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Servers at ethnic eateries ...

ipsedixit Nov 6, 2009 07:44 PM

Do you expect that ethnic restaurants would always have servers of the same ethnicity as the restaurant itself?

E.g., Mexican restaurant with Mexican servers. Chinese restaurant with Chinese servers. Etc.

Today, at lunch, we were at a Thai restaurant and our server was Middle Eastern. Now, this is not a commentary on our server's abilities (she was by all means professional and more than competent, by the way) nor about Middle Eastern workers generally, but rather a question about expectations and perception.

It was just a little jarring to see a non-Thai waiting tables at a mom-and-pop type Thai restaurant (about 25 tables total).

Some of us in the group commented that because there was a non-Thai waiting tables the food must be less than authentic.

Whether that statement above is true or not, I thought that it might be a bit of a business faux pas because sometimes perception is more important than reality. If there are customers out there that actually believe the ethnicity of the server somehow reflects upon the authenticity or quality of an ethnic restaurant then it might behoove the owner to seriously reconsider some of his business practices.

Your thoughts?

  1. Cherylptw Nov 6, 2009 08:50 PM

    I remember a few years ago, I went to my local Chinese restaurant to pick up an order. I admit I was slightly taken aback that there was a caucasian lady, in full Chinese dress behind the counter. Mind you, I'd never seen anyone but Chinese in that restaurant for about 15 years.

    A few weeks later, I went back to the same restaurant for another pick up but this time I waited in my car in front of the place until my order was ready. The back door opened and a bunch of Mexican cooks were taking out the trash at the end of the night.

    Back in the late 70's I was a baker in a Jewish restaurant in NY; I'm African American/American Indian & am not Jewish. Most of the regular customers knew that and it didn't stop them from scarfing down my ruguleh & knishes (lol)

    I know that people expect ethnic cuisine to be cooked & served by the same ethnic staff but these days, most restaurants are not so much a stickler for how it used to be. Personally, I think that as long as waitstaff & cook is knowledgeable about the menu, I'll reserve judgement about the authenticity of the food until after I taste it. JMO

    3 Replies
    1. re: Cherylptw
      EWSflash Nov 11, 2009 11:47 AM

      Great answer- I agree wholeheartedly.

      1. re: Cherylptw
        westsidegal Mar 28, 2010 12:50 AM

        in los angeles practically everything is cooked by mexicans.
        as a matter of fact, the owner of one of the most famous armenian bakeries in town gave the business to his two mexican assistants when he retired.
        they renamed the place, but still serve armenian baked goods.

        1. re: Cherylptw
          mariacarmen Feb 10, 2011 09:34 PM

          agree! When I lived in So. Cal., I often found Mexican sushi chefs. A nearby Italian restaurant's servers were all Hispanics. Was it a tad jarring, in both instances? yes, but certainly not off-putting, and never made me think the food was less than authentic. how many upscale restaurants have Central Americans and South Americans doing most of the actual prep and cooking? Anthony Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential writes extensively about his sous chefs were mostly from a little town in Mexico. If they learn how to cook my food deliciously, and serve it in a pleasant and professional manner, I don't care where they're from.

          ETA: oh jeez, just saw how old this thread was!

        2. monku Nov 6, 2009 09:06 PM

          I don't think it reflects on the authenticity of the restaurant, if anything it might help.

          Last night went to an AYCE Korean BBQ and a Hispanic fellow waited on us. It was early and looking around the other three parties in our area the parties were Hispanic. I know of a restaurant in Chinatown where they employ a Hispanic lady to deliver dishes and help the Chinese waitresses take the orders from the Hispanic clientele.

          1. monku Nov 6, 2009 09:09 PM

            Not servers, but my biggest shock years ago when I came to California and looked into the kitchen at Tokyo Lobby and the whole cooking staff was Hispanic. Seems to be a normal staffing situation at many Japanese restaurants I frequent.

            1. w
              wayne keyser Nov 6, 2009 09:25 PM

              I understand the difference might be much the same as eating at an Italian restaurant with leftover nautical decor from the preceding seafood-house identity of the place. But I think it's up to us, the diners, to "get over it."

              BTW, the last time I was in our favorite Vietnamese pho restaurant, the kitchen door was open, and the cooks were all Mexican. Tony Bourdain would smile and nod knowingly at that.

              1. janetofreno Nov 6, 2009 09:56 PM

                Some time ago I was in a favorite Indian restaurant by myself...and was passing the time by listening to a funny story that was being told by the cook (who was helping to refresh the buffet) to the waitress.....I found myself laughing and then stopped to think: "Wait a minute...my Gujarati must be getting really good if I can understand the story" (I knew the owners were from Gujarat...). Then I thought a minute longer and realized that the two were speaking Spanish (which I do speak fairly fluently!) I just assumed when I saw them that they were of Indian descent ...and therefore must be speakng Gujarati or another Hindi dialect!

                1. Azizeh Nov 6, 2009 10:12 PM

                  It's completely illogical, but I've been guilty of it, too. A servers job is to provide good service and have product knowledge. Anyone can do this. I guess we somehow assume that a Thai person has more food knowledge about Thai food than a non-Thai would, as though all Thai people grow up with food rich in tradition.

                  Would the same be true at an American restaurant where the service staff is full of recent immigrants? Or are our expectations not the same?

                  1. l
                    Lizard Nov 7, 2009 03:19 AM

                    Some of us in the group commented that because there was a non-Thai waiting tables the food must be less than authentic.

                    Indeed, I prefer my ethnics cordoned off from the world and locked into a time and space that makes them truly authentic museum pieces. Without that, I might start thinking they are subject to engagement with others, change and innovation and I just can't have that!

                    I have really got to stop posting.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Lizard
                      mikikiandguest Mar 27, 2010 12:41 PM

                      thank you Lizard, you saved me from having to say it, and with less tongue in cheek and more rage and venom.
                      your continued posting keeps my blood-pressure in check.
                      keep it up!

                      1. re: Lizard
                        t
                        throwbookatface Feb 16, 2011 12:37 PM

                        I actually expect only Thai people to be *eating *at the Thai places I go to. In fact, I don't even let myself eat there, lest the food lose its authenticity. In fact, my uncle used to only let white customers eat his hot dogs and burgers at the old diner. Any different would be bad for business, you know?

                      2. c
                        Cachetes Nov 7, 2009 03:55 AM

                        This brings us into the territory that suggests that Italians, French, German, etc. (i.e. non-dark skinned people) are not ethnic. And I would guess that the same group would be put off as well if they went to a German restaurant with servers with names like Suarez and Perez. Cordoned off indeed.
                        Please Lizard, do not stop posting.

                        1. jfood Nov 7, 2009 04:05 AM

                          The last time jfood went to the Carnegie Deli his server was Asian. It was a different experience than the old Jewish guys he has grown used to over the years. He was a good server and received a good tip. But it was different.

                          A couple of months ago jfood was at a sushi bar. One chef was Asian and one was caucasian. It was very strange on the eye to watch the non-Asian prepare the food.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: jfood
                            9
                            9lives Nov 7, 2009 12:06 PM

                            Most of the slicers at Katz's are Hispanic now. They do a great job. The old Jewish guys have moved on.

                            http://www.flickr.com/photos/61246842...

                            1. re: 9lives
                              jfood Nov 7, 2009 12:41 PM

                              oy vay.

                              1. re: jfood
                                9
                                9lives Nov 7, 2009 12:45 PM

                                Ha..:)

                              2. re: 9lives
                                k
                                KTinNYC Nov 7, 2009 01:17 PM

                                I think the last Eastern European cutter left in the last couple of years. I don't see him anymore.

                            2. im_nomad Nov 7, 2009 04:25 AM

                              One of my favorite Thai places has this situation and it never even occurred to me to think it would have any bearing on the food. For all I know, the person serving me may have spent their formative years in Thailand, or was raised with a Thai family......or vice versa, can "look the part" (I cringed writing that), and have little to no connection with their culture.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: im_nomad
                                vorpal Apr 7, 2010 10:37 AM

                                Absolutely: or the person could simply be someone who's fallen in love with the cuisine and studied it extensively, and as a result, knows it far better than the majority of people who live in its country of origin. I can't imagine anyone denying, for example, that Rick Bayless is an authority on Mexican cuisine and probably has a body of knowledge that surpasses the majority of Mexicans. The same with Julia Child and French cuisine, or David Thompson and Thai food.

                              2. Withnail42 Nov 7, 2009 04:27 AM

                                Mr. Chow's in New York the waiters are all Italian.

                                1. q
                                  queencru Nov 7, 2009 05:25 AM

                                  We live in a multicultural society where even in a mom and pop type situation, there's no guarantee that both mom and pop will come from the same culture. Just because a woman who owns a Thai restaurant decides to marry someone with a Middle Eastern background doesn't make the restaurant any less authentic. Nor should she refused to let her husband and children/nieces/nephews worth there because they don't look "authentic" enough.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: queencru
                                    a
                                    akq Nov 8, 2009 04:02 PM

                                    Excellent point.

                                    Also, I'd venture that the OP and other diners in his/her party haven't actually visited Thailand to see the amazing array of ethnicities, etc. represented and mixed in Thailand. Ethnically, I am half Chinese and half European (various) and when I was a student in Thailand, most locals thought I was Thai and were surprised at my limited Thai language when I spoke.

                                    1. re: queencru
                                      Stephanie Wong Nov 15, 2009 12:17 AM

                                      A restaurant I used to frequent featured Middle Eastern food (owners were Lebanese), but one of the most coveted non-menu specials were tamales. The mother of owners had come to the US after spending years in Mexico City.

                                      1. re: Stephanie Wong
                                        t
                                        throwbookatface Feb 16, 2011 12:38 PM

                                        Wally's!

                                        1. re: throwbookatface
                                          Stephanie Wong Feb 24, 2011 03:13 PM

                                          Yep -- haven't been there in the last couple years (since the son was no longer there regularly). Are they still good?

                                          Wally's, 3900 San Pablo Avenue, Emeryville - (510) 597-1303

                                    2. h
                                      HDinCentralME Nov 7, 2009 06:29 AM

                                      Must my local Fish & Chips place have servers with British accents in order to be authentic?

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: HDinCentralME
                                        h
                                        Harters Nov 7, 2009 06:50 AM

                                        Whereas where I am, of our two local fish & chip outlets, one is run by a Chinese family, the other Cypriot.

                                        1. re: Harters
                                          monku Nov 7, 2009 07:36 AM

                                          Here in Los Angeles area there's Billy's Deli that for many years was owned by a Chinese lady and Claro's Italian Deli's are run by Bob a Jewish guy from Brooklyn (his wife is a daughter of the original owner).

                                          1. re: monku
                                            f
                                            fourunder Nov 7, 2009 07:59 AM

                                            There was a time in my youth I was selling Advertising space for a hotel in NYC. My assigned area included the Diamond District on 47th Street.....there was a Kosher Deli I tried to sell an ad space to, so I was directed into the business office on an upper level to see the owner.......He was Korean.

                                            For the record, it may have been a Kosher style place.....

                                          2. re: Harters
                                            vorpal Apr 7, 2010 10:43 AM

                                            LOL up until a move two years ago, my local fish and chips place, which served absolutely exquisite fish and chips, was owned by the most adorable and charming elderly Chinese couple (they were both about 5' tall and clearly enjoyed fish and chips themselves, judging by their waistlines, and were clearly very much in love). How I miss that place, both for the food and for them!

                                        2. h
                                          Harters Nov 7, 2009 06:48 AM

                                          I think of two things here.

                                          Firstly, I find it much more common that servers in local Italian restaurants are from eastern Europe than have any Italian roots. And, no, I don't find that strange.

                                          Secondly, most of the local "Indian" restaurants are owned by people of Bangladeshi origin. Their sons and daughters, born here and now firmly middle class, choose more lucrative careers than waiting on tables or working in the kitchens. So far, immigration rules have allowed sufficient numbers to come here to fill the positions but this is likely to change in the future. Restaurants will face a choice - recruit staff from other ethnic backgrounds and or have no staff. A similar situation applies to local Chinese restaurants.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Harters
                                            b
                                            beevod Nov 7, 2009 06:57 AM

                                            I recently ate at a Southern barbecue place where my server was (gulp) from Maine!!!!

                                            1. re: beevod
                                              s
                                              slewfoot Nov 7, 2009 07:31 AM

                                              Now that's just wrong.

                                            2. re: Harters
                                              Jetgirly Nov 11, 2009 02:49 PM

                                              There was an awesome pizzeria across from my apartment in Torino. My friends who came to visit me in Italy still rave about that pizzeria more than any of the fancy places I dragged them to! It was run by an Egyptian family who could have easily passed (visually) for Southern Italian. I remember eating at a restaurant in Verona and my dad asking the waiter where he learned English. The waiter (who looked EXACTLY like Orlando Bloom... I'll never forget the eerie resemblance!) replied that he'd learned it at school... back home in Albania. The kind of ethnic diversity that we see in Canadian restaurants is just as common all around the world; it's just not always as easy for a foreigner to identify.

                                            3. f
                                              fourunder Nov 7, 2009 07:31 AM

                                              Two thoughts......

                                              1. What's really authentic these days?

                                              2. The server usually does not prepare the food.

                                              14 Replies
                                              1. re: fourunder
                                                linguafood Nov 7, 2009 08:33 AM

                                                Exactly. Who cares where your server is from, or the chef, for that matter?

                                                One of my favorite Thai restos in Berlin has a great server who I am guessing -- from her looks, is from Iran. She is awesome, and much more efficient than the Thai server who works there as well. The kitchen staff, from what I can tell, is Thai.

                                                My favorite sushi place in Berlin is owned and run by Vietnamese (as are most, if not all, sushi places in Berlin). The quality of the food is outstanding.

                                                Obviously, the ethnic 'make-up' of Berlin kitchens is not so much Hispanic than perhaps Eastern European, Middle Eastern or Asian. As long as the prepared food is up to par, I couldn't care less about the national background of the staff.

                                                1. re: linguafood
                                                  p
                                                  phoenikia Nov 8, 2009 12:47 PM

                                                  I agree.

                                                  1. re: linguafood
                                                    JungMann Nov 12, 2009 11:44 AM

                                                    I agree wholeheartedly with you, but I have to admit that there was something nostalgic lost when I went to my favorite delicatessen a few years back, scanned the refrigerated cases for my favorite Knoblauchwurst and Rollmops and happening upon a new item, inquired, "Wieviel kostet die Käse?" The woman behind the counter cocked her head, looked at me quizically and responded "¿Como?"

                                                    1. re: JungMann
                                                      linguafood Nov 12, 2009 02:16 PM

                                                      Interesting. I have not met any Spanish-speaking staff at German delis yet... thankfully, I'd probably be able to ask about el queso if needed '-)

                                                      1. re: linguafood
                                                        JungMann Nov 12, 2009 05:52 PM

                                                        It was a deli in the heart of Chicago's German neighborhood. A few months later I went back and the Teutonic matron peering at me through the hanging sausages and Stollen with a starched apron and a friendly grin full of gemuetlichkeit was Korean.

                                                        1. re: JungMann
                                                          linguafood Nov 12, 2009 05:54 PM

                                                          Sounds like a great multicultural experience. What's not to love.

                                                          1. re: JungMann
                                                            lulubelle Nov 13, 2009 08:02 PM

                                                            I was sitting in a Starbucks (also in Chicago) and was listening to the conversation behind me, which included a man with a very heavy German accent. When I turned around, the German-accented guy was Korean. The lovely girls at the Swedish Bakery are generally Mexican high school girls. (the old ladies are still Swedish). It's a multi-culti world.

                                                            1. re: lulubelle
                                                              Sam Fujisaka Nov 14, 2009 02:44 AM

                                                              Und how dit you know zat zu mann vuss Korean?

                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                lulubelle Nov 14, 2009 02:48 AM

                                                                I've spent enough time with people of various Asian ethnicities that I can generally tell which country people come from, although I occasionally struggle with Thai vs Vietnamese vs Cambodian.

                                                                1. re: lulubelle
                                                                  Sam Fujisaka Nov 14, 2009 02:54 AM

                                                                  I am vun uf zose Japanese vu look like Korean, und I haf a sick Germ accent.

                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                    kubasd Nov 14, 2009 03:17 AM

                                                                    too funny sam.... I can just picture a japanese man who looks slightly korean speaking with a german accent..... just by reading your posts....

                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                      lulubelle Nov 14, 2009 06:25 AM

                                                                      I have been known to be wrong before, but from what I understand there is a fairly large Korean population in Germany, whereas I have never heard of a large Japanese population there.

                                                                      1. re: lulubelle
                                                                        JungMann Nov 15, 2009 10:41 AM

                                                                        I never realized there was a sizable Korean community in Germany. My Korean-Cantonese friend and I have been languishing as the only Asians we know who speak German!

                                                              2. re: JungMann
                                                                greygarious Mar 28, 2010 08:21 PM

                                                                Some years back I visited my home town on Long Island after an absence of over 20 yrs. I was delighted to see that the German deli was still there, because I wanted some genuine liverwurst. When I saw that the man behind the counter was Asian, my heart sank a little, and sure enough, he no longer carried, or even heard of, the brand I sought. I asked him where I could get a good onion rye, because I'd already determined that the Jewish bakery was gone. He directed me 2 blocks down, to an Italian bakery which of course had no rye of any kind, much less with that wonderful swirl of onion. You truly can't go home again....sigh.

                                                                That said, I am not surprised or disappointed at mismatched ethnicities in ethnic restaurants. Ethnicity guarantees nothing. More kitchens are staffed by Hispanics than the average diner realizes. Just saw a Burt Wolf program on Create which showed a Seder at a NYC restaurant where the cook was a black non-Jew from Senegal. He was in the dining room receiving cheers from the customers.

                                                      2. hotoynoodle Nov 7, 2009 09:53 AM

                                                        Some of us in the group commented that because there was a non-Thai waiting tables the food must be less than authentic.

                                                        ~~~

                                                        all the server does is carry the food. they don't make it.

                                                        restaurants rely on the labor pool in the community and fact is, kitchen work is not always skilled labor and can be done with poor english-speaking skills, whether you're making chop suey or tandoori chicken.

                                                        i have been a restaurant professional in boston all my adult life. every kitchen in which i have ever worked has been primarily staffed with guys from central or south america. steakhouse, french, mediterannean, what have you. mostly columbians and brazilians, just because those are the predominant immigrant groups around here. the chef teaches them the dishes they need to know. they make them. over and over, night after night.

                                                        a line cook only has to execute consistently. they're not inventing the menu. a server has a skill-set too, whether it's taking orders for sushi or pad thai, it makes no difference. it's the same job, regardless of how many vowels may or may not be in your last name. (lol, mine has lots, btw. doesn't mean i only work in italian joints.)

                                                        1. shaogo Nov 7, 2009 10:17 AM

                                                          I'm a caucasian American and I've been in the Chinese restaurant business for 20 years. Invariably, some joker walks up to the me and says, "funny, you don't *look* Chinese!" I respond by saying "why, I *am* Chinese... I was just disfigured in a horrible accident."

                                                          I must admit, that about 16 years ago I saw my first caucasian making sushi in a Japanese restaurant and I did a double-take.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: shaogo
                                                            hotoynoodle Nov 7, 2009 10:39 AM

                                                            nearly all of the sushi chefs here are chinese, not japanese.

                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                              shaogo Nov 7, 2009 12:45 PM

                                                              "nearly all of the sushi chefs here are Chinese, not Japanese"

                                                              Shhh... don't let everybody know about that! After all, some of the Chinese sushi chefs I've employed have spent a lot of time learning to speak Japanese to the American customers who practice *their* poor Japanese skills on them.

                                                              Indeed, there are precious few Japanese left in the business of sushi. They can only be found in the cities and as chef/owners, these days. It used to be a big secret but I guess the secret's out for most people -- Chinese restaurateurs have taken over the Japanese restaurant business in America!

                                                              1. re: shaogo
                                                                p
                                                                phoenikia Nov 8, 2009 12:45 PM

                                                                And in Canada, too! Although there are also a ton of Korean-Canadian owned restaurants serving Japanese food in Toronto, as well as a new sushi restaurant owned by 4 white South African expats.

                                                          2. c
                                                            chococat Nov 7, 2009 01:06 PM

                                                            I have to say that I'm rather horrified at your assessment "it might behoove the owner to seriously reconsider some of his business practice" because it implies that because I am of Asian descent (many generations in the US), you would prefer that I not work at an establishment that serves non-Asian food? Am I allowed to practice Western Medicine, or would you prefer that I stick to acupuncture and herbalism, since that is consistent with your stereotype?

                                                            Assuming that someone can not do a job proficiently because of their race, or that food can only be cooked by someone of a particular race is rather disturbing. I'm guessing that you have not spent any time in the back of the house of many restaurants-- it is an extremely diverse atmosphere and cooks of all backgrounds produce excellent food-- from mom-and-pop ethnic restaurants to big $ French cuisine.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: chococat
                                                              m
                                                              mojoeater Nov 8, 2009 09:05 PM

                                                              Agreed. As someone in a mixed-race household, this kind of stereotyping is disturbing. Saying "I'm not a racist" doesn't make the statement true.

                                                              1. re: chococat
                                                                hotoynoodle Nov 9, 2009 06:19 AM

                                                                I have to say that I'm rather horrified at your assessment "it might behoove the owner to seriously reconsider some of his business practice" because it implies that because I am of Asian descent (many generations in the US), you would prefer that I not work at an establishment that serves non-Asian food?

                                                                ~~~

                                                                lets' also consider the pandora's box of possible discrimination lawsuits. shall we resume hanging signs like the old days? "no irish need apply". (insert relevant immigrant status.)

                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                  r
                                                                  rweater Nov 9, 2009 06:51 AM

                                                                  <<lets' also consider the pandora's box of possible discrimination lawsuits. shall we resume hanging signs like the old days? "no irish need apply". (insert relevant immigrant status.)>>

                                                                  I was also thinking of the legal implications and I'm pretty shocked that I had to read this far into the thread to find someone else who brought this up (note that if someone did in fact bring this up earlier and I missed it, I apologize.)

                                                                  A restaurant cannot hire (or not hire) people on the basis of ethnicity anymore than any other business could. That would be a clear violation of federal employment laws and probably many state statutes as well. Never mind that discrimination is difficult to prove.

                                                                  Certainly, specializing in a particular ethnic cuisine might narrow the pool of knowledgeable applicants. I don't begrudge a restaurant owner who hires someone who is familiar with their fare and it's logical that the person for the job might be someone of the same cultural background. But there are myriad other factors to consider in hiring as well--experience, availability--that are legitimate.

                                                                  But no, I don't care what nationality the people in the kitchen or waiting on tables happens to be. It never occurred to me to notice.

                                                                  1. re: rweater
                                                                    shaogo Nov 10, 2009 04:46 PM

                                                                    Of course, there's no line for an applicant to fill in "ethnicity" on a modern job application.

                                                                    However, when a job requirement is "a working fluency in spoken and written Mandarin Chinese" that, indeed, narrows the pool of applicants.

                                                                    That's not to say that the unusual doesn't happen -- I had an employee who was as "American (caucasian-looking) as apple-pie" but was a Chinese scholar. She worked for us for two summers and endeared herself to the staff by giving English lessons, for free, on her own time (we ended up compensating her for her time, gladly, when we found out she was coming in early and leaving late). She's still in touch and works for the State Department, I believe. I *think* that she earned her Master's degree in Chinese language.

                                                              2. Karl S Nov 7, 2009 03:00 PM

                                                                Well, you then might be shocked to see how many Mesoamericans are the cooks in Asian restaurants in the US....

                                                                1. n
                                                                  NicoleFriedman Nov 7, 2009 03:20 PM

                                                                  I am really befuddled by this thread. Why are so many people obsessed with authenticity when it is so difficult to pigeon hole was constitutes something as authentic in the first place? A Turk will claim that most Greek dishes are of turkish origin and vice versa. Almost every "ethnic" cuisine to come to America has been Americanized to at least some degree. Should it really matter? Also, as far as the servers are conscerned, I long for the day when we can go to a restaurant, see a Cuban serving Chinese food in a restaurant owned by a Greek/French/Australian Jew. Seriously, race should never be a factor in judging a waiter, a restaurant or anything else. And if a restaurant does not hire someone based solely on race, that is out and out discrimination, just as if a law firm or any other company were to do the same.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: NicoleFriedman
                                                                    f
                                                                    fourunder Nov 7, 2009 06:13 PM

                                                                    I long for the day when we can go to a restaurant, see a Cuban serving Chinese food in a restaurant owned by a Greek/French/Australian Jew.
                                                                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                                    Sounds like The Cheesecake Factory to me.........or a New Jersey Diner.....

                                                                    1. re: fourunder
                                                                      John Manzo Nov 9, 2009 07:00 PM

                                                                      Australian is a nationality, not an ethnicity. Unless you mean aboriginal Australian.

                                                                      1. re: John Manzo
                                                                        f
                                                                        fourunder Nov 10, 2009 04:24 AM

                                                                        JM,

                                                                        So, GREEK & FRENCH, what are they? AS for the Australian......it was not my remark. You'll have to pose the question to Ms Friedman

                                                                  2. PeterL Nov 7, 2009 06:11 PM

                                                                    In LA, Chinese restaurants in Monterey Park have used Mexican cooks almost since the beginning. You can go to Ding Tai Fung in Arcadia, one of the more iconic Taiwanese/Shanghainese restaurant with branches all over the world, and watch Mexican cooks making their signature XLB through a display window. And yet their mostly Chinese clientel seems to not mind that and lines up daily for the food.

                                                                    I remember many years ago I was at a Chinese restaurant in Monterey Park and a Mexican waiter asked me what kind of tea I wanted, in Chinese. (Of course I know there is a large Chinese population in Mexico).

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: PeterL
                                                                      s
                                                                      sidwich Nov 7, 2009 11:46 PM

                                                                      Even though it is VERY obvious that our favorite SGV restaurants are staffed by Mexican/Mexican-American cooks, you cannot convince my father at all...

                                                                      The ironic thing is that so many of the corner taco stands in NYC seem to be owned and operated by Chinese families. :)

                                                                    2. Paulustrious Nov 8, 2009 05:45 AM

                                                                      I don't really care about the servers that much, but I will notice. I look at the customers and what script the menus are in. So I tend to avoid Chinese and Indian restaurants filled with Caucasians, middle Eastern restaurants if some of their clientèle are not swarthy etc.

                                                                      I guess I'm just an old fashioned yellowneck.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                        luckyfatima Nov 9, 2009 01:47 AM

                                                                        Not all ME ppl are "swarthy" and some white American ppl are olive complexioned with dark hair and eyes.

                                                                        Quite a lot of Middle Easterners have blonde, light brown or, red hair and light colored eyes-some have freckles too! In many cases, even within one country in the Middle East one will find black people, brown people, and peachy-pink people all of the same nationality. So how, at a glance, will you know the backgrounds of the diners?

                                                                        I do agree with other posters who say that neither the background of the servers nor the people in the kitchen matters as long as the food is good.

                                                                        1. re: luckyfatima
                                                                          Paulustrious Nov 9, 2009 03:28 AM

                                                                          <<if some of their clientèle are not swarthy etc>>

                                                                          <<Not all ME ppl are "swarthy" >>

                                                                          I know. I have and lived all and worked all over 'Europe', from Scandinavia to North Africa, from the UK to India. I live in North America's most culturally and racially diverse city. And yes, I eat in many types of restaurant. When I walk into my local Afghan - Bamiyan Kabob - there are swarthy people there. I avoid 'Indian' restaurants if the clientele do not include a number of 'Indians'. There are probably fifty of them within five miles. Same is true of Greek, Chinese and middle Easterm. I don't eat at my nearest Asian restaurant. The customers are too 'Anglo'. I go into one of the three local China towns.

                                                                          And so yes, I do typecast a restaurant by the people in it, what they look like and the vibe they give me.

                                                                          Because statistically some of their clientele are liekly to be. I've lived and worked all over Europe. I live right on the edge of our local Greek town.

                                                                          1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                            luckyfatima Nov 9, 2009 10:52 PM

                                                                            Swarthy is a funny word, too.

                                                                            I don't think the chefs or servers matter, as long as they are well trained and know the food, I do happen to agree with the notion that if a ME resto is good, ME people will know this and dine there and make the base of the clientele (swarthy or not), same if it were a downhome Texan BBQ-rib resto (with Latino chefs and a multi-racial waitstaff) or a dim sum house. But there are exceptions to this rule. For example, in very large urban centers where there are whole neighborhoods filled with specific communities and a high number of restaurants serving a community's cuisine, this rule can be disproven, and you will find lesser quality, mediocre joints which are packed with a cuisine's respective community members. So, I wouldn't hold fast to that rule.

                                                                      2. lulubelle Nov 8, 2009 05:47 AM

                                                                        The register of one of my favorite Middle Eastern restaurants in a suburb of Chicago was (wo)manned by a lovely pale blue-eyed redhead in a hijab. She had married the owner and converted to Islam.

                                                                        1. f
                                                                          fourunder Nov 8, 2009 04:12 PM

                                                                          Quiz: What does one associate when thinking of Scandinavian in general? Now isn't there a guy who doesn't fit this normal stereotype serving/cooking Scandinavian Cuisine?

                                                                          16 Replies
                                                                          1. re: fourunder
                                                                            h
                                                                            hsk Nov 8, 2009 08:41 PM

                                                                            I think of pickled herring and meatballs in brown sauce. Not my faves. Can't imagine anyone but ethnically scandinavian people liking it or wanting to cook/serve it..

                                                                            1. re: hsk
                                                                              h
                                                                              Harters Nov 9, 2009 02:09 AM

                                                                              Pickled (soused) herring is common in the UK - no doubt dating from when the Vikings invaded in 865.

                                                                              1. re: Harters
                                                                                Paulustrious Nov 9, 2009 03:38 AM

                                                                                <Grin>

                                                                                Still love pickled herring, and it is relatively easy to get here in Toronto. In an emergency there is always Ikea, In fact the meatball-and-gravy queue / line-up at my local Ikea probably serves 150 different nationalities per day. Seems Scandanavian cuisine (what there is of it) cuts through racial divides. I lived in Sweden and Denmark and had a Swedish girlfriend. Had a great time, but I really wasn't impressed with the food or the price of beer.

                                                                                1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                  h
                                                                                  Harters Nov 9, 2009 04:58 AM

                                                                                  Many years ago, in a precursor to the all you can eat buffet, my metropolitian centre (Manchester) had a restaurant called the Danish Food Centre which served a smorgasbord. This was good food and we mourned its passing when it closed. The family that owned it still have places in the city which serve food with Scandanavian overtones.

                                                                                  1. re: Harters
                                                                                    Paulustrious Nov 9, 2009 05:08 AM

                                                                                    That was were I had my first Scandinavian meal. I remember these huge piles of prawns (usa: shrimp), the complete smorgasbord; rye breads I had never tasted. It was unlike any meal I had ever had. I'm guessing this was 1976. When we came out there was a huge building in flames up the street with twenty odd fire engines trying to put it out.

                                                                                    It is the most memorable meal I have ever had. Sorry to hear of its passing.

                                                                              2. re: hsk
                                                                                p
                                                                                phoenikia Nov 9, 2009 05:04 AM

                                                                                Not sure about your premise of only ethnically Scandinavian people liking pickled herring.
                                                                                My guess would be that a large proportion of Mitteleuropeans and Eastern Europeans like pickled herring, as well as the Brits. It's pretty common in Ashkenazi, Polish, northern & eastern German, Dutch, and Russian kitchens- I'm sure the Latvians, Lithuanians, Belarusians and Estonians probably like it, too!
                                                                                And I know at least a few people of Mediterranean extraction who really like their pickled herring.
                                                                                Maybe I'll use "Do you like pickled herring? If so, what is your ethnic background?" as an icebreaker at a holiday party, to find some more anecdotal evidence ;-)

                                                                                1. re: phoenikia
                                                                                  Sam Fujisaka Nov 9, 2009 06:00 AM

                                                                                  I'm with jfood. I like pickled herring and. obviously, am not Scandinavian. Last I got some was for a picnic on the rocky coast outside of Cape Town. Beautiful!

                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                    Paulustrious Nov 9, 2009 02:29 PM

                                                                                    I shall have a few from the jar tonight. Just to wind you up.

                                                                                    So you are not one of the Gottingen Fujisakas?

                                                                                2. re: hsk
                                                                                  jfood Nov 9, 2009 05:48 AM

                                                                                  Jfood loves pickled herring and there is not an ounce of Scandinavian blood in him as far as he knows.

                                                                                3. re: fourunder
                                                                                  lisavf Nov 10, 2009 07:50 AM

                                                                                  fourunder, since no one picked up on your reference, I'll jump in with Marcus Samuelsson at Aquavit. I was always curious about his history; a few months ago I was going through some old food mags and read his story. It was very interesting! An orphaned Ethiopian child adopted by a Swedish couple at the age of 3, raised in Sweden. So what is his ethnicity? Would YOU eat Scandinavian food conceived and prepared by a once-orphaned Ethiopian? Is it authentic? You betcha. The lines are blurred all over the world, and that is not a bad thing.

                                                                                  1. re: lisavf
                                                                                    f
                                                                                    fourunder Nov 10, 2009 07:58 AM

                                                                                    Bingo!!!!

                                                                                    Everyone concentrated on the first part and ignored the second.......for me, I think blond and blue eyed.......not someone like MS.

                                                                                    1. re: fourunder
                                                                                      lisavf Nov 10, 2009 08:16 AM

                                                                                      Exactly. I always assumed he was just a great chef who was hired by a Scandinavian restaurant. When I read his story I realized that Sweden was, if not in his blood, in his heart and soul.

                                                                                  2. re: fourunder
                                                                                    shaogo Nov 10, 2009 04:56 PM

                                                                                    The guy, fourunder, you're talking about is Marcus Samuelsson, executive chef at New York's Aquavit restaurant. He's Ethiopian-born, was adopted by Swedes, and was raised in Sweden.

                                                                                    I don't recall ever seeing in print nor in electronic interviews anything about Samuelsson discussing the fact that he's black and what, if any, difference it made to him.

                                                                                    EDIT: I just now saw that a few posts down, lisavf had already posted about Samuelsson. My apologies, lisa.

                                                                                    1. re: shaogo
                                                                                      k
                                                                                      KTinNYC Nov 11, 2009 05:28 AM

                                                                                      Samueslsson is extremely interested in his ethnicity and the food of Ethiopia. He has visited his birth place and his last venture, Merkato 55, served African or at least African influenced food.

                                                                                      1. re: KTinNYC
                                                                                        Miss Needle Nov 11, 2009 11:22 AM

                                                                                        He also has a show on BET called Urban Cuisine which focuses on food from Africa, Caribbean and US.

                                                                                    2. re: fourunder
                                                                                      greygarious Mar 28, 2010 08:29 PM

                                                                                      Marcus Samuelsson, of Aquavit Restaurant, is Ethiopian by birth and was adopted and raised in Sweden.

                                                                                    3. thew Nov 9, 2009 06:28 AM

                                                                                      yeah. and i don't want my burgers served by hispanics, my spaghetti served by americans, or my french food served by someone named smith either.

                                                                                      for what it is worth, here in NYC most of the line cooks in the best restaurants are mexicans and ecuadorians these days. they make fine french food, fine italian food, and know how to cook a steak. How could they possibly have taught a mexican to do that? Can non thai fingers hold plates of thai food? astounding!!!!!

                                                                                      (note to the sarcasm impaired: that was sarcasm)

                                                                                      but all the long term posters here know how i feel abut the term "ethnic food" anyway - so my reply isn't a surprise

                                                                                      (hint - all food is ethnic food)

                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: thew
                                                                                        Paulustrious Nov 9, 2009 02:30 PM

                                                                                        Mine is cultural. Everybody eles's is ethnic.

                                                                                        1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                          EWSflash Nov 11, 2009 12:01 PM

                                                                                          LOL. Paulustrious!

                                                                                        2. re: thew
                                                                                          luckyfatima Nov 9, 2009 08:51 PM

                                                                                          I am with you. thew, against the white-centric, white-normative term "ethnic" food. Everyone has ethnicity, not just people of color or whites who are nearer to the boundaries of whiteness (European origin Jews, Greeks, Italians or other so-called "ethnics"). Everyone has ethnicity!

                                                                                          1. re: luckyfatima
                                                                                            thew Nov 10, 2009 03:55 AM

                                                                                            on another thread it was asked what the best ethnic food in boston was. i said clam chowder......

                                                                                        3. thew Nov 9, 2009 06:31 AM

                                                                                          its like the old joke:

                                                                                          A group of Jewish American Tourist are in London and on their itinary is listed a visit to Blooms Kosher Restaurant in Golders Green.

                                                                                          After being seated at the table they are served by a Chinese Waiter, who conducts the whole conversation in Yiddish.

                                                                                          After the meal and just before they are about to leave, they are confronted by the owner, Mr. Bloom, who asks them if they enjoyed the meal.

                                                                                          The leader of the group states that they were well satisfied by the food and service, but were amazed that the waiter only spoke in yiddish.

                                                                                          Mr. Bloom placed the index finger of his right hand to his lips and said Shush, he thinks we're teaching him English!!

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: thew
                                                                                            monku Nov 9, 2009 06:42 AM

                                                                                            Oy vay

                                                                                          2. monku Nov 9, 2009 07:24 AM

                                                                                            Along a similar thought...what's up with Lawry's only hiring women servers until 2004...what a man can spin a salad?

                                                                                            http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi...

                                                                                            1. m
                                                                                              MiriamWoodstock Nov 9, 2009 08:39 AM

                                                                                              With all due respect, the only inauthentic thing that you describe is the practice of evaluating people by their skin color and facial features. I, too, have many expectations of the world, and challenging those expectations is routinely the most fulfilling course of action ;)

                                                                                              1. Sam Fujisaka Nov 9, 2009 08:59 AM

                                                                                                Really!!! All the ^&%* servers around here are Colombian!!! Of course, living in &^^&*(# Colombia might have something to do with it.

                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                  Paulustrious Nov 9, 2009 02:34 PM

                                                                                                  Relax. You've got all the prettiest girls. At least in my limited experience.

                                                                                                  ps. Can you differentiate between ^&%* and &^^&*(# for me?

                                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                    c
                                                                                                    Cachetes Nov 9, 2009 04:06 PM

                                                                                                    I guess that's all right. As long as they stick to serving the right ethnic food. But, oh shit, Colombian food isn't ethnic food in Colombia is it?

                                                                                                    1. re: Cachetes
                                                                                                      Sam Fujisaka Nov 10, 2009 12:41 AM

                                                                                                      Well, Paulustrous & Cachetes, I have to admit that I wish there were real Mexicans and Chinese here to run some restaurants. The "Mexican" and "Chinese" food served in respective establishments here in Colombia is mind boggling, throat gagging, terrible, bad, inedible crap.

                                                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                        pikawicca Nov 12, 2009 11:54 AM

                                                                                                        Hmm, too bad you don't have a strong opinion on that, Sam.

                                                                                                  2. h
                                                                                                    hsk Nov 9, 2009 09:01 PM

                                                                                                    "If there are customers out there that actually believe the ethnicity of the server somehow reflects upon the authenticity or quality of an ethnic restaurant"

                                                                                                    It only really matters when an ethnic restaurant has a large clientele of that ethnicity that expect to be served in their native language. It's not how they look, just whether they speak the language, and the vast majority of the time, when they do, they look like they are of that ethnicity (just from observation, I don't always understand, there's a lot of conversation that's Greek to me from customers and servers who look sort of similar).

                                                                                                    Do I think it's more authentic? You bet. Is it better quality? I'm not sure unless I've had lots of that kind of food before. But I don't think an owner of an ethnic restaurant needs to worry about it unless they do have that clientele. And if they don't, it's not a big deal, it might have more to do with their geographic characteristics than their authentically ethnic ones.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: hsk
                                                                                                      BobB Nov 10, 2009 11:10 AM

                                                                                                      There are two local taqueria chains here in Boston where most if not all of the servers are Mexican (or at least hispanic), but the owners are Japanese - and feuding siblings at that!

                                                                                                    2. raytamsgv Nov 11, 2009 10:30 AM

                                                                                                      I think it only matters to the patrons if they are expecting to order in a different language. But yes, it is a little disconcerting at first.

                                                                                                      11 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: raytamsgv
                                                                                                        h
                                                                                                        Harters Nov 11, 2009 12:04 PM

                                                                                                        Back in the early 1980s, we had a TV comedy drama in the UK called "Auf Wiedersehen, pet", which featured a group of Brit construction workers working in Germany. One episode centres on one of the crew having money worries and wondering how to earn more. It ends with the crew going for a meal at an Indian restaurant only to find Neville working as a waiter.

                                                                                                        Of course, being a comedy drama, it doesnt tell the viewer how he manages to do the job -seeing as he can't speak German although his customers must have (his workmates excepted)

                                                                                                        Oh, and for a comedy spin on stereotypes, we also had an asian comedy show "Goodness Gracious Me" which featured the cast, in India "going for an English" meal.

                                                                                                        1. re: Harters
                                                                                                          l
                                                                                                          Lizard Nov 12, 2009 03:27 PM

                                                                                                          'Going for an English' is a classic. 'What's the blandest thing on the menu?'

                                                                                                          1. re: Lizard
                                                                                                            h
                                                                                                            Harters Nov 13, 2009 02:19 AM

                                                                                                            "The scampi is very bland".

                                                                                                            "We'll have two then. One with all the crap".

                                                                                                            Classic as you say. Just about every stereotypical experience in an Indian restaurant, after closing time, circa 1980.

                                                                                                            1. re: Harters
                                                                                                              l
                                                                                                              Lizard Nov 13, 2009 03:39 AM

                                                                                                              For those who want to know what we're talking about:

                                                                                                              http://video.google.com/videoplay?doc...

                                                                                                              1. re: Lizard
                                                                                                                Paulustrious Nov 13, 2009 06:29 AM

                                                                                                                That was hilarious. I miss the BBC - that series did not arrive here in Toronto. Unfortunately, the counterpoint may not be understandable to many North Americans who have not seen a poppadom count, the associated relish tray, the inebriated diner, the lunatic phal orderer, the order summariser and the relationship with the waiter. Brings back memories of fine dining.

                                                                                                                I guess this question is on-topic. Has it changed much over the last twenty years or so?

                                                                                                                1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                                                  h
                                                                                                                  Harters Nov 13, 2009 06:59 AM

                                                                                                                  Without doubt, it's changed in the last 20 years.

                                                                                                                  Then, as lampooned in the sketch, Indian food was eaten after the pubs closed and never eaten sober.

                                                                                                                  Now, folk go out to dinner to eat Indian food. Unfortunately, the quality of the food is still too often stuck in the "classics" of the Bangla curry house of the 1980s. It is something to do with "playing safe" - most "Indian" restaurants in the UK are owned by people of Bangladeshi origin (in fact from the Sylhet region) and I think they work to what they feel is a formula that works. It's sort of the same as a chain restaurant - you know exactly what you are going to get from one visit to another and, certainly amongst friends and family, most people seem to order the same thing every time. It is the sheer awfulness of being able to order any protein with any sauce that depresses me - few places have what we might recognise as a "proper" menu with individual dishes

                                                                                                                  It often amuses me, when I read the UK board, of how many North Americans are looking for a "really awesome" place for Indian when they visit London (it is always London - visiting North American Chowhounds don't seem to venture out of the capital). I often wonder how many, when they go home, wonder what all the fuss is about.

                                                                                                                  In one of the suburbs of my metopolitian centre, Manchester, is a road known as the "Curry Mile". Actually about half a mile - but with something like 40 Indian restaurants on it. It's the largest concentration in the UK - and most of them offer the same dismal menu that there's little difference to choose between them. A couple stand out - mainly because of their vegetarian offerings.

                                                                                                                  It's pretty much the same across the country and few places break out of this awful cycle. That's not to say that good Indian food cannot be found. It can. There are some upmarket places in London and other major citys - but they are few and far between. There are also some smaller places offering regional dishes or just happen to do things particularlly well. The situation is getting better as restaurant owners become more confident in their own food (possibly it's because the passage of time means ownership is now increasingly amongst second generation immigrants). Returning to the main topic, I suspect we Brits will have to wait a while longer for "Indian" restaurants to stop being dependent on new immigration for their servers and chefs. Then we might see a leap forward in the cuisine.

                                                                                                                  As an aside, I could say much the same about fish & chips. Something that North Americans always seem to want to eat when they visit London and something that is so very often done really, really badly. Good fish & chips are a rarity throughout the UK, particularly so in the south (where it's also damned expensive for what you get).

                                                                                                                  1. re: Harters
                                                                                                                    thew Nov 13, 2009 07:18 AM

                                                                                                                    as the same could be said about brits and hamburgers and pizza

                                                                                                                    1. re: thew
                                                                                                                      linguafood Nov 13, 2009 07:22 AM

                                                                                                                      i don't know.... pizza and burgers seem quite readily available in the UK, whereas fish n chips ain't that easy to find in the US.

                                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood
                                                                                                                        BobB Nov 13, 2009 08:23 AM

                                                                                                                        Not sure I agree - at least here in New England fish 'n chips is quite common and often quite good. And most of the pizza and burgers I've had in the UK were pretty mediocre compared to good American versions (not to say that there aren't plenty of mediocre versions of those over here too, but comparing two mid-level chains - Ask, say, and Bertucci - Bertucci wins, hands down).

                                                                                                                        1. re: BobB
                                                                                                                          h
                                                                                                                          Harters Nov 13, 2009 08:59 AM

                                                                                                                          Burgers here in the UK are generally unpleasant to say the least. Most are, of course, sold through American chains. Others from independent shops are generally even worse (the indepentdents tend to be be bottom end takeaways who always seem to also sell kebabs and pizzas). Perhaps the shining star of an exception by way of a chain is Gourmet Burger Kitchen ( New Zealand owned and damned expensive for what it is).

                                                                                                                          Other than that, pizza tends to be pretty good. Our largest and, by far, most successful chain of any sort is Pizza Express. It is perhaps worthy of mention that, unlike America, there has been little Italian immigration into the UK so the cuisine does not have a strong community link. Our love for pizza comes from holidays in Italy which remains a major destination for us.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Harters
                                                                                                                            wonderflosity Nov 13, 2009 01:37 PM

                                                                                                                            I am a server at an East Indian Restaurant. I am also a caucasian woman of Irish Descent, with black hair. My ethnicity is hard for people to guess, I have gotten everything from Spanish, to Russian, to Greek.

                                                                                                                            I get asked all the time if I'm Indian. When I reply, no... I'm Irish, the look on peoples faces is one of relief. "Oh, I didn't think so." A part of their brain assumed I must have been, since I was working there, yet there is a lot of cognitive dissonance for them, since I don't look Indian, really. It's really funny to watch.

                                                                                                      2. steakman55 Nov 13, 2009 02:03 PM

                                                                                                        Do you think it odd to see a Mexican going into a Chinese restaurant to eat?

                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: steakman55
                                                                                                          raytamsgv Nov 13, 2009 04:01 PM

                                                                                                          Not really. I was in a Korean-owned Japanese restaurant once, and there was a Mexican-American family at the next table speaking Spanish. And they were all using chopsticks to eat.

                                                                                                          1. re: steakman55
                                                                                                            s
                                                                                                            sidwich Nov 16, 2009 09:56 AM

                                                                                                            Well, I don't think it's odder than white people going to a Chinese restaurant or Chinese people going to a "white people food" restaurant. Actually, here in the Southern California area, it's probably less unusual because so many Chinese-dominated neighborhoods are very close to Mexican-dominated restaurants.

                                                                                                            Some time ago, I was at one of my family's favorite Chinese restaurants which is a small hole in the wall totally dominated by Chinese folks with minimal non-Chinese clientele. The only non-Chinese customer there was an old Mexican guy happily slurping a big bowl of soup noodles. I mentioned this to my best friend (who is Mexican) later and she replied, "Of course. We know a good thing when we find it!"

                                                                                                            1. re: sidwich
                                                                                                              monku Nov 23, 2009 05:22 PM

                                                                                                              Mexicans love Chinese food. Take a look at some of the places in Los Angeles Chinatown, they make up half the clientele in the restaurant at anytime of day. The only other ethnic restaurant you'll see in Mexican neighborhoods in Los Angeles are Chinese restaurants.

                                                                                                          2. g
                                                                                                            gloriousfood Nov 14, 2009 04:48 AM

                                                                                                            I wouldn't bat an eyelash. I guess it's what you're used to. Here in NY, it would be surprising to walk into a restaurant and *not* see a multicultural staff. I remember a mini-chain of a successful Mexican takeout place that was run by the Chinese. And frankly, with the well-documented discrimination against minorities getting hired to work in fine (upper-scale) restaurants, it's great to watch a show like Avec Eric, go into his kitchen (Le Bernardin), and see non-Caucasians working there (and I don't mean they're just washing dishes either).

                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: gloriousfood
                                                                                                              1sweetpea Nov 15, 2009 04:20 AM

                                                                                                              This is a surreal discussion for me, coming from a very multicultural society. I understand Paulustrious' comments about there being comfort for me seeing people of the restaurant's ethnicity happily dining there, but as for the owners, chefs and waitstaff, I've come to be very blase about them. We used to think that a Chinese-owned sushi joint would be inferior in quality to a Japanese-owned one. But, as someone else commented, fewer and fewer sushi places have Japanese ownership and the Chinese/Korean/Vietnamese owned ones have gotten very good over the years. One of my favourite Vietnamese restaurants is run by a fellow who is 100% not Asian in ethnic makeup, but has become so enamoured with Vietnamese culture that he's been a few times, speaks Viet to the owner's family (who do the cooking) and seems to be pretty much a member of the family. Someone once made mention of this guy in a post, citing him as creepy (he's very soft spoken and a bit effeminate in gestures). A part of me thinks that part of the so-called creepiness for some is that the guy just isn't the stereotype of what they expected upon entry. Some have gone so far as to suggest that the offerings at this restaurant are less than authentic. I'd challenge that, as the food is very much like some of the food I ate in Hanoi, albeit more attractively plated. Again, I'd wager that the white guy running the place is part of what makes people skeptical. To me, that's just silly. If the food is less than authentic, then don't go, but if Sesame Street song, "One of These Things is not like the Other" is running through their heads as they criticize the food, then these people ought to step into the 21st century and accept that when people need jobs, they go where the jobs are. It doesn't matter what company is doing the hiring. If a restaurant needs a server or cook and a competent person arrives to interview for the job. That person should get the job on experience and talent, not whether they'll look appropriate in the restaurant uniform.

                                                                                                              1. re: 1sweetpea
                                                                                                                Dagney Nov 23, 2009 05:06 PM

                                                                                                                Seriously. Are we having this discussion? In 2009? In the United States of America? The original post is hilarious.

                                                                                                              2. re: gloriousfood
                                                                                                                thew Nov 15, 2009 04:38 AM

                                                                                                                we love NY - it's the place where you can go to a greek owned diner and hear an italian waiter scream to a mexican counterman "bagel with a schmear"

                                                                                                                1. re: thew
                                                                                                                  g
                                                                                                                  gloriousfood Nov 15, 2009 06:37 AM

                                                                                                                  Amen to that!

                                                                                                              3. vorpal Apr 7, 2010 10:52 AM

                                                                                                                I'm reminded of the original Iron Chef when they had French chefs of Japanese origin on as combatants, and in introducing the formal training of the chef, they always demonstrated a picture of him standing in a group of white chefs at the restaurant he trained in. It always amused me at how odd it looked to have so little multiculturalism in the business.

                                                                                                                1. jubilant cerise Feb 5, 2011 10:41 AM

                                                                                                                  Depending on where you live, being able hire your own "peeps" to work in your restaurant may not be a possibility if you're part of a small ethnic minority. Offering the specialty of an ethnic food is part of the reason why they can open a restaurant - so the ethnicity of the server shouldn't matter. Even for the chef! My go-to delivery pizza is operated by a Chinese family and their drivers are usually caucasian. :)

                                                                                                                  As someone who's been on the other end of the OP: years ago I worked at a family-run Italian foods deli and grocery while I was a student - I'm Filipino-Canadian. They were a great family to work for and I learned a lot about Italian food (and gained a ton of weight, lol) during my summer there. There were only two issues that came up, though one wasn't really an issue. The wife of one of the sons is Chinese-Canadian, so a lot of people assumed I was the wife - honest accident, I didn't mind. The other issue was when this lady ordered some cheese and when I couldn't find it, I asked her to point it out to me. Turns out "gouda" is pronouced "howda" where she's from and she made me feel incredibly stupid for not knowing/not being italian(?). Who knows. (Or am I the only one who pronounces the "g" in gouda? She could've been a little more kind about it.)

                                                                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: jubilant cerise
                                                                                                                    thew Feb 5, 2011 12:50 PM

                                                                                                                    thats dutch, not italain

                                                                                                                    1. re: jubilant cerise
                                                                                                                      mikikiandguest Feb 6, 2011 05:43 AM

                                                                                                                      Thew is right, it's dutch and not italian and I'd also add that whoever that person THINKS they are, belittling someone for not knowing something is a really priggish and impolite thing to do. She was in the wrong, Jubilant, NOT you.

                                                                                                                      1. re: mikikiandguest
                                                                                                                        BobB Feb 7, 2011 06:36 AM

                                                                                                                        Pronunciation is always a tricky issue, with loads of snobbistic connotations. My approach is to use the local pronunciation in all cases (i.e., local where I am, not local whereof I speak).

                                                                                                                        Thus it's KHOWda in the Netherlands, GOOda in the US. Just as I say Munich here and München when I'm there (and conversely, San Francisco here but San Frantsisko when in Germany).

                                                                                                                        1. re: mikikiandguest
                                                                                                                          JungMann Feb 11, 2011 06:51 AM

                                                                                                                          I've stopped pronouncing the Dutch g in gouda and van Gogh when speaking in the States. Very few people have encountered Dutch in the US and you will not be understood even in the most cosmopolitan cities. I still say gehaktbal properly though. It's half the fun of the dish.

                                                                                                                          1. re: JungMann
                                                                                                                            h
                                                                                                                            Harters Feb 24, 2011 02:04 PM

                                                                                                                            The story I heard was the Dutch could always detect German secret police during WW2 by their inability properly pronounce "Schevenigen" - the seaside district of The Hague.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Harters
                                                                                                                              linguafood Feb 24, 2011 02:09 PM

                                                                                                                              Pscha. I'm pretty awesome at doing the bronchital sounds of the Dutch 'language'.

                                                                                                                              j/k.

                                                                                                                        2. re: jubilant cerise
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                                                                                                                          Harters Feb 6, 2011 06:31 AM

                                                                                                                          Yep, Gouda's a nice small town in the south of the Netherlands. And it is pronounced sort of like "howda" - but more gutteral, almost like you're clearing some phlegm in your throat. Difficult language to try and come to terms with (I'm glad most Dutch speakers also speak good English)

                                                                                                                          1. re: Harters
                                                                                                                            Tripeler Feb 6, 2011 03:12 PM

                                                                                                                            A few years ago a Dutch friend told me that cheese is no longer made in the town of Gouda -- apparently quite a lot of development has pushed the cheesemaking to adjoining areas.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Tripeler
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                                                                                                                              Harters Feb 8, 2011 05:04 AM

                                                                                                                              Yes, indeed. Cheese making on this scale is very much an industrial process and I understand that a lot of the production is now in the north of the country. The EU has recently given "Gouda Holland" a protected geographical status

                                                                                                                          2. re: jubilant cerise
                                                                                                                            jubilant cerise Feb 9, 2011 06:21 PM

                                                                                                                            thew: The Italian deli did carry non-italian imports as well, it was just predominantly italian stuff. It's where I discovered halva too, so delish!

                                                                                                                            mikikiandguest: Thank you, it's good to know I wasn't out to lunch with my reaction.

                                                                                                                            Harters & BobB: I'll use the localism only if I'm confident that I won't screw it up or come off sounding like a snob. Pronounciation is tricky for me, probably since I only grew up speaking English.

                                                                                                                            Tripeler: Sad to learn that the town of Gouda isn't making their namesake cheese anymore.

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                                                                                                                            NicoleFriedman Feb 7, 2011 06:02 PM

                                                                                                                            If a Caucasian owned establishment refused to hire an ethnic minority it would be considered racist. I believe the same should hold true for any business. Why shouldn't a Mid Easterner be able to work at a Thai restaurant? We're all human and need to open our eyes. As Anthony Bourdain has said for years, it's a Mexican cooking your haute French food which should not make it less authentic if it's prepared properly. And what if you were in France? France has an onslaught of immigration both legal and illegal; just on a smaller scale than the US. Who's cooking your steak au poivre in Paris? There's a good chance it's an immigrant.

                                                                                                                            1. alliegator Feb 14, 2011 09:10 AM

                                                                                                                              At my favorite little Thai place there is one server that sticks out like a sore thumb. He is a giant hoss of a college age kid always wearing some sort of footbal jersey--typical Texas white boy. But he can answer any question that you could possibly throw at him about the menu, is friendly and efficient, so why should I care if he's not Thai. Everyone else that works there is Thai, the food is very authentic, it just so happens that Mr. Football is the one that carries it to my table. I've been going there for 2 years and he's been there the whole time. It obviously a situation that's working out for them.

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                                                                                                                                lyri Feb 15, 2011 08:21 PM

                                                                                                                                I'm a hostess (and occasional server/runner/etc) at a Puerto Rican restaurant IN Puerto Rico. It's very Puerto Rican. It couldn't be more Puerto Rican. And I'm 100% Puerto Rican. In fact, my parents can't watch movies without subtitles. But I'm also very very fair skinned with green eyes and no accent at all. I'm often questioned by customers to a point where it's a little offensive. I've had a few people tell me the place can't possibly be authentic if they have an American greeter. I understand the reason for the question because if I met myself, while speaking in English, I'd also think I was American, but once I answer that I'm local, shouldn't that be enough?

                                                                                                                                Even if a server/cook/runner/bartender/etc isn't of the expected ethnicity, it's irrelevant. I think it's about the work you do, and not who you are. Someone already used this example, but isn't Rick Bayless a prime example of that?

                                                                                                                                One of my favorite French restaurants in town is run by a Puerto Rican and a Mexican. It doesn't make their food any less awesome, or their recipes any less French.

                                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: lyri
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                                                                                                                                  AubWah Feb 17, 2011 01:45 PM

                                                                                                                                  as long as mexicans make my tacos and chinese make my chinese ill be ok

                                                                                                                                  1. re: AubWah
                                                                                                                                    thew Feb 17, 2011 03:59 PM

                                                                                                                                    why shouldn't mexicans make your chinese? or visa versa?

                                                                                                                                    (btw- there are many many many mexican line cooks in the USA - so your french, and italian, and american, and even chinese may well have been made by mexicans)

                                                                                                                                    1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                      monku Feb 17, 2011 04:35 PM

                                                                                                                                      I recently met a Chinese lady who said she and her husband had a small chain of Mexican restaurants in the Los Angeles area.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: thew
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                                                                                                                                        throwbookatface Feb 17, 2011 04:45 PM

                                                                                                                                        Funny he wants Mexicans making his Mexican when the ones at his favorite restaurant are probably Salvadorean, cooking California-style burritos (which would be laughed at in Mexico) out of American food supplies on Chinese-made cookware.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: lyri
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                                                                                                                                      throwbookatface Feb 17, 2011 03:33 PM

                                                                                                                                      It's a stupid double standard. Snobs like this would (rightly) accuse you of racism if you were to suggest that only Mexicans can eat at my Mexican food place. Yet, they question the restaurant if the workers themselves are not Mexican. What kind of f-ed up neocolonial servitude do they want? Don't waiters, busboys, and cooks often have it hard enough?

                                                                                                                                      I'll also bet people like this don't even question their own hypocricy and idiocy when they salivate over Bobby Flay's or Anthony Bourdain's ethnic recipes.

                                                                                                                                    3. m
                                                                                                                                      momdgp Feb 24, 2011 04:55 AM

                                                                                                                                      Two comments:

                                                                                                                                      A chinese friend of mine said that most of the cooks and waiters at a japanese sushi restaurant are chinese (she speaks and understands mandarin). Most americans can't tell orientals apart so they "get away with it."

                                                                                                                                      Whenever I go to my favorite mexican fast food joint, I marvel that only in america can indian people serve mexican food to jews. :D

                                                                                                                                      1. mucho gordo Feb 24, 2011 12:04 PM

                                                                                                                                        All I expect from a server, even in a place like McD's, is to be able to understand english well enough to get my order straight.

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                                                                                                                                          uwsister Feb 27, 2011 06:06 PM

                                                                                                                                          No, I don't expect it and it certainly doesn't bother me when ethnicity of servers don't match the cuisine. The only reason I might prefer a Korean server at a Korean restaurant, for instance, is if I wanted something special or had some specific requests, it would be easier if the server spoke and understood Korean in addition to English. But then again, server could be any ethnicity with Korean-speaking ability.

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                                                                                                                                            meg3325 Apr 18, 2011 10:13 PM

                                                                                                                                            L.A. is an ethnic melting pot, so it's common to see Korean sushi owners, Mexican cooks and waiters in Japanese restaurants. There are more Mexican families eating in Chinatown than Chinese families. I bought a cake in a Chinese bakery and the only Asian woman was ringing up my order. Everybody else was Hispanic - the bakers, cake decorators, the clerks behind the counter. The Latino customers were buying Chinese pastries. Only in America!

                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                            1. re: meg3325
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                                                                                                                                              ricepad Apr 19, 2011 11:52 AM

                                                                                                                                              That's because all the Chinese are out in the SGV!
                                                                                                                                              ;o)

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