An Asian restaurant in California named “Yellow Fever” sparked outrage among social media users for its racially and sexually charged name, which stands for a white man's fetish towards Asian women, besides its original disease-related meaning.
The restaurant called people's attention after Amazon.com's Whole Foods Market opened a branch in its newest 365 grocery store in Long Beach, California, Wednesday.
“An Asian ‘bowl’ resto called YELLOW FEVER in the middle of whitest Whole Foods — is this taking back of a racist image or colonized mind?” Columbia University professor and author Marie Myung-Ok Lee, wrote on Twitter.
But other people don't find the name as problematic, starting with the owner, a South Korea born young woman who grew up in Texas and claims she's “re-appropiating” the concept.
“We were worried about a strike at first... We are still scrappy and not a fully-known entity, so some people pass us thinking we sell bowls or…you know, ‘something else’,” Kelly Kim, co-founder and chef of Yellow Fever, told NextShark, “but it’s re-appropriating a term — taking ownership of something and defining it in our own way.”
According to Kim, they came up with the name because they were tired of generic names such as “traditional” or “bamboo” that aren't catchy, and Yellow Fever is broad enough to “fit all Asian cultures under one roof,” including Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai or Hawaiian food.
A year ago she told the Argonaut, a local Los Angeles news outlet, that Yellow Fever means “love of all things Asian” and that public push back over the name had not been as drastic as expected.
“I wanted to start a restaurant, but I didn’t want to be tied down to one kind of food, like Korean or Japanese. I wanted to be the Asian version of Chipotle,” Kim said.
Kim came to the United States when she was 9 years old and grew up mixing her family's Korean food with the Texan cuisine and ingredients. She says she was never fully in contact with Korean of “Asian” food, and decided to present it in a more familiar way to the United States consumers, just as she did growing up.
Some, however, are not fully convinced by Kim's arguments, and claim that just because the owner is an Asian woman, she doesn't have permission of “re-appropiating” a sexist and racist slang term.
Others took the name in a more literal way.
At the end, Kim invites her customers to try her food and “be kind, be happy, be yourself, be yellow.”
Whole Foods or Amazon have not commented on the issue.