HomeChinese AmericanAndrew Zimmern Apologizes for Remarks on Chinese Restaurants

Andrew Zimmern Apologizes for Remarks on Chinese Restaurants

Photo by Paul Hudson via Flickr Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).

Celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern apologized after he received backlash for making controversial comments about Chinese American restaurants, reports NBC News.

In his interview with Fast Company published last week, Zimmern discussed the opening of Lucky Cricket, his latest Chinese restaurant in Minnesota, with plans to open hundreds more of these restaurants across middle America.

“I think I’m saving the souls of all the people from having to dine at these horsesh*t restaurants masquerading as Chinese food that are in the Midwest,” said the host of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.

Zimmern took to Facebook Monday evening to express his regrets over his choice of words.

“Food should be for everyone, and yet culturally there is a terrible and centuries old history of White people profiting off of other cultures, in food, music, and elsewhere,” he wrote. “The upset that is felt in the Chinese American community is reasonable, legitimate and understandable, and I regret that I have been the one to cause it.”

“The Midwest’s ‘horses— restaurants’ are what paved the way for Zimmern’s venture and more broadly, Chinese cuisine in America,” wrote The Washington Post contributor Ruth Tam, who is Chinese American herself.

“These ‘horses—‘ restaurants may not clear Zimmern’s bar for authenticity, but despite adversity, they created a time-tested model for immigrant food and helped make Chinese food not only ubiquitous, but part of American identity.”

Zimmern also attacked popular restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s in the interview. The chain is founded by Philip Chiang, son of culinary figure Cecilia Chang, who is credited with introducing America to traditional Chinese cuisine.

“Was P.F. Chang’s not a ripoff because Cecilia Chiang’s kid owned it?” Zimmern said. “Because despite how he looks on the outside, he’s a rich American kid on the inside, right?

“Someone else is going to be the next P.F. Chang’s, and I don’t want them to blow it. And is it up to me to do it? I don’t know; I certainly think I’m in the conversation. And just because I’m not Chinese, I leave that to the rest of the world to judge.”

“With one glib comment, Zimmern basically erases [Philip] Chiang’s experience of race in America because he was from a rich family,” wrote Eater restaurant editor Hillary Dixler Canavan. “Calling Chiang’s cultural purity into question in order to give his own work on Lucky Cricket a pass is deeply misguided, if not outrageously offensive.

“Zimmern not only makes a value judgment about authenticity […] but he also makes it without questioning why he gets to pass judgment in the first place” Canavan continued. “That act of ‘translating’ on behalf of the presumably white audience — the idea that American diners need to have something unfamiliar ‘made more palatable’ to get them to the table — has shades of a strange, increasingly outdated form of cultural elitism.”

Zimmern said in his apology that he never intended to set himself up “as the arbiter of quality Chinese or Chinese American food or culture.”

He stated that for many diners in Minnesota, “the only Chinese food they know is what they see in airport fast food kiosks and malls,” and he hopes to “open their eyes to the greatness of Chinese and Chinese American cuisines and the people who put it on the plate.”

Watch Zimmern’s interview with Fast Company below.

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