Food Workers as Individual Agents of Culinary Globalization:
Pizza and Pizzaioli in Japan

Rossella Ceccarini

 

Abstract

According to the Italian restaurant guide of Japan, published in 2006 by the Italian Trade Commission, there are 3974 restaurants serving Italian cuisine, or at least dishes inspired by Italian cuisine, all over the Japanese archipelago. Pizza is among the most popular dishes.

 

The purpose of this paper is to give an overview of the state of pizza in Japan, based on the experience and the knowledge of pizza chefs (i.e. pizzaiolo) and Italian restaurateurs in Tokyo. The emphasis on the producers’ side is based on the assumption that studies on food in Japan have paid attention to the Japanese customer, to the way foreign food has been “glocalized,” and to the way eating habits have changed since the introduction of new foods (Tobin et al. 1994, Ohonuki-Tierney 1997, Ashkenazi and Jacob 2000, Cwiertka 2006), while the role of food workers seems to have been overlooked. But prior to being eaten, food and cuisine must be crafted and prepared. Thus, this paper looks at the glocalization of a foreign culinary product from the perspective of food creators, investigating the role they play in spreading glocalization and making the culinary product desirable. The focus on the creator side highlights at least two significant issues:

 

1) Food is not a mere commodity but an artifact of human ingenuity, a creative product shaped through the accumulation of knowledge, skills, and experience. Food does not travel only in response to consumer demands or by the will of multinational corporations, but also thanks to food creators.

 

2) There is a double-flow of transnational food workers. One is the flow of Italian pizzaiolos going to Japan to ply their trade, having the cultural and human capital necessary to recreate Italian food in Japan while coping with environmental differences and restraints. The other one is the flow of young Japanese traveling to Italy to learn how to make pizza. They move to Italy in order to build and/or reinforce their culinary knowledge. When they come back to Japan they have acquired the necessary forms of capital (i.e. cultural, symbolic and institutionalized as in the Bourdiean perspective) to enter the Italian restaurant world of Japan.

 

To illustrate these issues this paper presents qualitative data collected through interviews with Italian and Japanese pizzaiolos working in the Tokyo restaurant business.

 

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Bio

Rosselia CeccariniRossella Ceccarini joined Sophia University's Global Studies PhD program in 2006. Her present research focuses on the reception of Italian food in Japan. Using an ethnographic approach, she is examining the case of pizza and pizza cooks in Japan, focusing on the role the food worker plays in the glocalization of food.  She is working on a book manuscript based on her dissertation research, tentatively titled, "Artisanal Pizza in Japan: A Case of Culinary Globalization".