If you are any kind of foodie, you know Gordon Ramsay is a U.K.-based celebrity chef, restaurateur, and TV personality. Even if you are not a foodie, you have probably watched some of his hit TV shows, such as “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Hotel Hell,” and “MasterChef,” or frequented one of his Michelin-starred restaurants.
I once paid a visit to his burger place inside Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. Normally I am not a big fan of hamburgers, but the one I had at his restaurant was delicious.
On February 1, 2019, a few days before the Chinese Lunar New Year, Gordon announced via a tweet that he is going to open an authentic Asian restaurant, Lucky Cat, in London’s Governor’s Square this summer. According to his website, the name of this new restaurant was inspired by “Asian culture where the ‘lucky cat’ is a talisman that is believed to attract good luck and fortune.”
The new restaurant will have “state-of-art” interior design and is “set to become the go-to destination for exquisite, authentic Asian cuisine and culture in the heart of Mayfair, thriving on an ethos of respect and passion that is channeled into every dish.” The lead chef for this new restaurant will be Ben Orpwood, who has “extensive experience in the realm of Asian cuisine” and was the executive chef of another Ramsay restaurant, Maze.
Ramsay said he couldn’t wait to “open the doors at Lucky Cat and bring a new flavor of Asian food and culture to Mayfair.” But self-designated cultural cops couldn’t wait to put Ramsay’s feet to fire. How dare a white guy open an “authentic” Asian restaurant without an Asian lead chef? See, for example, tweets here, here, here and here.
These SJWs really suck all the fun out of life. Based on their ill-informed logic, every person should stick within the ethnic identity and culture they were born into for life. Authenticity to them means each race and ethnicity owns its own culture.
Thus, only a Chinese person can cook authentic Chinese food; only an Italian should make pizza or pasta; only French people can make crepes, and only Mexicans can make burritos. Anyone who dares to venture outside his or her identity box and incorporate diverse cultural elements into his or her life is a “culture appropriator” and “racial identity thief.”
Guess what: no one, not even social justice warriors, lives within the confines of the culture he or she was born into, because it is impossible to do. If simply adopting something from another culture is a crime, we are all sinners. You probably had a Greek yogurt for breakfast this morning; picked up a latte (Italian) on your way to work; you and your coworkers decided to get burritos (Hispanic) for lunch; you stopped by your gym for a yoga (Indian) or Zumba (Hispanic) class after work; and you picked up Chinese take-out for dinner.
Adopting something from another culture, incorporating other cultural elements into your life, is unavoidable and natural. It’s what enriches our lives. No culture can survive in a vacuum. Cultural “originality” doesn’t exist. Every culture appropriates. All cultures we think of as unique today are the result of generations of cross-pollination with other cultures. What these SJWs consider unique and original is often something “borrowed” from another culture long ago. They are just too ignorant to realize it.
Here is an example. Back in 2015, a few Vietnamese students at Oberlin College complained that the school dining hall’s offering of a traditional Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich was a “disrespectful” act, a “cultural appropriation,” because “instead of a crispy baguette with grilled pork, pâté, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs, the sandwich used ciabatta bread, pulled pork and coleslaw.”
David Frum, a writer for The Atlantic, helpfully points out that “ the references to ‘baguette’ and ‘pâté’ in a food product of a former French colony might have tipped off the angry Oberlin student that the banh mi is not quite as traditional a Vietnamese food as she imagined. When this exotic remake of a classic pate en baguette was first sold in the streets of Hanoi, the vendors called it ‘banh tay’: literally ‘Western-style bread.’”
So it turns out it’s the Vietnamese who have appropriated French food culture for a long time. Should the French students demand their culture back?
Many Asian students at Oberlin have no issues with their dining hall going out of its way to offer diverse food choices and help students feel closer to home. In my early days as a U.S. immigrant, any Chinese food, even westernized Chinese food, was good enough to heal my homesickness.
Speaking of westernized Chinese food, although it’s true you won’t find Sesame Chicken and fortune cookies when you travel to China, rest assured that white Americans didn’t appropriate Chinese culture by inventing Sesame Chicken and fortune cookies. Early Chinese immigrants created these westernized Chinese foods.
Chinese immigrants had limited employment opportunities at the time. So they chose to provide Chinese food with adjustments to local tastes in order to make a living. The westernized Chinese foods we have today are not products imposed by some kind of colonial power or an act of disrespect, but a reflection of early Chinese immigrants’ ingenuity and creativity.
After a few Asian students complained at Oberlin, dining services management apologized for their “culturally insensitive” manner in preparing ethnic food and promised to work hard to “offer culturally sensitive menus that will appeal to the Oberlin community.” Maybe the college should stop trying so everyone can go back to enjoying their normal blend of subpar cafeteria food with limited selections. Let’s all be miserable together.
To these self-designated culture cops, cultural appropriation is bad because it represents a ”particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.” But the way these self-designated culture cops bully everyone else into submission only demonstrates that they are power hungry. They want to create self-imposed cultural isolation and segregation. They want the power to limit other people’s freedom to decide how we will live.
Unfortunately, they tend to be the most active users on social media, which has given them a megaphone they don’t deserve and often abuse. But let’s not hand our power of self-determination to them. They don’t represent nor speak for the communities they claim to represent. Don’t let them bully any one of us into submission.
Ramsay should go ahead and open Lucky Cat on time and as planned. I hope he will throw a big opening party for it, and I look forward to paying it a visit someday. I will cheer for his creativity, innovation, and many future successes for the same reason I will cheer for any celebrity Asian chefs such as Cathlyn Choi or Roy Yamaguchi if they want to open an Italian or French or any other type of restaurant.
To quote one of my favorite lines from President Trump’s State of Union speech this year, “We are born free and we will stay free.” Each one of us gets to decide on our own what to eat, what to wear, how to live, and what cultural elements to adopt and to appreciate. It’s nobody else’s business.