NYC eatery heats up cultural appropriation debate

Terry Tang
Associated Press
In this Thursday, April 11, 2019 photo, pedestrians walk past the Lucky Lee's restaurant in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York. The owner has drawn backlash for touting offerings of “clean” American-Chinese cuisine, renewing debate about cultural appropriation in the restaurant world.

A Jewish woman who touted her New York City eatery as offering “clean” American-Chinese cuisine has become the latest restaurateur accused of stereotyping and cultural appropriation.

Lucky Lee’s, which opened this week in Greenwich Village, reignited the debate about how chefs should handle cooking food from a culture that’s not their own.

Online critics say the restaurant in its promotion relied on tired, racist tropes that Chinese food is unsanitary or grotesque.

This undated photo provided by Stratis Morfogen in April 2019 shows the French onion soup dumplings at Brooklyn Chop House in New York City. Morfogen, who is of Greek descent, doesn’t spend time worrying about the cultural appropriation accusations his steakhouse has received for its Chinese-inspired items.

In previous Instagram and blog posts, Arielle Haspel described Chinese dishes as swimming in “globs of processed butter,” sodium and MSG and causing “icky” feelings.

Haspel says she was not commenting negatively on all Chinese food.

But in the social media age, chefs and restaurant owners are being called out more than ever for perceived cultural missteps.