Lucky Lee's

White Owners of Lucky Lee’s Advertise ‘Clean’ Chinese Food, Get Slammed for Racist Stereotypes

Some people just love to use other people’s culture to make a profit. 

Chefs, from the world renown Gordon Ramsay to small town TV food personality Andrew Zimmern, have hijacked Chinese cuisine avowing their restaurant serves “authentic Asian” food. Zimmern went so far as to call traditional Chinese restaurants “horse s—t restaurants.”   

A third imposter, Arielle Haspel, is co-owner of Lucky Lee’s in New York City. The restaurant, which opened on Monday, is being marketed as a mixture of her passion for Chinese food with her healthy eating focus. It offers modified versions of General Tso’s Chicken and Kung Pao Shrimp stating that the food is “gluten-free, dairy-free, wheat-free, corn-free, peanut-free” and made without MSG or food coloring — a stereotype that all Chinese food has MSG.

The issue that Twitter users brought up is, what is culturally appropriate when it comes to culinary arts? Is it wrong that a white woman who has a career as a health coach and dietary restrictions of her own has opened what she deems a “clean” Chinese restaurant?   

In online posts by Haspel, now deleted, she said  “clean” meant ingredients without additives.

“Some of your reactions made it clear to us that there are cultural sensitivities related to our Lucky Lee’s concept,” she posted. “We promise you to always listen and reflect accordingly … When we talk about our food, we are not talking about other restaurants, we are only talking about Lucky Lee’s.” 

But many Twitter users explained that Haspel is profiting from Chinese food and, at the same time, demeaning the cuisine by perpetuating stereotypes.  

All ethnicities borrow from other cultures but as sociologist Oliver Wang points out when white people sell food from minority cultures there’s a fundamentally different power structure at work.

“When you have people who are more powerful who are borrowing, they are often able to profit from that in a way that less powerful people aren’t,” Wang told TIME magazine.   

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