Restaurant’s claim of ‘Clean’ Chinese food stirs controversy

World Today

Restaurant's claim of 'Clean' Chinese food stirs controversy

A couple of owners of a new Chinese restaurant in New York are apologizing – for cultural appropriation.

CGTN’s Karina Huber has details on the cuisine controversy.

Lucky Lee’s – a new Chinese-American restaurant owned by a white woman has triggered a firestorm of criticism.

At issue was the marketing of the restaurant. It said it would provide “clean” Chinese food that wouldn’t leave people feeling “icky or bloated” the morning after.

“It’s a negative connotation, and it’s also implying that one’s cuisine is better than the others, and I think that that’s a really dangerous space to be in,” Nancy Yao Maasbach, President, MOCA said.

Doron Wong, the co-owner of Northern Tiger, which specializes in Northern Chinese food, took offense to the insinuation that all Chinese food is unhealthy.

“We’re using non-GMO soy sauce, gluten free soy sauce and it’s actually being produced out of China. It’s not being produced here. People in China are also aware of what they are putting into people’s bodies,” Wong said.

In an interview with the New York Times, Lucky’s Lee’s owner apologized saying: “We thought we were complementing an incredibly important cuisine, in a way that would cater to people that had certain dietary requirements Shame on us for not being smarter about cultural sensitivities.” 

The owner of Lucky Lee’s is just the latest restaurateur to be accused of being culturally insensitive. Award-winning chef Andrew Zimmern faced criticism when opening Lucky Cricket and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is currently being accused of cultural appropriation as he prepares to open his new eatery “Lucky Cat” in London.

Nancy Yao Maasbach, the head of the Museum of Chinese in America said Chinese immigrants are particularly sensitive about food because of years of stereotyping. She said many also don’t know its history.

“People don’t know how the Chinese first came to this country, why there is this Chinese-America cuisine versus Chinese cuisine, which are very distinctly different,” Maasbach said.

She said chefs should be careful about how they market themselves, but shouldn’t be criticized merely for seeking inspiration from cultures other than their own.

They said that there is no such thing as bad press. That may be true even in the case of Lucky Lee’s. On opening night, there was a line to get in.