HEG thesis by Ashley Nelson (2012) – United States

29 Jun 2016

Chef Ashley Nelson holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Hospitality Administration from Boston University and graduated from Hautes Etudes du Goût, a Le Cordon Bleu Paris programme. Ever since she began cooking meals for her family at ten years old, Ashley has nurtured a passion for hospitality and seeing people come together through food. With a background as a food product development consultant for PepsiCo and McDonalds, Chef Ashley is always searching for new and innovative ways people can enjoy food. Recently, Chef Ashley sold her first business known as Constructive Chaos, a cooking and art school for kids in the Chicagoland area, to follow her love for adventure and the outdoors of Montana. Her new venture, Un-Knotted a cafe, adventure catering and meal delivery service is set to open July 2016. She’s excited to inspire the people of Bozeman and beyond come together through food. Her experience at HEG allowed her to obtain a broader understanding of food and its place in American culture.

Ashley Nelson

The American Dream and American Food Culture: A look at how values of equality, individualism, prosperity and capitalism made America fat.

Despite thousands of scientific studies and academic finding on the obesity epidemic, obesity rates are still on the rise. According to the World Health Organization over 66.9% of the United States population, ages 20-74, are either overweight or obese and approximately 18% of American children are obese. Obesity as a health crisis began in the 1980’s and since has escalated into a worldwide epidemic.

However, this escalation is not due to a lack of trying to solve the problem. Experts across the United States have long and complicated biological, chemical, physiological and political explanations for the problem of obesity.

To develop a cultural view into the problem of obesity I first studied the findings of fifteen nutritional experts in the United States to determine a missing link in the obesity puzzle. Roughly 80% of all scholarly academic articles on the subject of obesity are written from a scientific standpoint with no cultural or social science aspect.
I conducted research in the food media industry to understand psychological and cultural motivators for food decisions evident in forms of mass media. I studied the food industry through a number of different business sources in order to develop an American eating pattern.
I conducted historical research into revolutionary American Values and found evidence that American Dream values create America.
In the end I was able to put all this research together in order to develop a cultural explanation for why Americans eat the way in which they do.
This paper serves to show that while scientific data is needed to find a solution to the obesity problem, cultural values must be understood in conjunction with scientific and physical research. I point out four mainstream American food habits and tie these habits to important American values.

By understanding the unconscious cultural values that allow Americans to eat the way they eat, America may be able to begin to change their unhealthy relationship with food.

Institut des Hautes Etudes du Goût, de la Gastronomie et des des Arts de la Table

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