Gordon Ramsay has hit back at a food critic for accusing his new pan-Asian restaurant of cultural appropriation and tokenism.
Angela Hui said she was the only East Asian person at the preview of Lucky Cat and that it was “nothing if not a real life Ramsay kitchen nightmare”.
The chef and reality TV star’s new venture will open this summer in London’s Mayfair, replacing his restaurant Maze, which lost £3.8m last year.
It describes itself as an “authentic Asian eating house and vibrant late-night lounge, inspired by the drinking dens of 1930s Tokyo and the far east”.
Ramsay has come under fire for supposedly not having enough Asian chefs at the restaurant and for “whitewashing” Chinese and Japanese cuisine.
Ms Hui wrote on the London Eater website: “The pop-up dinner took place in a futuristic-looking plain white event space called Ice Tank in Soho, which felt more seedy nightclub than Asian eating house.
“Or, perhaps, that is Ramsay’s vision of a vibrant (nee “authentic”) Asian eating house.
“I was the only east Asian person in a room full of 30-40 journalists and chefs.”
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This week Gordon Ramsay Restaurants hosted a preview night for our new concept Lucky Cat, an Asian Eating House, set to launch in the heart of Mayfair. It was a warm, buzzing and brilliant night to celebrate what has been a long-time vision for me. Despite the very positive feedback from guests, there was, regrettably, one offensive response from the night which I have to call out. In the 21 years that I have been running restaurants I have had my fair share of reviews – good and bad. Critics and reviewers have an important job to do, and it’s important that they are independent and have freedom of speech. However, the slew of derogatory and offensive social media posts that appeared on Angela Hui’s social channels, were not professional. It is fine to not like my food, but prejudice and insults are not welcome, and Ms Hui’s comments around my Executive Chef and his wife, calling her a “token Asian wife”, were personal and hugely disrespectful. Gordon Ramsay Restaurants do not discriminate based on gender, race or beliefs and we don’t expect anyone else to. I may not agree with all reviews, but if someone is going to be critical, then I expect them to be professional and have some integrity.
Ramsay hit back at Ms Hui’s “offensive response”, accusing her of referring to the “token Asian wife” of the restaurant’s head chef, Ben Orpwood, on social media.
He wrote on Instagram: “The slew of derogatory and offensive social media posts that appeared on Angela Hui’s social channels, were not professional.
“It is fine to not like my food, but prejudice and insults are not welcome, and Ms Hui’s comments around my Executive Chef and his wife, calling her a ‘token Asian wife’, were personal and hugely disrespectful.”
He added that his restaurants “do not discriminate based on gender, race or beliefs and we don’t expect anyone else to”.
Ramsay’s strongly worded response drew further criticism from social media users, with some accusing him of “bullying” Ms Hui by naming her for pointing out the appropriation of food.
One said: “Shaming a young journalist for calling out cultural appropriation, all in attempt to heal your bruised ego. A new low has been reached.”
Others defended the chef, with one person writing: “Good on you for calling her out! That’s completely unacceptable and no way to talk about another person, she should be ashamed of herself.”
Several restaurants and brands have been accused of cultural appropriation by misrepresenting or stereotyping other cuisines.
Last week, a new Chinese restaurant run by a Jewish-American couple, Lucky Lee’s, was criticised for claiming it served “clean” Chinese food with healthy ingredients that would not make people feel “bloated and icky” the next day”.
The comments sparked backlash on social media, with many accusing the eatery of racist language, cultural appropriation, and a lack of understanding of Chinese food.