The Outrage Police Are At It Again. This Time Going After Chicago Top Chef Stephanie Izard Over "Recipe Appropriation"
Tribune - Stephanie Izard, chef and owner of Girl & The Goat restaurant in the West Loop area of Chicago, posted a recipe on Wednesday to Instagram that has generated hundreds of comments with accusations of cultural appropriation. In an ad for New Zealand beef, Izard included a link to her recipe that she said was inspired by the Korean rice dish bibimbap and a Japanese beef bowl, presumably gyudon. Her strip steak and rice bowl recipe bears little resemblance to the traditional Asian dishes.
Some of the first critical comments this week came from Won Kim, chef at Kimski in the Bridgeport neighborhood on the South Side of the city. Kim, who is Korean, replied to an Instagram comment by Spike Mendelsohn, a “Top Chef” contestant who competed in the season that Izard famously won, writing, “What’s so good about this? The gross misinterpretation of a beloved Korean dish? At least call it a remix or something else completely because that’s exactly what it is.”
One of the most liked comments from another user shared the sentiment. “What about this is bibimbap? Or gyudon for that matter? Neither one of the two ethnic foods you said inspired this dish have any representation in the dish you made. As a Korean Japanese person this is quite laughable and honestly another example of people who know nothing about Asian cuisine who try to make ‘Asian inspired’ foods,” read the comment in part, which continued “the dish itself looks delicious! Just def not bibimbap or gyudon.”
After more than 200 critical comments on the Instagram post to date, on Friday Izard updated her post, which has also received nearly 2,100 likes. “**UPDATE! I want to make sure my language is more clear on this dish.** I see and hear your comments,” she wrote. “So I want to clarify: This is my take on a tasty rice dish using flavors from a Japanese Beef Bowl and Korean Bibimbap! It’s not intended to be an authentic interpretation of either dish. This is my interpretation/homage.”
Unfortunately the update did not address the accusations that the interpretive recipe remained so dissimilar to the original dishes yet invoked their names. One of the most liked of the new round of comments read in part, “The only tenuous similarity is that they are meat over rice and you show that racist tendency to conflate all Asian cultures; this is just as ridiculous as calling it ‘an homage to beef risotto and Cajun jambalaya’ just because they both have meat and rice.”
When asked for comment, a publicist sent the following statement from Izard that they said was sent to Kim via Eater Chicago: “This was a misstep on my part that spun out of control and I am sorry. When I was originally brainstorming recipe ideas for this project, I thought of Bibimbap as an inspiration and jotted the recipe idea down as that — from there the recipe went through many variations and channels and ended up very far from traditional Bibambap. [sic] I should have made sure the name was changed before it went out to the public and I apologize that it wasn’t. It has since been changed to ‘Strip Steak Rice Bowl.’ I am not a traditional chef and nearly all of my dishes are inspired by flavors from around the world that I love — this experience has helped me realize that I need to be very careful and thoughtful about how I refer to dishes and I will make sure to do so in the future.”
Want to know possibly the clearest sign people have far, far, FAR too much time on their hands with these mandated shutdowns and businesses hurting?
Blasting quite possibly the nicest, most generous, and least offensive chef on the planet over culturally appropriating a recipe…
What the fuck are we doing here people?
Chef Izard clearly meant no harm here, as usual. Aren't there better ways to spend time and energy than looking for ways to be offended and outraged?
I think I speak for the silent majority here when I say we are fucking over the entire cancel culture thing. In fact, I'm proposing we cancel the cancel culturists. For good. I am offended and triggered by how they are offended and triggered by everything.
Conversations (remember those?) around food, music, and other cultural aspects and who they belong to is sophomoric. These things were always meant to be shared and to facilitate connections between different groups of people. When the fuck did it turn into a certain group of people being able to say only members of those groups are allowed to indulge in them otherwise "its cultural appropriation"?
As an Italian do I get to start throwing around accusations and demanding apologies because I am offended by Chicago's interpretation of pizza?
Will this most likely send the hounds after me? Probably. So I'll save them the leg work. Who am I to speak? I'm just a know-nothing DJ/blogger that bussed tables at age 12, ran the fryers at 14 (shout out George's Surf n Turf/The Redwood) worked in restaurants, bars, and clubs since 16, until opening my own in 2014.
p.s.- The most shocking part of all of this is possibly the fact that the guy who flipped out about this whole thing and set it off is usually such a calm level headed guy.
Eater - In response to Izard’s post, Kim posted an essay on Facebook Friday morning sharing his experiences as an immigrant growing up poor in a small apartment in West Rogers Park. He wrote that he encountered racism, enduring taunts for bringing Korean food to school and while grilling food during picnics in the park. Food gave Kim a sense of pride that he couldn’t celebrate publicly until the white mainstream accepted Koreans, he explained.
“The embarrassment, frustration, shame I felt for something I grew up eating almost every day up to this point was something I felt shame for,” Kim wrote. “I would struggle with this for a long time.”
A white chef can be seen as a capitalist, making money off a culture without investing the time to understand the source of their inspiration. BIPOC chefs, on the other hand, often struggle to find opportunities in the industry and risk being labeled as lazy for cooking their own food. Meanwhile, white chefs are hailed as explorers for “discovering” that same food. As Kim and others struggle for acceptance, Izard is held up as a tastemaker by her fans. If she approves a dish, then it’s safe for consumption and hailed as a trend.
Kim also took issue with other chefs who supported Izard’s approach instead of encouraging conversation, such as fellow Top Chef alum Spike Mendelsohn, who commented “Yassss so good Steph” on Izard’s post. That prompted Kim to ask Mendelsohn on Instagram, “what’s so good about this? The gross misinterpretation of a beloved Korean dish? At least call it a remix or something else completed because that’s what it is.” Mendelsohn, the D.C.-based chef behind the Good Stuff Eatery chain, responded by blocking Kim on Instagram, Kim tells Eater Chicago.
Kim’s issue isn’t cultural appropriation, as he cooks Polish and Korean fusion food at his own restaurant. Cultural exchanges, he believes, are integral: “I don’t want her canceled and I don’t want her to stop making money,” he says. “Some of this stuff really resonates and clearly, judging by the comments, it’s very personal to me and others.”
Some industry members — many who are white — view critiques from Kim and other BIPOC chefs as complaining. Kim received such feedback on his own Facebook page. Industry veteran Max Mora writes that Kim is “virtual signaling”: “Koreans have assimilated. Take it or leave it but this is long-winded whining.” Mora adds: “Sorry you had it tough growing up. I’m Jewish they snickered at us too. Get over it.”
Man oh man people can't we all just get along? Everybody take a deep breath and count to ten. There are way bigger fish to fry I think.
p.p.s.- my favorite whiners are the ones that love to knock Chef Izard for her success. Like she lucked into it by purchasing a lottery ticket and didn't work her ass off to get where she's at and stay there.