You likely know him as the host of the TV show, “Bizarre Foods.”
Andrew Zimmern just opened his own Chinese restaurant, Lucky Cricket, in Minnesota. And now, he is eating his words.
Last week, business magazine Fast Company posted an interview from the summer in which Zimmern says he was saving the souls of people who dine at “horsesh*t restaurants masquerading as Chinese food” in the Midwest.
The Eater website said his remarks represented cultural elitism. Eater restaurant editor Hillary Dixler Canavan wondered why Zimmern, a white man, was qualified to translate Chinese food to American diners.
An op-ed in The Washington Post called Zimmern’s remarks insulting. In a statement to the Star Tribune, Zimmern admitted his comments sounded arrogant. He attempted to clarify, saying he was referring to chain restaurants in malls and airports, and not the Chinese American mom-and-pop shops around the Twin Cities and the rest of the Midwest.
But the original statement has created a firestorm.
Minnesota food writer and podcaster Soleil Ho said that while she thinks it’s fine for someone who is not Chinese (she is Vietnamese and Chinese) to open a restaurant, it has to be in the right context.
“You want to pay credit to the people who come before you, so if you do that, you have my blessing,” Ho said. “I don’t want to speak for the whole community here, but if you do what you can to give credit to whoever you’re pulling from, that is better. But to actually erase that history and make yourself look good in doing so is not OK.”
White-dominated, capitalist societies taking ethic culture and commodifying it is an issue that goes beyond food. A white person can take a part of a culture that doesn’t belong to them and make it cool, trendy, and successful while the people of that culture face prejudice and marginalization. Taking a part of people’s cultural identity, white washing it, then selling it back to them and other white people for profit and praise is what leaves a bad taste in many people mouths.