Where ‘The Rules Don’t Apply’: Organizational Isolation and Misbehaviour in Elite Kitchens

Robin Burrow*, Rebecca Scott, David Courpasson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we elaborate on the connection between organizational isolation and misbehaviour. Drawing on 47 interviews with elite chefs we make a twofold contribution to the misbehaviour literature. First, we conceptualize misbehaviour amongst chefs as a potentiality engrained into the geography of the kitchens they work in. Drawing on Smith (1987), we call this a geography of deviance. Through this concept we show that misbehaviour can be inscribed into a place, through structures that create feelings of invisibility, alienation and detachment. Second, we make sense of chefs’ misbehaviour by using Turner’s theory of normative communitas. Via this framing misbehaviour is cast as a ritualized component of an anti-structural way of being, where the kitchen is simultaneously apprehended as an instrument of social withdrawal and a symbol of deviance around which the community pivots. Through these contributions we help to crystalise the relationship between organizational isolation and misbehaviour, particularly in the context of chefs and kitchens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1103-1131
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number5
Early online date8 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge the support we have had from colleagues at Cardiff Business School. In particular, Cynthia Hardy and Rick Delbridge. We also thank the convenors and participants in the 2018 EGOS Sub-theme 36: ‘Arresting Space: Organizing (In-)Appropriations of/by Space and Place’. Lastly, we are grateful to Andrew Sturdy at the University of Bristol, whose speaking invitation in 2016 first catalyzed this project.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Society for the Advancement of Management Studies and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • chefs
  • communitas
  • isolation
  • kitchens
  • misbehaviour
  • normative communitas
  • space

Cite this