Halloween Costumes, Cultural Appropriation, and Racism.


It’s a valid argument, but I would guess in every city Ramsey is operating there is also a huge quantity of lower-end Asian restaurants run by individuals, many of whom are, in fact, Asian.

You can’t walk around New York City or London and tell me that the restaurant scene is dominated by rich white guys.

Photographic example:


Yeah, hence the bit at the end about the fleet of carts: I don’t think Ramsay’s really stepping on the toes of, say, a first-generation immigrant moving up from food cart to a semi-permanent stall in a downtown food hall here.

But is it possible that the establishment restauranteurs, many of whom are basically Rich White Guys (with a smattering of Rich White Women), are basically just hanging onto the top end of the market via sheer inertia (and maybe no active malice on their part, but certainly by continuing to take advantage of socio-cultural advantages)? Sorta like how we have lots of interesting conversations over how white and male the Oscars noms are. Sure, there just aren’t many black or female filmmakers operating in the AAA space. But it’s a bit of a chicken-or-egg situation: if there aren’t any successful black/female/Asian/etc. filmmakers, then which studio is gonna be the one to risk the whole barn by dropping a bunch of money on up-and-comers as compared to the existing sure thing?

The argument extends downward from there. I live in Good Ol Racist North Carolina and look and sound Super White (despite being Half-Guatemalan). I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that if I took a crack at opening a Guatemalan Tamales food truck here in NC, I’d have an easier time, at every step along the way, than a chestnut-brown fresh-off-the-caravan Guatemalan immigrant with a heavy accent and roughly equal economic stats as me. Ditto for, say, a Thai guy, or an Ethiopian guy, etc.

So when you get a white guy cracking open a restaurant at any level, it might be worth at least thinking about how much more of the limited air in the room they’re sucking up by just choosing to exist in that space.

That’s not to say it’s not allowed, or that everything has to be equalized for everyone by tomorrow, stat.

But it’s a conversation to have. It leads to more places. Maybe it means more small business grants for minority entrepreneurs. Maybe it means food critics checking their unconscious biases and wondering whether they give higher scores to Jonathan Smith’s new pho place because the food’s good, or maybe because they’re good friends who run in the same circles, whereas competitor Duong Trần is some total stranger he can barely hold a conversation with, or if it’s possibly something a little deeper than that? Maybe, maybe not. Giving it time and thought is worthwhile, just to be sure :)


Absolutely, I have no doubt this is true. Without any data whatsoever, my gut tells me that if you picked the top 20 restaurants in any major city by revenue you’d find them to be nearly entirely owned by rich white guys.

And that’s definitely worth talking about, and trying to change. But not by screaming “CULTURAL APPROPRIATION!” and suggesting that rich white guys aren’t allowed to make Chinese food.


Ugly Delicious has a lot of good discussions along the lines of what @ArmandoPenblade wrote. They agree the “cultural appropriation” stuff is goofy, but it is worth talking about how John Smith can probably open an “authentic Indian cuisine” restaurant while Maneer Ravkimabish is going to struggle a lot more. Not least of which is that Maneer is probably going to cook food like his mother taught him, while John will tweak the menu to appeal more to the less adventurous eater.


Falling back on my previous examples

The Malaysian government sovereign wealth fund had a vehicle with the CEO a royal prince who opened a Malaysian restaurant in a prime location in Trafalgar Square. They came with a money pot the size of the moon, and lavished it on what turned out to be a restaurant that was in the wrong place that was average to begin with and went downhill from there. Corporatised disappointment. There’s also a Malaysian cafe in a market in Queensway Ive stopped in before that is a grotty, filthy, ill-maintained place with some really poor food, dried out meat, cold rice, sambal out a jar, soggy skinned chicken and slow service. It’s a couple of Malay expats running it and clearly this isnt backed by big money.

I’ve been to a food market and there’s a stall with some white kids who do chicken satay. It’s fantastic, perfectly cooked sweet, smoky, gently spiced delight of a satay stick with a deep, rich peanut sauce to dip it in, all inspired by their backpacking holidays in SE Asia. I just want to shake their hand.

Now guess which examples the cooking cultural appropriation argument favours?

Ive been to so many poor expat run restaurants from Persian to Polish to Malay to Chinese to Indian to Vietnamese to Ethiopian to Nigerian and I’m wary of the race card being used to wipe out the competition, especially if the competition are passionate food lovers producing authentic, brilliantly sourced, cooked and presented dishes.


Billy Crystal doing Sammy Davis

  1. Is a white actor ever allowed to impersonate a black person?
  2. If so, should they do it without makeup?
  3. Now that there are many excellent black Shakespearean actors, should white actors not play Othello?
  4. If white actors may play Othello, should they do it without makeup?

Stipulated that there is a difference between a professional actor doing a part and a “civilian” gagging around for a yearbook photo or even a Halloween party.

The difficulty for me is reconciling the complex and oppressive history of blackface minstrelsy with the ethos that actors ought to be able to play people who are not themselves, as that is what acting is.

There are also other traditions that could conceivably get caught up in this – e.g. drag, which is a comic tradition with a rich history. Any time a male comedian works in drag, are they depriving a perfectly good female actress of a gig? Can gay play straight, or straight gay? Does the specific history of blackface within a context of racial oppression set it intrinsically apart from all other cases of actors playing against their actual identity?


I clicked into this from an ongoing conversation about blackface in the Weinstein thread, but there has been a conversation about blackface a while back in this thread so im wondering where that post should be



Does DoorDash deliver from your food truck, because I want Tamales and Doughnuts now?

If you think it’s bad in the “food truck” biz, imagine how much worse it is when real estate is involved, and the rich good old boy network in full flight.


No kidding. Cue link to that article about how black sounding names got turned down for loans with the exact same paperwork that got accepted with white-sounding names. . .

And pshaw, no food truck for me, man. I like having free time :)