necessary for competent performance.
Yet, cooks do not experience slow nights this way. On these occasions the cook stops "thinking" and may make foolish mistakes, given the disparity between the time available and the small amount of work to be done: "Now that I'm working the day [shift] I enjoy an occasional slow day, but if it's slow too much, I find I get bored. No tension, no overloading. It's like all your circuits go out. You don't know which way to turn. You can't think. You become angry, that clouds over. You're in a bad mood, and how can you be an efficient worker then?" (Personal interview, Blakemore Hotel). On slow days cooks are unprepared for the required work. Each order starts a new rhythm; cooks are not in sync and do not have a satisfying emotional relationship to the task. Shifts that either are too pressured or have too few occupational challenges are equally disliked. Workers do find work satisfying—when they help set the pace and when the pace is suitable (Hodson 1991).
Like all workers, cooks strive for pleasant employment. Organizational demands and time should mesh to create satisfying working conditions. As cooks describe it, the key is for a day to be "smooth"—with a steady rhythm, permitting them to stay ahead of orders, without errors of judgment or miscommunication (Whyte 1948, p. 3). When I questioned cooks as to what made a day "good," they invariably cited temporal considerations, exemplified by smoothness, part of the felt character of "goodness":
Pace and "flow" are central to satisfaction. Cooks prefer evenings when they discover that time has passed; unexpectedly to find that it is time to leave is desirable. When work is too slow, one is continually reminded of clock time; "flow" is absent (Csikszentmihalyi 1975). One is reminded of the challenging physical and social conditions of the kitchen and of the lack of autonomy and freedom. Time is transfixed when work goes well but has an omnipresent, oppressive character when there are too many or too few external demands.
The idea of "too much" or "too little" to do is a social construction, depending on the cook's mood, preparation, and attention. One cook contrasted two days when he was cooking: each night was busy, but one went well and the other poorly:
This extract suggests the relationship between the external features of work life—here, timing of orders—and the psychological and emotional character of the worker (mood, personality, sense of self-worth). The quality of a day depends both on temporal demands and the situated self.
The Temporal Order of the Dish
Up to this point, I have ignored the production of specific dishes, but production work is primarily concerned with creating objects on demand . Timing in restaurant kitchens depends not only on the need to control the flow of orders but also on the production of individual dishes. As any home cook can attest, preparing food is a challenge. This is difficult enough when cooking one thing; but the problem of synchronicity may seem overwhelming when preparing a meat, a vegetable, and a starch.
When home cooks use a recipe, time is simple. The recipe specifies the period and temperature that food requires (Tomlinson 1986). One sets the heat and the timer, and the food "takes care" of itself. If one wishes to check on a dish, one can take a bite, knowing that the informality of the serving occasion does not risk complaint. In restaurants what is done to the food is less important than what appears to have been done (Orwell 1933, p. 79). Restaurant cooking demands impression management. Whatever happens in the kitchen, the customers must be none the wiser if they are to enjoy their food and the restaurant is to retain their allegiance.
Yet, despite the emphasis on appearance, a parallel belief in perfection exists. Cooks claimed that each dish has a peak of perfection, and it is their responsibility, as much as the structure allows, to reach that peak: "When you're working with seafood, there's a time where if it's in too long, it's overcooked. If it's not in long enough, it's undercooked. There's that time right in the middle where you have to have it, in order to have it taste really good. Especially with fresh fish. You can get a piece of fresh fish right off the boat and still flip it in your hand and run it all the way to the restaurant, and if that person overcooks it, it's wrecked. It's not a fresh piece of fish. In a sense, it has to do with perfection" (Personal interview, Owl's Nest). Even though cooks believe that there exists a moment that food is at its best, they also recognize that there is a temporal window in which food is of acceptable quality, which, depending on the dish and the pressures of the kitchen, may be relatively wide or narrow. Most events have a temporal window, but few have a single moment of acceptability. Otherwise, few patients would survive anesthesia or astronauts would survive liftoff.
No one technique can determine whether a dish is properly cooked, overdone, or underdone. Several strategies serve for judging the proper duration of preparation, depending on cooking skills, restaurant traditions, the amount of work pressing, and the dish. In determining whether dishes are ready, cooks rely on timing (internal and external clocks), taste, smell, sight, touch, and, occasionally, sound. Together these senses suggest how temporal demands are cued.
Even when busiest, cooks never use timers and rarely depend on clocks or watches. Trade-school students are often warned about relying too heavily on external clocks (Fine 1985). The illusion is that cooks just "know" when food is ready: an internal clock ticks with practice. The journalist A. J. Liebling (1986, p. 111) speaks of the "thermotactic gift" and asserts that "the good cook, like the good jockey, must have 'a clock in his head.'" The cooks I observed also cooked on automatic pilot:
Inexperienced cooks prepare food by the clock because they lack experience and confidence, marking them as novices. Too great a dependence on reading a clock provides the illusion of control. Since equipment may be variable, constantly checking a clock, while ignoring what is happening in the stove, is ineffective and may lead to failure.
For many occupations microtiming is not as crucial, but rarely is timing ignored. Just as jockeys have a mental clock, so must air-traffic controllers, assembly-line workers, and emergency medical technicians. Seconds may make a difference. Professors, comedians, hawkers, and other paid talkers must know how to space their words to be effective. They need "timing." These talkers must have a sense of when their time is up and how to get to the end of their allotted time having covered (or having appeared to cover) all that they wished. These acts of timing are rarely based on formal clock time but on a sense of what constitutes the "proper" length of time for the activity.
Occupations use different approaches in coping with clock time. For instance, bakers and cooks do not view time similarly. Cooking is more like an art, in which the ingredients are forgiving. Baking, in contrast, is closer to an exact science where precise amounts and times can produce dramatically different results—the rise or fall of a cake depends on its time in the oven, even though bakers have some leeway, as noted by a pastry cook: "Most of the things that I do are dictated by recipes, and so they have their own time. . . . Some things are visual, as far as cake goes, and every recipe gives you a range, but with those gas ovens being the way they are, you still have to have the capability of looking at it and checking it with a toothpick" (Field notes, La Pomme de Terre). Although culturally similar, the two occupations—cook and baker—contrast in their attitudes toward and use of time.
Taste and Smell
As I noted in chapter 1 when I discussed the tricks of the trade, often what seems the most obvious technique of testing the doneness of food is not used. On its surface, knowing how food tastes should be critical to judging whether it is ready to be served; many home cooks operate on this principle. Yet, in commercial kitchens other cues must stand for taste. One cannot cut pieces of steak or pie to judge its progress: maintaining the customer's impression of the dish is critical. Other senses must substitute for the one that appears most relevant. Cooks do, in practice, taste some foods, particularly liquids such as soups, sauces, and dressings or dishes made in large batches, such as stews and vegetables. These foods can be tasted without the final display altered. As in Orwell's descriptions of Parisian kitchens, cooks use a finger as a tasting tool although they may also use a spoon—often without wiping it.
Some foods are judged by aroma although smell tends to be a secondary sense, supporting other judgments. Yet, on occasion smell may suffice: "I can tell a lot of what's in the ovens by the smell. You can smell when scallops are done. You can smell when you initially bake off the ribs. You can smell when that's done" (Personal interview, Stan's). Since the flavor of a food depends largely on its smell from inside the mouth (more than on the simpler sense of taste), external sniffing can provide usable cues, even if these smells are not as robust as those present when one consumes food. Anyone who has burned a batch of cookies realizes that at times smell can predict doneness, often too late.
How food looks while being heated is an obvious and convenient clue, notably for those foods that dramatically change shape (e.g., souffles, noodles) or color (e.g., shrimp, eggs)—a technique that is also found at steel mills and pottery kilns. The material is its own thermometer. Fish is perhaps the foodstuff where visual change is most obvious. Raw fish is translucent; cooked fish is opaque. When sautéing thinly sliced fish fillets, one hopes to heat them until just opaque, not overcooked and mushy. Food to be "browned" is also visually inspected to insure the "brown" is "golden."
Not all foods change form when prepared; vision reveals knowledge only about a surface. Through experience cooks correlated their perception of the outside of the dish with the inside. Cooks value the consistency of this correlation.
An outsider might be surprised at the importance of touch for working cooks. Touch seems an odd surrogate for time or taste, but just as some foods change color as they cook, others change texture. Cooks suggest, that like pianists, masseurs, and palpating specialists in internal medicine, they need "sensitive fingers" (Field notes, Owl's Nest). The role of touching food can hardly be overestimated:
Touch is particularly important in preparing steak. Customers have the right to request that their steaks, unlike most other dishes, be cooked as they choose without overstepping the boundaries of their role as client. Doneness is measured by the customer by the color of the meat in the center of the steak and its flavor and tenderness when chewed. How can a cook visualize the inside? Although timing is a clue, this is a challenge when many steaks are prepared simultaneously. In fact, cooks judge the doneness of meat by poking it, believing "you can feel tenderness" (Personal interview, Blakemore Hotel):
Touch more than any other technique of timing distinguishes commercial cooks from home cooks. Food has much to communicate to those who, through occupational socialization, can understand its messages.
In culinary work, in contrast to automotive mechanics, plumbing, or piano tuning, the auditory dimension is of minor significance. Although a deaf cook might face challenges communicating with co-workers, the preparation of food itself would not be a major problem. Still, the head chef at the Blakemore Hotel told me that his kitchen "talks," and he meant this in more than a poetic way: "An instructor [in trade school] once told me, 'Let your kitchen talk to you.' If water is in the french fryer, you can hear it. Listen to what your kitchen is saying to you. . . . Is the fryer sizzling? Is something happening there?" (Personal interview, Blakemore Hotel). Another cook reported that he knows that veal cordon bleu is done when the cheese sauce bubbles (Personal interview, Owl's Nest). While sound plays a relatively minor role, cooks use whatever sensory information they can to control their work.
The dimensions of occupational skill reflect adjustments to the specific circumstances of the tasks. In fact, all work is "embodied" and requires adjustment to the physical reality of its environment. While cooking is partially cognitive, a worker would not be competent if the sensory messages were ignored. Whether we consider the auditory feedback of an audience, the sound of a drill, a bouquet's aroma, the touch of fabric, or the taste of cognac, the senses are key to all productive activities.
Worlds of work are temporally ordered, and their order depends upon the reality of duration, the experience of time, the situated quality of tempo, coupled with demands from outside the occupational boundaries. Connections exist among external temporal demands, the performance of work, and the experience of that work. Felt emotion results from temporal demands—too much to accomplish in too short a time can provoke anger; not enough can bore; a fit between time and attention characterizes "flow."
As organizations control the linkage between time and task, they channel behavior and experience. The kitchen "rush" demonstrates how structure, emotion, and time interact. Although the kitchen rush is notable for its drama, all organizations create and channel temporal dramas, producing emotional reactions mediated by workers' moods. Workers' reactions result from how the sponsoring organization and the individual worker structure time.
Throughout the chapter, like symphonic themes, I drew on Lauer's dimensions of periodicity (or rhythm), tempo, timing (or synchronicity), duration, and sequence. These are the building blocks of the temporal organization of work. We rely on a mix and a variation of these themes to create routine activity. No single tempo, for example, characterizes an occupation, but each occupation is characterized by tempo ranges and sets, and these patterns are channeled by external demands that produce emotion.
Occupations in which periodicity (rhythm) is stable—and, hence, central to the temporal analysis of that occupation—are those with routine tasks. Factory-line workers are the stereotypical example although breaks and breakdowns intrude even in their work. In most occupations workers are required to perform a variety of tasks and so, like cooks, have opportunity to construct their own periodicity. Craft work implies temporal control as well as decision-making autonomy. In contrast to rhythm, tempo refers to the speed at which tasks must be completed. The factory worker does not set the tempo, lacking temporal autonomy (but see Roy 1959–1960; Ditton 1979).
Synchronization demands a division of labor and connections among those divisions. Workers depend on co-workers; cooks depend on other cooks, pantry workers, and servers (Paules 1991; Whyte 1948). For dishes to be served, cooks need temporal coordination. The work is relational. For occupations that depend on group activity (e.g., surgical teams, theater troupes, bomber crews) synchronization is crucial, and the organization must structure work to reinforce such cooperation.
Sequence coordinates larger chunks of time: which tasks have priority? When faced with an array of tasks, which are selected for attention? Again, occupations differ on the autonomy of workers in making these choices against management demands. Still, the task constrains: cooks must prepare a dish before servers can present it; cooks must receive the order from the server first. This division of labor is sequential, rather than simultaneous. Yet, for some tasks, sequence hardly matters: who cares if the cabbage or carrots is shredded first for coleslaw, so long as they are mixed before the dressing is added. Sequence, like the other dimensions, depends on both the situated character of work and on the reality of the task.
Duration is often controlled by the external demands that impinge on the organization. Lectures end at someone else's bell; a soft-boiled egg waits for no one. Still, doctors can control the length of their examinations to some degree by withholding or adding small talk (Yoels and Clair 1994). Railroad men must make their trains leave and move at particular times and speed if the schedules of others are not to be endangered (Cottrell 1939). Duration can be squeezed if the tempo needs to be speeded, or it may be stretched if boredom is the alternative, the workers' recognizing limits to this stretching or squeezing.
Evidence from restaurants suggests that the organizational environment influences the temporal structure of work. The temporal structure of work is, in turn, tied to the emotional responses of workers and, through this, to the production of workers. While these linkages are mediated by the character of the work task and environment, these ties among structural demands, patterning of time, and lived experience are central to the understanding of occupations.
1. The interest in the sociological structure of time is largely a development of the past two decades despite some earlier works (Sorokin and Merton 1937; Hawley 1950; Gurvitch 1964).
2. By "temporal niche" I refer to a slice of time, cut from the rest of work, in which a worker or group of workers has autonomy in the use of that period. This is a component of the "active worker" (Hodson 1991). A classic instance of a temporal niche is "banana time" (Roy 1959-1960).
3. With exceptions, cooks are told explicitly or there is a notation on the ticket indicating when the dish is needed. For example, at the Owl's Nest servers wrote "downtown" on the ticket when they needed an order as soon as possible; otherwise, cooks assumed that the dish was required twenty minutes after the ticket was submitted.
4. No work is totally unpredictable; emergency room medics expect to work more on Saturday nights than on Tuesday mornings. break
5. "Ivory" refers to an ivory salmon. "Downtown" means "immediately." A "top" is a top sirloin. The shrimps are baked; the steaks, cooked medium.
6. For example, at Stan's during a rush, moderately burned au gratin potatoes were served, whereas at quieter periods they would not have been.
7. When cooks feel they can take no more, they may snap and throw something:
8. Fish has a much narrower temporal window than steak, which can vary by several minutes. The cooking time of some soups, on the other hand, can be varied by hours without much affecting the taste.
9. Some occupations have their problems compounded by the demand for emotion work (Hochschild 1983; Leidner 1993) by the client or organization. Front-stage occupations like flight attendants, servers, prostitutes, and family physicians have a greater need for emotional impression management than such backstage occupations as cook, writer, or night custodian (Hood 1988).
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