In my small town there are four Asian Restaurants. Two of them are the sort of Chinese place you’d find in any town anywhere -- glossy pictures of food on the wall, general tso’s, eggrolls, crab rangoon, four small tables on tile floor, overhead fluorescent lighting. The type of place you can walk out of for under $15 full, perhaps too full, riding a monosodium glutamate high. The other two establishments ain’t that. They’re posh, dimly lit, serve cocktails and ambiance and $20 plates of noodles. Their pantries are Asian -- fish sauce, miso, shaoxing and scallions -- but their patronage, their owners are white.
What should we make of this? Are they Culture Vultures? Gentrifiers? Appropriators?
What about the food? Should the ethnicity of the chef reflect on the food’s value? What if it’s genuinely delicious? What if the flavor is more pronounced, more ambitious, more unapologetically Asian than the Americanized-Asian food offered by owners who tone down their cuisine so white people will like it? Is it possible that in some cases, the more ‘authentic’ flavor could come from a white guy in chef’s whites, or is that colonialism all over again? Elvis stealing the blues, Brooklyn turned into a bike lane.Read More