An Instagram caption from a white chef at a Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles has sparked outrage amongst the Japanese American community, Eater reports.
David Schlosser a chef at the Michelin star restaurant Shibumi in Los Angeles posted a photo of a sakura mochi dessert on Thursday, April 15 to the restaurant’s Instagram account.
“Sakura mochi, the most iconic dessert in Japan,” the caption stated. “Yet no Japanese restaurants are featuring it? So sad. Makes my life harder. It’s because these Japanese restaurants don’t understand, appreciate, or care about promoting what Japanese cuisine is all about.”
A revised caption eliminated, “So sad. Makes my life harder.” The post has now been deleted entirely, according to Eater.
The post received 1,000 likes and some positive feedback, but it was also met with several critical comments. Eater also spoke to several Japanese Americans in Los Angeles about the post.
“All of us who are in Little Tokyo absolutely know Fugetsu-Do. We look forward to sakura mochi every year, and it just was kind of insulting to see somebody say that none of these other restaurants ‘get it.’ [Shibumi is] the only one [that] ‘gets it,’” Stephanie Nitahara, serves on the board of the Little Tokyo Community Council but does not speak on its behalf, told Eater.
Jimmy Matsuki, a creative director in Long Beach, explained that many restaurants don’t carry the dessert because other specialty mochigashi shops in the comment section of the now deleted posts.
“It’s a communal thing, and it’s part of our culture to go to certain shops for specific types of dishes and treats,” Matsuki told Eater. “If you understand the culture, you understand that that’s how we work.”
This isn’t the first time an established White chef has criticized Asian American restaurants for their lack of “authenticity.” In 2018, celebrity chef and “Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern criticized the lack of authentic Chinese restaurants in the Midwest when he opened his own Chinese restaurant, Lucky Cricket, according to NBC News.
“I think I’m saving the souls of all the people from having to dine at these horses— restaurants masquerading as Chinese food that are in the Midwest,” he said in an interview with Fast Company.
Schlosser apologized for the caption in a separate post on April 17.
“In an attempt to defend culinary tradition in Japan my intense feelings overtook my words,” he wrote. “For the past 20 years I’ve dedicated my life to Japan and Japanese culture but have a lot of listening and learning to do in AAPI awareness in America. I’m so grateful to the community for letting me share my passion and knowledge in Japanese cuisine. I hope to educate in a positive and inspiring way moving forward. I truly apologize for my presumptuous remarks.”
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