‘The New Food Tourist – Gordon Ramsay Eat Your Heart Out!
By Ian Yeoman, Associate Professor at Victoria University School of Management
By 2030, US men will be swapping the football for culinary skills as Gordon Ramsay becomes the new male icon. Why? Upwardly mobile men, aged 25-44 are becoming passionate about food and the rewards it brings -- pleasure, praise and love. No longer will conversations in the bar be about 'the Superbowl or World Series' but tips and recipes about the best food and wine. Across the world, societies are changing. By 2040, there will be 10% more men in China than women, so men will have to work harder to impress those ladies -- all in the hope of love. Today, we are observing a micro trend of men taking cookery courses, learning to appreciate wine, taking charge in the kitchen and food becoming the new hobby.
We probably all know about Bridget Jones, at the same time, the number of Mr Darcy's are on the increase especially in the ABC1 socio economic category. This upwardly mobile singleton has done his overseas experience – travelled to Europe, Vietnam and Patagonia – tasted a variety of foods, whether it is an authentic curry in India or steak from Argentina. These travels and experiences ensure they acquire cultural capital about food which means once they return to the USA they will shop in local Chinese supermarkets for ethnic ingredients or search out the finest cheeses in specialist food shops.
According to research by the Future Foundation, men like being in the kitchen, as today's modern kitchen is full of gadgets – whether it is an ice cream maker, electric food steamer or a chef's oven range. A modern kitchen also means less washing up as the built in dishwasher takes care of that. The social forecaster, Richard Scase said that;
'Men define themselves by their work, and relax with too unhealthy food, a recipe for isolation and loneliness. Single women, by contrast are more likely to see friends, explore their spiritual side and relax with yoga.'
In order to redress the balance men have found food, the idea that a display of cooking skills will make them more attractive and desirable to prospective female partners and be rewarded in the bedroom.
We are also seeing changes in society and culture where women have entered the workforce creating new pressures in the home. We would like to think that men do their fair share of household duties, whether it is childcare, cleaning or shopping. Men have chosen to play their part by involving themselves in the most creative area of housework – the kitchen. The male does not see this as a chore – but rather a hobby and leisure experience. The kitchen for the male has become the 'new battle of the sexes' – somewhere to be better and outdo their partner. It is also a place to escape to, away from the drudgery of everyday life and the pressure of work. To men, the kitchen is the equivalent of a spa treatment or somewhere to create a masterpiece.
Passion for cooking and for food is now more important for men. They secretly admire Wolfgang Puck or Mario Batali, as cooking carries with it social status and helps be that 'chef'. It must be remembered that America's middle class society is fundamentally a leisure society, which is shaped by what they do in their spare time. In Anthony Giddens' classic 1991 work "Modernity and Self Identity", he described this situation as:
'People are constructing their identity for themselves using leisure and other signifiers in a
post-traditional modernity where they are no longer given an established pattern to follow'
In these circumstances young men are becoming so passionate about the food they cook. It is not simply the provision of sustenance. It is part of who they are and what they do. Food helps men to form part of their identity like work, politics and sport. Men and food is also related to the importance of owning a home – an aspiration the majority of American's strive for. Homeownership is connected to the importance of dinner parties which in recent times have become the new party scene for the upward mobile set. Dinner parties represent the chance to show off their skills just like once upon a time John Travolta, homed his dance skills in Saturday Night Fever. Some would say, the 'new going out' is the 'new staying in' - a chance to socialise in an environment of plasma screens, fine wines and food.
Mass affluence in society has meant men have been able to try out new experiences, broadened their horizons and raised expectations. Affluence has changed the way in which society eats and the way that they cook. Today, cupboards in our kitchens are ladened with important delicacies from far afield. Technology and the chilled cabinet have also allowed us to 'cheat in the kitchen', with ready prepared sauces, so who said that men never cheat!
Don't think for one moment that tomorrow's male will be metro sexual or someone that has found his feminine side. The new wave of celebrity chefs are visibly laddish, macho or just plain angry when cooking. They assert their aggression in the kitchen – just like footballers on their field. If you have watched 'Hell's Kitchen' you will know what I mean.
As pollster Mark Penn observes 'micro trends are based upon the idea that the most powerful forces in our society are the emerging, counterintuitive trends that are shaping tomorrow before us'. Therefore moving into the future, tomorrow's food tourist will be the upwardly mobile male, aged 26-44 who will see cultural capital and social cachet in America's food experiences. In general, men are becoming more interested in food. This means more connectivity between food and wine, whether it is as an incentive product for those involved in business tourism or just more men taking food tours. Deluxe kitchen manufacturers will probably offer cookery lessons with the celebrity chefs in a wonderful location so you can learn how use all those gadgets. Cookery schools with probably offer 'Man Food' courses for those that want to know how to 'cook a decent curry' for those on urban weekends. Restaurants will be taken over by budding Gordon Ramsay's, who will fight it out just like 'Hell's Kitchen'. Those budding celebrity chefs will pay for the privilege for doing so and they will invite their friends and relatives to consume that food (which you will charge for) and you will then sell them a DVD of the experience.
This trend is happening all over the world, whether it is the USA, UK, Germany or China. Men's opinion of food is changing to the point where it becomes a driver of leisure pursuits and holiday activity.
Ian Yeoman's new book, tomorrows tourist discusses what the future tourist will look like in 2030, where they will go on holiday and what they will do.
Ian Yeoman is the world's only professional crystal ball gazer or futurologist specializing in travel and tourism. Ian learned his trade as the scenario planner for VisitScotland, where he established the process of futures thinking within the organisation using a variety of techniques including economic modelling, trends analysis and scenario construction. In May 2008, Ian was appointed an Assoc. Professor of Tourism Management at Victoria University, He is a popular speaker at conferences and was described by the UK Sunday Times as the country's leading contemporary futurologist.
Ian has a PhD in Management Science from Napier University, Edinburgh and a BSc (Hons) in Catering Systems from Sheffield Hallam University. Previously, Ian was Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Hospitality Management at Napier University and University College, Birmingham. He has extensive experience within the hospitality industry, for which he was a hotel manager with Trusthouse Forte.
Ian has received a number of awards in recognition of his research including his appointment as a Honorary Professor of Tourism Management at Stirling University and the Mike Simpson Award from the Operational Research Society.
More details about Ian and futurology in the travel industry can be at www.tomorrowstourist.com
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