Gordon Ramsay caused a stir in the rarefied world of fine dining this week when he opened a new restaurant called Lucky Cat, describing it as “an authentic Asian eating house”.
Food writer Angela Hui complained, claiming she was the only East Asian at the launch (are quotas de rigeur at PR events?), describing it as a real life Ramsay “kitchen nightmare”. Gordon’s crime was to feature something called a mini wagyu pastrami burger topped with Asian chilli jam.
Cultural appropriation seems a heavy handed response – why shouldn’t diners enjoy an “experience” without the need to leave their home town? It’s not the Open University, just a bit of fun on a plate, and why should Asian food not be interpreted by someone born elsewhere?
The British have a long tradition of subverting someone else’s cuisine, from Thai to Indian. What about dishes like kedgeree?
The restaurateur Aldo Zilli has thrown his pasta maker out of the pram by insisting that only Italian chefs can cook in his restaurants – “I don’t think anyone else from outside that country is going to understand that food”. Sure, the English invented spaghetti bolognaise, but Jamie Oliver started his career at the River Café, owned by Ruth Rogers (American) and Rose Grey (British).
I’d never dream of going into the kitchens at St John, a restaurant in London’s Smithfield (the home of “nose to tail eating”, packed with foreigners lured by the re-interpretation of traditional British food like trotters, bone marrow and crispy pig’s tail) to check that the chef on duty was born in the UK.
Since reading that food writer Nigel Slater has to “hide” tomatoes “because red is a very angry colour” and it doesn’t suit his serene home, I’ve decided to ignore the pearls of wisdom coming from foodies.
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