Pigs, herring, and Bornholm on a table

A high-end restaurant’s construction of authenticity

  • Martha Sif Karrebæk
  • Marie Maegaard


This paper focuses on constructions of authenticity in a high-end restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. The restaurant self-identifies as ‘Bornholmian’ and thereby it creates a link to the island of Bornholm, some 160 km from Copenhagen. Bornholm is introduced discursively as an interpretive universe and as an essential part of the restaurant’s claim to value. We show how authenticity is performed, created, and treated reflexively. We concentrate on servers’ authenticating discursive moves and their crucial role in guiding guests’ attention to relevant elements, and we point out that authenticity is a potential that does not always materialize fully. We also discuss guests’ role in the creative processes. The restaurant’s construction of a comprehensive semiotic experience includes food, décor, photos, tableware, and narratives; dialect features are used to heighten the intensity of the guests’ experience. We build on Coupland’s (2003, 2014) semantic dimensions of authenticity, that lay out the meaning dimensions contributing to an understanding of authenticity, and on Coupland & Coupland’s (2014) frames of authenticity. Here (constructed) authenticity emerges through interactional frames that participants can orient to and draw upon in their creation of value. Frames of cultural, recreational and material authenticity are continuously made relevant, and tradition, or historicity, and place of production, or ontology, are important semantic dimensions. The data set consists of interviews with staff, recordings of servers at work, visits to the restaurant webpage, and ethnographic field-notes and photos.

Keywords: authenticity, semantic dimensions, frames, the restaurant experience, pork

Image: Pig silhouette with caption "Small Forest Pig" in Danish
Jan 22, 2017
How to Cite
KARREBæK, Martha Sif; MAEGAARD, Marie. Pigs, herring, and Bornholm on a table. Semiotic Review, [S.l.], n. 5, jan. 2017. Available at: <https://www.semioticreview.com/ojs/index.php/sr/article/view/5>. Date accessed: 20 apr. 2024.