The white owner of a new Chinese restaurant in New York City has been accused of promoting racist stereotypes after promoting it as a “clean” alternative to Chinese food which might make people feel “bloated and icky.”
Arielle Haspel, a nutritionist and owner of Lucky Lee’s restaurant, has faced pushback over the now-deleted Instagram posts, USA Today reported Friday.
The restaurant, the menu of which is free of gluten, dairy, peanuts, wheat, refined sugar and MSG, bragged online that its lo mein won't make people feel bad because it isn't "too oily" or salty like other Chinese food out there.
Another now-deleted post featured a sleek graphic design quote: “I was just telling my husband last night, I wish there was a place to get healthy Chinese food! —Ashley C.”
MacKenzie Fegan, a food writer and granddaughter of Chinese immigrants, criticized the comments on Twitter this week, saying Haspel’s blog also cited Chinese brown sauces as making eyes puffy.
“Our food don’t need fixing! You want to open a gluten-free, dairy-free, macrobiotic whatever Chinese restaurant, godspeed,” Fegan wrote. “Do it without dragging an entire, diverse cuisine representing billions of people.”
Our food don’t need fixing! You want to open a gluten-free, dairy-free, macrobiotic whatever Chinese restaurant, godspeed. Do it without dragging an entire, diverse cuisine representing billions of people.— MacKenzie Fegan (@mackenzief) April 9, 2019
Fegan elaborated on her criticism in an opinion piece published on Munchies entitled “We Don’t Need a White Wellness Savior to ‘Fix’ Chinese Food.”
“I’m personally not opposed to someone opening an inauthentic Chinese restaurant that serves cauliflower fried rice. I'm personally not opposed to people cooking the food of a culture to which they don’t belong,” Fegan wrote. “I am, however, opposed to labeling the entire cuisine of a sprawling, diverse country as 'unhealthy' and suggesting that the half-million people of Chinese descent living in New York have all been waddling around, bloated and puffy-eyed, waiting for a white wellness savior.”
“And I'm definitely opposed to cherry-picking the parts of a culture that you like and may profit from without listening to the concerns of the people who belong to that culture,” Fegan continued.
As news of restaurant’s opening spread, Lucky Lee’s social media accounts were flooded with criticism, USA Today reported.
The Facebook page is no longer active and its Yelp page is under review after an “unusual activity alert.”
The restaurant took to Instagram to respond to the controversy, saying reactions have made it clear to management that there are “cultural sensitivities” related to Lucky Lee’s concept.
“A number of comments have stated that by saying our Chinese food is made with 'clean' cooking techniques and it makes you feel great that we are commenting negatively on all Chinese food. When we talk about our food, we are not talking about other restaurants, we are only talking about Lucky Lee’s,” the post read, before adding that every restaurant has the right to “tout the positives of its food.”
The post also reflected on the backlash of white, non-Chinese Americans operating a Chinese restaurant, saying Haspel’s husband’s name is Lee and he has had a “life-long love of Chinese food.”
“Owners Arielle and Lee are both Jewish-American New Yorkers, born and raised. Similar to many other Jewish New Yorkers' diets, bagels, pastrami sandwiches and yes, American Chinese food, were big and very happy parts of their childhoods,” the Instagram post read. “New York is the ultimate melting pot and Lucky Lee's is another example of two cultures coming together. To us, this is a good thing.”