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Comment Archives: stories: News & Opinion: Feature

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

This is the new Oakland. They (always white, always with might) have the money and the power and the "in." Uber is leading the way. Within 5 years West Oakland will probably have a Whole Foods, wiping out local community farmers markets and these hipster high-so restaurants with their fake rustic/poverty porn ovens and grills will be everywhere. There is just no end to this parade of slick, well-heeled, heavily financed celebrity chef wannabes and their Moet swilling tech millionaire followers. When's this sh*t going to end? Looks like they've just begun.

Posted by Brian Lucas on 08/29/2016 at 9:01 AM

Re: “Top Ramen For Life: The Student Loan Crisis

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Posted by Serena Ann on 08/27/2016 at 1:26 AM

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

Very thoughtful article with lots to ponder. The Bruce Cost/Barbara Tropp feud comes to mind when two whites argued about being the better Chineese cook (both were sensational) and Trader Vic with his faux Polynesia. James Beard introducing his audience to pu-pu platters in his cookbooks. French and American chefs incorporating fusion flavors in the eighties. The Romans are in the midst of that now. I think the issue is sensitivity and respect and as Russ said if it brings people to the table everyone should benefit.

Posted by Dennis Lapuyade on 08/27/2016 at 12:35 AM

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

Luke makes many good points here about privilege, the comfort zone and expectations of audiences, etc. However, I do think the media plays an even larger role than Luke states. Los Angeles has Jonathan Gold, who is as adventurous and knowledgeable about all kinds of cuisine as any critic in existence. Many really great places, a majority of which are run by immigrants cooking food from their culture, are given business-altering attention by Gold's writing. This has a cascade effect, in that illuminating the often challenging Southern Thai cooking of Jitlada then opens up people's palates and minds to other Thai places doing unfamiliar things. Is Luv2Eat Thai a huge success within its first year (!) without the groundwork of Jitlada and Jonathan Gold? I doubt it.

The Bay Area (and primarily SF) has traditionally been covered by Michael Bauer and collectively the places he writes about are very different than Gold's portfolio. This has undoubtedly informed the palates of the Bay Area. Why is it a big surprise, then, that people prefer Comal to El Paisa when nobody even bothers to review El Paisa (until Luke did so last year, 7 years after it opened)? For years, Chowhound was a far better place to learn about interesting eateries than any of the normal media outlets (and its descent into uselessness is a sad story for another day). But CH fame isn't enough by any stretch to lead thousands of people to try a place or cuisine or dish that's outside their comfort zone, to turn Jitlada into JITLADA. It's not impossible: Burma Superstar has turned everybody into a tea leaf salad expert; Turtle Tower is the reference for many people's pho ga. These places are out there, but we need help separating the good from the mediocre.

Therefore, the way to balance the scales is for media members who have a broad audience to considerably expand what kind of restaurant is considered “review worthy”, and to write knowledgeably, adventurously and engagingly about them. This is not a small thing to ask. Who will take the time to understand and explain the characteristics of Jiangsu cuisine, and where to go to experience it? Who has the depth to say that this Sinaloan mariscos place stands above the others? Gold certainly wasn't born with an innate understanding of homestyle Korean food, but he can write about Soban with enough authority and enthusiasm that some people will go check it out, and some fraction of them will have a great experience and tell their friends, and so on. Whoever the Bay Area's Jonathan Gold is, she or he will need a lot of time to build trust and an audience. Maybe it's a group effort. Luke is clearly doing his part and I thank him for his efforts. I believe he's easily the best critic we have right now, and maybe in time he will be enough if he is given a platform with a wider geographic range. There's definitely a market for this type of criticism -- we just need the right guidance.

N.B. The South Bay is filled with places that are known mainly only to the immigrant populations that they serve. Would someone please start writing intelligently about them?

Posted by Peter Chang on 08/26/2016 at 5:06 PM

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

I guess Apple shouldn't make smartphones either because they are culturally an Illinois, Espoo and Seoul thing

Posted by Dave Campbell 1 on 08/25/2016 at 8:33 PM

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

Here's my opinion of all of this. Frankly it shouldn't matter what the chef looks like as long as the food is good. This is America and we tend to forget the goal of this country is to be a melting pot. Sure we have moments where we fail at it but for the most part we do a good job and the fact of the matter is we try. Unlike most other countries in this world where diversity isn't an issue because they just stick to themselves. Where the beauty of America working properly is in the kitchen. Rather than questioning the ethnic background of our chefs and their cuisines, we should embrace it. If you go to any of these places on a given night (which I do) the audience they serve too is diverse as well as their staffs. When you are dining at these places it's during that time everyone can agree regardless of where they are from can agree that food is delicious and should be appreciated in all its forms. Much like we should appreciate each other as Americans. Honestly if our politics and beliefs were run like the kitchens across the country then the world would be a better place. If we were all supposed to cook and eat what our ethnic backgrounds are "meant" to do then we are in essence forgetting the heart of what this country is built on which is being the melting pot, in the kitchen and out of it.

Posted by Joco Fernan on 08/25/2016 at 1:43 PM

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

My issue with this article is that there are several great black chefs in Oakland that own restaurant's, popups, trucks or are caterers and no one EVER asks us what we think about all of these restaurants that also have a play on soul food too. Where do the African American Chefs come into play or EVEN get recognized!

Posted by Aaronette Leboothang King on 08/25/2016 at 11:51 AM

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

I appreciate comments by Alexis and Fremont here. The issue of usurping other people's cultural heritage and profiting - both egotistically and materially - by assimilating elements for the appreciation of higher class people makes me sad, even as a middle class white man from the Fruitvale. Yet, while I highly value origin and history, I also am burdened with a tongue schooled in locally-grown, grass-fed, sustainable, bla bla, the value of which I cherish supporting in my defiance of industrial corporate food production. The race issue in Tsai's article is symptomatic of our shared American problem rooted in wealth differences, wealth is glamorized, envied, disdained, yet tacitly accepted. While I feel conflicted about Ramen Shop/Tacubayu/Comal/etc, I also can appreciate the audience that has enabled this creative and disciplined expression of food. While I lament the influx of bearded gentry into our Bay oasis, I cherish the educated/artistic/activist culture that existed before and laid the groundwork for appreciation of values in food.

Posted by Bankito on 08/25/2016 at 9:27 AM

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

"Moore, on the other hand, said he only hopes that The Kebabery might act as a kind of gateway for the type of customer who will drive out of their way to dine at a Russell Moore restaurant, but might never set foot in any of the Bay Area's many excellent traditional kebab restaurants."

This is exactly the problem isn't it? That is exactly what's going to happen because he is making a "low/dirty" cuisine "safe" for white palettes. And the presence of his restaurant in this neighborhood is making a "low/dirty" neighborhood safe for people who would have never set foot there. He clearly has no interest in catering to the traditionally working class, primarily colored residents in this neighborhood. Rather, he is another person looking to capitalize on the comparatively lower rents in North/West Oakland because he knows that his upper class white clientele will follow. And when they do, they will have the same "epiphany" that West Oakland is actually not as bad as they thought it was and that it's "actually pretty cool and gritty". More hip restaurants by popular chefs and coffee shops will come (as if there aren't enough) and people with money will follow along with higher rents, continuing the rampent spread of gentrification in West Oakland.

In Moores case, The Kebabery itself isn't the problem. It's the location, and the lie that he is telling himself and the community that his intention is to contribute to the the existing neighborhood. Unless we're talking truly accessible price points and a truly welcoming and unpretentious vibe, I will continue to see this as exploitative.

Posted by Christina Young on 08/25/2016 at 9:19 AM

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

HELLO WOW another new restaurant, so many coming in to West Oakland,and no local people will get jobs, or afford to eat. Over the years I've tried to get to know people and try for a job--no luck. a few weeks ago, that guy from NY was right--'what's next ? more outsiders, so locals lose out

al brown-chef-creole

Posted by Alan Brown on 08/25/2016 at 9:11 AM

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

What a great article that says it all. All you left out was the example of how Paula Dean appropriated recipes, and labor and a false identity to create her empire.

I've been saying it for years.....The U. S. has been held hostage, to the collective juvenile ego of American white people while they've been learning how to cook. Yes that's what we've been witness to....white people learning to cook. (Remember before this 'movement', white households ate, canned foods and frozen dinners.)

Yes, white people learning about food from growing it to preparing it; white people learning about spices and how they flavor and enhance meats and vegetables, white people discovering the foods of other cultures...oh I could go on, but the thing that gets me, is how the white mind, in it's inherent arrogance, now wishes to proclaim it's supremacy in the realm of food growing and cooking ~ When in fact, they are the last participant to the party. They are just now learning things, that Black, Latino, and Asian, and native indigenous people have KNOWN FOREVER...

Yet as always...they appropriate, and then create systems of hierarchy, awarding prizes, titles and fame upon themselves for things the learned from others ( IE: All the food and cooking networks and popular TV type cook-off programs TV).

The last element in their game is the commercializing of food and cooking. Exploiting it for profit. Food ...people !!! Earth's ultimate givingness. Nutrition, fuel, emotional fulfillment for the bodies of Earth's animals - 4 and 2 legged. Talking heads in the industry give us ridiculous creative labeling on menus and at Farmer's Markets about the source of a bean. And foodies spout off these descriptions and name-drop them like a designer label groupie.

These new to the kitchen, white chefs/cooks - professional and at home ~ never realize the fools that they look like to all the rest of humanity. Like the awkward child/man on the old Mad TV show, that demanded attention, as he spastically jumped up and down, crying out, "Look what I can do!!"

We, who bear the knowledge in our genes, souls and family legacies just shake our heads, and roll our eyes while we add a pinch and retreat to the memory of the way Grandma prepared it, ....as we just 'stir on'....

Posted by Liz Lee on 08/25/2016 at 12:39 AM
Posted by Marísa Mendoza on 08/24/2016 at 7:23 PM

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

Why is it on the restaurants to ask themselves why they're doing what they're doing? As long as they aren't explicitly selling themselves as something they are not, I don't see the problem.

I would love to see restaurants come together and discuss with each other and the community these types of issues, rather than grapple with them on an intimate level.

If the consumers are supporting restaurants that sell a veneer of authenticity, culture, and diversity, that's our collective responsibility to be more mindful and investigative in our consumption.

Posted by Timothy Ng on 08/24/2016 at 5:52 PM

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

Thanks, Luke. No easy answers here but humanity.

Posted by Jono Schneider on 08/24/2016 at 5:32 PM

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

What a perfectly complex subject for the Oakland community to debate! As a white male who loves all food from all cultures, I am already a customer of both the hole in the wall ethnic spots & places like Penrose. I love them all & I hope our community can strike the right balance to ensure all can make a decent living & keep all those good eats coming!

Posted by andrewdeangelo on 08/24/2016 at 2:35 PM

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

To echo Cho, my biggest beef is when a restaurant uses ethnic ingredients and then declares whatever final dish they made with it as belonging to that ethnic group. Anything made with gochujang, or marinated in a mix of soy sauce/sugar, is not suddenly Korean.

This is definitely a class/education issue that goes hand in hand with eating local and "clean" ingredients. I can't hate on it though. These upscale establishments lend a level of transparency to where their ingredients come from that makes diners feel safe and seemingly justifies the higher prices. Atmosphere while dining also makes a difference. Sometimes it's just nicer kitchenware and furniture. Other times its the diner feeling like an odd duck because they're not the ethnicity of the cuisine or cannot speak the language of their server/fellow diners. There's a level of comfort in atmosphere and dining with the familiar, whether that is ingredients, language, etc.

Posted by Alexis Davidson on 08/24/2016 at 12:07 PM

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

What's as remarkable as how many white people are making upscale ethnic food is how many people of color are making it, too. Feel like this is as much a race issue as a class/education issue. Also how come soul food is roundly ignored in this article?

Posted by Fremont on 08/23/2016 at 8:19 PM

Re: “Law Enforcement Killed 90 Oakland Residents Since 2000, And 74 Percent Were Black

Everybody is crying racism, but nobody knows the meaning of the word. First off, let's be honest. Yuvette Henderson was packing and tried to carjack three, yes three cars as she ran from Emeryville police, then pointed her piece at the cops. The issue here isn't police racism, it's why we live in society that promotes lawlessness, promotes violence, and doesn't give a helping hand to raise people out of lives of crime and violence.

Posted by Andrew Stevenson on 08/20/2016 at 8:47 AM

Re: “About the Data: What Our Reporters Analyzed to Learn About Officer-Involved Killings in Oakland

Hmmm... 4 shot Wednesday night on the 1100 block of Mandela Parkway. OPD didn't do it, so EBX doesn't care. Odd.

Posted by Bruce Ferrell on 08/19/2016 at 8:03 AM

Re: “Law Enforcement Killed 90 Oakland Residents Since 2000, And 74 Percent Were Black

From John Iversen, Berkeley. Sadly the most ignored fact anywhere has been reported by the Guardian. Native people are killed at a rate 50% higher than blacks by police: 5.4 million to 3.6 million per capita. We are ignored, hidden away in rural areas with no TV cameras or even newspapers to report the murders. I am waiting on Color of Change or another POC group to do something for native people. NATIVE LIVES MATTER! LEONARD'S LIFE MATTERS! This is why I urge readers to support Nanci-Armstrong-Temple. Darryl Moore has become a tool of big $$ developers, abstained on a clemency for Peltier resolution, and has become the Mary Wainwright he once defeated. And don't get me started on his personal life! I am no angel and neither is he! John Iversen

Posted by John Tango Iversen on 08/18/2016 at 5:17 PM

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