Eater.com: "Dear White Chefs: Stop Talking, Start Listening"

https://www.eater.com/2017/5/12/15630266/dear-white-chefs-stop-talking-start-listening

excerpt:

“But now?” Severson writes of Mistry. “She views fine dining as disingenuous, built from a system steeped in oppression and hierarchy in which women, gays and other minorities — whether customers or cooks — are not treated the same.” Mistry compares Keller’s style of high-end, high-price-point, tasting menu dining to haute couture, with its appropriation of styles and techniques from minorities, and says to Keller (by way of Severson), “You need to go on your woke journey.”

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I agree that more diversity in the restaurant industry is a worthwhile goal (who wouldn’t?). But the second someone complains about “appropriation of styles and techniques from minorities,” I immediately hate them and everything they stand for. I simply don’t believe that any culture “owns” a particular ingredient or preparation.

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Although I understand the resistance to the term, ‘appropriation’ I urge you not to let it get in the way of reading this important piece.

‘Appropriation’ is frustrating when used as a catch all, but that’s usually because the most crucial component is written out of the definition. It’s not about making use of culture, but making use of a culture in a way that excludes, marginalises or exploits the people of that culture. It is about using culture in a way that does not invest in the necessary structural changes to dismantle the hierarchy that exists.

As for that structure, it won’t get dismantled by these vague appreciations of ‘diversity’ as Korsha Wilson astutely notes.

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Okay. Say I want to order a pastrami egg roll. What investment in structural changes should I make in order to do this?

I did. I don’t comment on articles I haven’t read.

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Okay. Say I want to order a pastrami egg roll. What investment in structural changes should I make in order to do this?

Oy. I am genuinely not clear what kind of argument you are seeking to make here, particularly as you are seizing an example that has not been introduced. This would involve my calling that dish ‘appropriation’ (or of the level being discussed in this article). That is focussing on the minute in order not to consider larger issues. And many of those have been debated time and again here and on Chowhound in terms of viewing particular cuisine as fine dining or hole in the wall, expecting particular costs from some but not others, supporting restaurants known to advance some over others, etc.

I did. I don’t comment on articles I haven’t read.

I wouldn’t have guessed from a comment that seized on one word from the pull quote but neglected everything else that was actually the focus on the article. That said, I’m delighted you did. It’s a great piece whose perspective outlines a lot of what would answer your little hypothetical.

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You missed the point of my first post in this thread, which was that an author can write nine things that sound plausible, but if the tenth thing she writes is “the earth is flat,” or “millions of illegals voted for my opponent,” or like that, then I will immediately doubt the first nine things. Especially when said author seems to believe that disagreement and “silencing opposing voices” are the same thing.

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FML

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Huh. So thinking more about forms of exploitation causes you such despair? I suppose that’s a good thing as long as you don’t let that stop you.

Of course, my comments shouldn’t be where you go for that. There may be links in this excellent article above.

Lazy thinking and parroting of big words and ideas bore me.

The whole paper reads like an upperclassman essay for an “Inequality in America: A Discourse on Modern Expressions of Racism, Gender Inequality, Post-Colonialism, Homophobia, and Other Ways the Man Keeps Us Down” class. I’m guessing for a Cal State SF Woman and Gender Studies major.

The solution to “exploitation” (no examples given, so I’m not sure what exactly is being complained about, it’s all very vague) is that white executive chefs should only listen to their employees, but not ever talk to them or correct them. Great solution. Nelson Mandela would be proud.

Mistry sounds like an annoying person to work with.

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This is what I walked away thinking as well. The accusation of “appropriation of styles and techniques from minorities” without any concrete examples struck me as particularly vague. Not only do I agree with small_h that no particular culture can own an ingredient or technique, but also the vast majority of fine dining I have experienced is heavily based either on classic French (or other European) techniques, or tends toward more modernist techniques (which I associate mostly with America, correctly or incorrectly).

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I’m with the author on this one.

All quotes from article:

She’s not saying that groups of white chefs are getting together in secret meetings to discuss how to keep minorities down. She’s merely acknowledging issues that have affected generations of people of color.

Minorities are often celebrated as the “backbone” of restaurants and kitchens, but we are rarely given the voice and the opportunities to lead those institutions as chefs, managers, sommeliers, and service captains.

The only way that we’re going to get there is if they — and chefs like Keller and Kostow — open themselves up to hearing experiences different than their own. If we want to move forward as an industry, we have to listen, and be self-critical.

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Places to eat aren’t democracies.
Are they?

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And that is how Jackie Robinson became a major league star. Or Misty Copeland became a prima ballerina. Or Ellen Ochoa became an astronaut.

They sat down and earnestly explained their personal life story to the boss.

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We won’t ever agree from posts on here. But if you’re going to cite those examples I hope you’ve read their stories in their own words. I think they would agree with the author but I’m not them.

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Yes. I don’t have to agree with every last argument but these points are well made.

An article complaining about racism that singles out a race to tell them what to do. That’ll solve everything.

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Yes, makes one wonder what particular dish TK made that caused such ire.

While yes, of course racism and sexism still exist, still suck, and may be slightly more entrenched in the restaurant industry than others, I’m not clear on how that translates to “you can’t use our ingredients or techniques” or where the lines are supposed to be.

The phenomenon of white guys opening “ethnic” restaurants is a strange one. What factors turn sincere appreciation and imitation into (negative) cultural appropriation? Is it more upsetting when it is part of gentrification? Can a white man of Anglo-Saxon heritage make linguine without offense? If Italian pasta, why not ramen or soba?

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Rick Bayless actually came to mind when I was reading the article - he’s a pretty obvious example of white guy “appropriating” a non-white cuisine. However, from what I have seen of Rick Bayless, he is passionate about the cuisine and culture of Mexico and does a great job of educating people about the history of the food he cooks through his books and TV shows. I have no idea whether he employs Mexicans in his kitchens, works with Mexican cookbook writers on his books or has Mexicans filling other high level positions in his empire, but he seems to revere the culture and respect the native cooks he features on his shows. So, is he an offensive appropriator of that culture/cuisine, or a good ambassador for Mexican food in America? As a non-Mexican person, maybe my opinion is irrelevant in any case.

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Nope.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold