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Does Race Matter in the Kitchen?

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There seems to be question of whether it is appropriate to bring up the ethnicity of the management and/or kitchen staff of a restaurant.

**The original post was removed, and I have edited this post to reflect that.**

Essentially, in a discussion of the best bet for ramen in DC, one place was recommended by a couple of 'Hounds (not me), and then someone posted:

"The best ramen in DC is run by Hispanics?"

I don't know about the management of the restaurant, but I didn't think it had any place in the discussion.

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  1. No, it does not matter.

    Best fried rice I ever had was made by a guy from Oaxaca. He had worked in a Chinese restaurant for years.

    Also, did that post get removed?

    1. No, it doesnt matter in the slightest to me. In the case of most restaurants I know, I have no idea of the race, ethnicity or nationality of the folk in the kitchen. Nor do I care.

      I'm unsure whether the question is inherently inappropriate for discussion on the board but that's why we have moderators.

      1. My opinion is that no, race does not matter in the kitchen. If the kitchen staff is well trained and know what they are doing, know how to achieve the correct balance of flavors through being trained by someone who knows what they are doing, and the ingredients are good, the food will come out well executed.

        Many of my favorite restos in the US, be they Vietnamese, Pakistani, or Korean, have almost entirely Central American and/or Mexican recent immigrant kitchen staff. I think we have all read that this is true even in very fancy French restos in the US. Same when I lived abroad in the Middle East and many of my favorite international restos had Nepalese, Indian, and Bangladeshi cooks. When it goes wrong, it isn't because of race, but because of poor training, bad ingredients, or substituting with wrong ingredients, or sometimes just bad cooking.

        Not to mention that I have been to plenty of restos where the cooks are preparing the cuisine of their particular ethnic background, and the food is mediocre or bad.

        3 Replies
        1. re: luckyfatima

          "Not to mention that I have been to plenty of restos where the cooks are preparing the cuisine of their particular ethnic background, and the food is mediocre or bad."

          Yep, there are bad cooks in every country. That's why they have to leave their native lands to cook elsewhere, where people may not know just how dreadful they are. :D

          1. re: Isolda

            Yeah - this is why I would not try Indian food for YEARS after having a horrendous take on it in a sketchy little dive in my rural college town in the Northeast. When I finally was coaxed to give the cuisine another try by friends, I was amazed by the difference.

          2. re: luckyfatima

            I agree completely with everything you've written - but I do still find there to be a romanticism given to the personal background of the chef/owners of an establishment. Particularly to "ethnic" restuarants.

            Whether it's that the establishment is family owned for x number of years, using historic family recipes, or even menus only available in the "native" language (especially when that language is not the main language of the region). When talking about Rick Bayless (Mexican) or David Thompson (Thai) - often the stories heavily emphasize how much they love the culture, immersed themselves, and study. Whereas the "origin story" of Thomas Keller and French food is just more a case of "he was trained in French kitchens".

            Ultimately, I think that this goes to the difference that "fine cuisines" are treated vs. "ethnic". Fine cuisines are taught. You go to school, work in a kitchen under a top chef, practice for years and are taught the skills to be to become a chef. Whereas ethnic cuisine isn't taught but is rather "feeling and emotion". It's passed from generation to generation and is almost talked about as though it was genetic.

            On another thread there was a discussion about non-Japanese sushi chefs - and what that discussion essentially says is that there's no way to design a proper training course to become a top sushi chef. Now, it may be that at this time the top sushi chefs/schools (and thus learning opportunities) are all in Japan and conducted in Japanese - making access to that education a challenge for non-Japanese cooks. But to say that sushi (or ramen, or whatever) is strictly tied to an ethnicity - but that French cooking can be learned by anyone in the right environment definitely starts to tread into problematic thinking.

          3. Not to me. But then I'm looking for deliciousness when I dine in a restaurant, not authenticity (whatever that is).

            Almost every place I've eaten in the DC area has Hispanic workers, whether serving or in the kitchen. Not surprising since that is the available low cost labor pool here.

            It is not surprising that the most enterprising amongst them start food-related businesses themselves.

            1. I have seen this question come up a few times, mostly in relation to the increasing number of non-Asian chefs cooking traditional Asian cuisines (viz. Andy Ricker, Zak Pellaccio, etc.). It all seems to stem from subjective notions of authenticity, as if sushi isn't truly sushi unless you sit at the bar for omakase under the tutelage of a stern Japanese master.

              Cooking is a skill that can be learned with study. It does not take race to understand flavor and technique. Stated another way: it does not take a child of the same race to love her grandmother's lasagna, even less so to cook it. Two Asian-Americans far more reliable on the topic than I had an interesting exchange on this topic from the First Generation's viewpoint:

              1. Interesting...I guess it doesn't really matter to me. A few of the fine Italian restaurants in my area are run and staffed by eastern Europeans, and they put out some very good food. On the other hand, you're not gonna see any Mexicans in frufru sushi places, nor will you see Rory O'Connor running/working at a jewish deli. So maybe we're not supposed to notice or talk about it, but yeah, it apparently DOES matter to some people. Some cultures are closed, be it for race or nationality

                19 Replies
                1. re: BiscuitBoy

                  Out here on the Left Coast, I've seen "Mexicans" (not sure they're from Mexico) preparing sushi in nice places.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    My favorite sushi guy at our local Japanese restaurant is from Puebla.

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      There ya go! Not just a LC thing.

                      1. re: pikawicca

                        On the east coast, I guess sushi is more militant and hard core

                          1. re: c oliver

                            when an apprentice does nothing for 3 years, but make rice and fan it....I'd call that hardcore

                          2. re: BiscuitBoy

                            <On the east coast, I guess sushi is more militant and hard core>

                            I don't think so. East Coast is more relax.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              You're from Canada, yeah? Are there lots of Mexicans rolling sushi at the bar? I'm gonna guess there are exceptions here and there, but I sure don't see it in my area

                              1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                I don't think New Jersey is part of Canada.

                                1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                  I grew up in the US West Coast (San Francisco area, California) and now living in the East Coast for years. I have been to Canada for conference and for vacation, but no more than 2 weeks in total.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    2 weeks? Hell, might as well be (kidding, Chem)

                                  2. re: BiscuitBoy

                                    This article is eight years old so I imagine the number of non-Japanese has only increased.


                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      no doubt....any news of the dim-sum cart lady?!!

                                      1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                        Huh? Don't have a clue what that means.

                                        It appears that you live in the 'burbs. Do you think that effects what you experience? Maybe a larger Japanese population there? I also didn't think that NYC anyway had all that many Mexican-Americans than, say, Salvadoreans and other Spanish speaking folks.

                            2. re: c oliver

                              In Berlin, almost all sushi places are owned by Vietnamese. At least they have the "correct" look. Ha.

                              1. re: linguafood

                                I wouldn't go that far. Perhaps they look similar to non-Asians, but I don't think Vietnamese generally look like Japanese.

                                1. re: raytamsgv

                                  Yes, I know. Thus the quotation marks and the attempt at implying humor.

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    Humor. It is a difficult concept at times. :-)

                                  2. re: raytamsgv

                                    I think your sarcasm detection meter needs a tune-up.

                            3. No. The very idea that it would is bizarre to me.

                              1. Does it matter?

                                Yes, but not in the way people think.

                                There's a certain social-psychological barrier that people have with food and cuisines that create long-established expectations. Those expectations can become quite disjointed when confronted with a jarring situation.

                                Consider if an American-American female was the itamae serving you toro at the bar? If you were an alien from the Andromeda galaxy, it would probably make no difference. But if you were a typical diner in Tokyo, or the U.S., it definitely would matter. Not so much as to the quality of food, necessarily, but to the social acceptance of the restaurant.

                                Similarly, if a Chinese guy was manning the pits at a BBQ joint in Goldsboro NC, you bet it would matter. For perception and acceptance purposes, but not necessarily for the quality of food.

                                But again, that sort of begs the question. In many ways, how we determine whether something tastes "good" really depends alot on, I think, in how we perceive and accept the social institution that we are dining at.

                                Put another way, consider this, I know of many people who will never eat at a Klan operated restaurant, no matter how good the food is there. So does race matter? Yes.

                                22 Replies
                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  "I know of many people who will never eat at a Klan operated restaurant"

                                  "I will have the burning cross of chicken, and a large sweet tea"

                                  1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                    That was so tasteless. But I admit I laughed.

                                  2. re: ipsedixit

                                    Question from a foreigner, ipse........ are there really Klan operated restaurants or is it more just a matter that some restaurants are owned by bigots. Fascinating if the former; not unexpected if the latter.

                                    Also, if the former, would I expect to find many spelling errors on the menu, based on the organisation's inability to spell "clan" correctly

                                    1. re: Harters

                                      There is one that I know of in South Carolina.

                                        1. re: carolinadawg

                                          Maurice's in Columbia.

                                          Is it like "officially KKK-operated"? No, but I'm not even sure what that would mean.

                                          But anyone who has two wits about them, knows what's behind the curtain in his stores. And, I've been there.

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            I assumed that was the place. I don't agree (at all!) with his politics, but calling it "klan operated" strikes me as a bit much. In any event, my understanding is that Maurice has retired, his children run the restaurants, and all of the political/racial overtones have been removed.

                                            1. re: carolinadawg

                                              Yes, it might be a bit of a reach to say "Klan-operated" or officially Klan-operated, but have you been there recently? I know the dude's gone, but ... I *have* been there recently and trust me, I'm not so sure it's all that different. There are still organizations that will not reimburse meals there.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                I haven't been lately, so I'm genuinely curious...in what way is it not different? Are the states rights and racially offensive books still for sale? I have been told all that stuff was gone.

                                                1. re: carolinadawg

                                                  Yeah, all that Confederate, Dixie stuff is gone (been gone now for a while me thinks). But they still have that back room shrine dedicated to all things segregation.

                                                  Even Maurice before retiring was out to make money, and his political and social views, 20 years ago, were not nearly the impediment to making money as it is now. So being the (racist) capitalist he was and is, he did the practical thing.

                                                  What bothers me more than anything about this whole situation is that there's so little good BBQ options in Columbia! :-)

                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                      I am also intrigued as to your "Klan operated restaurant", if there is an official Klan Operated Chain or other I have sure as hell never heard of it. (not that I subscribe to any Klan news sources but as a member of the community I would think I would have heard of this over the years).

                                      Please elaborate.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        I did think it was odd that the waiters had sheets over their heads but just didn't make the connection at the time.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          I don't know where to put this so I'll just respond again to ispe. Has anyone ever come across one of the Klans official solicitation calling card? (You might have to have been in the industry to have come across these)

                                          It has happened a few times over the years, we find an official KKK business card, generally left in a public area, like mens room, so it can't be tied to any one person or table. It say's something to the affect of "Your establishment has been supported by a member Ku Klux Klan".

                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                            Gross. I think I'd vomit if I saw one of those in the ladies' after eating a meal there.

                                            1. re: Isolda

                                              That's got to be why they leave 'em in the bathrooms . . .handy toilets/sinks to throw up in!

                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                            Hi, ipse:

                                            Really like your thinking reply, and agree wholeheartedly.

                                            What I have noticed lately is a phenomenon out past the 'burbs where recently-arrived Asian people (many Korean families) seem to be buying and staffing existing "American food" cafes, diners, and breakfast dives. Nary a Korean dish or flourish in sight, just the burgers, bisquits & gravy, Southern fried chicken, etc. that the prior "American" owners offered.

                                            I confess the *seeming* cultural dissonance gives me a little pause--I reflexively wonder "How's this going to work out?" And I worry that I may taste a little too critically, lest I judge something other than the food.

                                            I've now been to enough of these places to learn that they get it right about the same % of the time as does anybody else.


                                            1. re: kaleokahu

                                              Or consider Seattle style teriyaki, owned by a whole range of recent immigrants - "Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Caucasian, Indian, and Korean-American."


                                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                                Similar phenomenon here - Koreans running office-park based sandwich joints that serve breakfast and lunch. Typical lunch offerings - sandwiches, subs, soup, etc. But they usually have a korean lunch special and will make you other korean specialities (easy ones) if you're a regular and ask nicely. I just got some pork/kimchee soup and rice at the joint in my office park in VA.

                                                The sandwiches are about the same quality as any other average lunch place - not worth my money but eaten happily by many.

                                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                                  I did a double-take at H Mart, a Korean grocery store here, when my cashier was white, with orange hair and piercings. I think that over time, we're all going to see these seeming incongruities as normal. At least I hope we will.

                                                  1. re: Isolda

                                                    I don't ever remember seeing a Caucasian (non-Hispanic) working at an H Mart, and I go there all the time. I have seen lots of Hispanic people working there. It seems that, at checkout, the person at the register is often Korean, and the person bagging the groceries is often Hispanic. And some of the H Mart locations have lots of groceries aimed at Hispanic tastes. (Lotte does something similar; the Chantilly store has a big section of Indian groceries).

                                                    I remember reading, a couple of years ago, that many of the restaurants in Eden Center now have a large number of Hispanics as part of the kitchen staff, as second generation Vietnamese don't want to go into that business.

                                                    I basically don't care about the race of the person in the kitchen; I care about the quality of the food. And, unfortunately, I can't comment on the ramen places that have sprouted up in DC lately (since I can no longer eat ramen). But I have noticed a difference in the quality of sushi prepared by Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. Both Japan and Korea have a tradition of eating sushi, and both can be good. However, sushi made by Chinese chefs, in my experience, often isn't very good. (It's the rice, not the fish.) Could a Chinese chef do as well as a Japanese chef? Certainly possible. But, if they don't learn how to make the rice properly (and it seems as if many don't), it won't be as good. That could be true for other cuisines. It could be easier for a person of the same ethnicity as the cuisine to have access to the instruction to make the food properly, so there might be a probability that they would do a better job. But no guarantee.

                                                    1. re: Lori D

                                                      Big surprise. Not everyone at 7/11 is a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Mormon.

                                                      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                        Huh? Thats about as random as your Abe's bbq story below. I don't understand the connection.

                                              2. "Authentic", as described by some people, would dictate that race matters. But to me, just give me good food. I don't care who is cooking it. Who wouldn't want Rick Bayless to cook them a fine Mexican dinner

                                                1. It may be expected, but it does not matter. Just because you have an epicanthic fold does not mean you are genetically endowed with the ability to faultlessly prepare Peking duck or nigiri sushi.

                                                  Although I do have a suspicion that the mish mash known as a California roll was invented by a refugee from the rust belt of Cleveland. But that is for another thread.

                                                  I have noticed in this area, that when an ethnic restaurant starts replacing the work force with hispanics rather than family, it has achieved success.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                    One phenomenon I have noticed is that almost all the Cuban restaurants in Miami have become 'South Americanized.' As the Cuban population has improved economically, the kitchen staffs are now from a different Continent. The foodstuffs are similar, but generally the flavor has morphed.

                                                    However, in assessing a restaurant's quality, I ultimately don't care where the staff or management is from as long as it tastes good.

                                                  2. Race is not the issue when it comes to food. It's about people who have no business being in a kitchen, doing your cooking, and that applies to all races. My closest Chinese restaurant is run by Chinese, the chef is Chinese and it serves absolutely awful Chinese food. The chef in that restaurant was probably not trained to be a chef, has no business being a chef and was probably doing something else in China.

                                                    I've noticed a decline in quality of an excellent neighborhood restaurant when the head chef stopped cooking there, the kitchen is now all Latino. Does that mean that race is a factor? Absolutely not, what makes the difference is that the head chef brought his skill set that is superior to the people who are now doing all the cooking.

                                                    Perhaps the only way race is a factor is experiential. I ate at a Chinese restaurant in Colorado that was staffed by Taiwanese. I practically spit out my food, it was so awful and completely unlike any Chinese food I had ever had in my life. I asked the waitress if the chef was Taiwanese, and she cheerfully replied "No, he's not. He's from (non-Asian) country". I asked where he learned to cook Chinese food given that his country is not exactly known for having a Chinese population. "Oh, he taught himself".

                                                    My kung pao chicken had big pieces of bell peppers, no peanuts and the chicken was breaded and smothered in a gloppy sweet sauce. I asked if the chef could make the sauce less sweet. The waitress returned and told me it's not possible because that's how it comes from the jar. I learned my chef had never had Chinese food before, before opening his very own Chinese restaurant.

                                                    1. I'm inclined to go with Anthony Bourdain on this. Anyone who assumes that everyone in the kitchen of their favorite Italian place is just off the boat from Rome or Naples is delusional. The same, of course, for any other ethnic cuisine. Line cooking is hot, dirty, tiresome, and pays poorly, so it is going to be done in large part by those who have limited other choices or are there to learn and run.

                                                      If the best ramen in DC is from a place owned/run by Hispanics, it would tickle me no end. What it says about ramen or ramen in DC is an interesting question. Since I have tasted their ramen or its competitors, it remains an open and fair question.

                                                      If I go to an ethnic restaurant I usually expect that someone in the place knows something about the food of the region in question. Whether they learned at momma's knee, by living and eating in the region for years, or buy working with/for someone who was both knowledgeable and a good teacher only concerns me as an interesting personal story. Barbara Tropp hardly looked like the idealized Chinese cook but both her books and China Moon were excellent and the books remain as valuable references.

                                                      1. The training of the cooks is the most important part of the issue. However, it can be difficult to train non-native cook to prepare a dish that isn't on the menu but an expected part of a cuisine.

                                                        For example, I've been to certain faux-Chinese restaurants where Latino cooks make pretty good renditions of a fixed number of dishes. But I can't order off the menu like I could in an "authentic" Chinese restaurant. A good Chinese cook would understand pretty much what I'm looking for in a dish based on years of experience in cooking regional specialties. While you can certainly train a non-Chinese cook to do this, it is not an easy task because it would take years of practice--far more than what you get in faux-Chinese restaurants.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: raytamsgv

                                                          Ultimately, this still comes down to training - both for the Latino and Chinese cook. Now our imaginary Chinese cook may have an edge being raised in a Chinese home that included a broad range of specific regional specialities - but that's not necessarily a given.

                                                          Given what cooks are paid globally - there are definitely numerous cooks around the world that come from poorer families and/or parts of the world. Cooking is a solid way to make a living, and "authenticity" of a cusine or seeking out the most expert training isn't nearly as important as finding the best job possible. However, ultimately it still comes down to the type of education the chef receives - whether the education is sought after or accidental.

                                                          In Israel - sushi (like many parts of the world) has become quite popular. As such, there have been a number of work visas given to sushi chefs to meet the customer demand. However, this demand is not for high quality sushi - and the vast majority of sushi restaurants in Israel produce very low quality sushi. While having Japanese sushi chefs. A lot of these cooks are pretty young, the products they're given usually aren't of the highest quality, there's minimal mentorship, and the standard of sushi expected in Israel is low - so it doesn't require a greater investment on the part of the restaurant to make customers happy. (I was at one mid-level sushi place in Israel where there was a bone, to which the staff told me that was always going to be a risk when eating fish)

                                                          However, one sushi restaurant in Jerusalem - was opened by a chef who traveled to Japan, trained extensively in Japan, and then returned and has invested in training the other cooks in his restaurant. It's the best sushi in the city by far, and it's clear that there's a strong investment and interest in training. None of the sushi chefs at this place are Japanese, but it's clear that they're all well educated and supervised

                                                        2. I believe you mean nationality, since we're all the same race (human, I think).

                                                          13 Replies
                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                            We're all humans as a species, race referring to white, black, yellow, etc

                                                            1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                              "Race" is a construct.

                                                              Chinese, Filipino, Japanese aren't "races", they're nationalities. There's a difference.

                                                              That said, neither matters in the kitchen (or elsewhere).

                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                I believe 'ethnicity' is the more correct term. Someone born and living in the U.S. is American. Their ethnicity could be from anywhere on the globe. For instance, most people identify Minnesota as being full of Scandinavians, but we actually have more people of German heritage and Scandinavian.

                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                  "Someone born and living in the U.S. is American."

                                                                  What about the other Americas? Aren't Canadians and South Americans American?

                                                                  Again, it's all totally random. And irrelevant to cooking, to get back OT :-)

                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                    If there was a poll of 1,000 people world-wide and it asked them what country 'Americans' come from, 998 would say the U.S. The only reason I did not say all of them would say thate is because everywhere in the world has their own contrarians.

                                                                    (Someone who is a naturalized citizen is also 'American' no matter what their ethnicity is.)

                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                      The official name for our neighbor to the south is
                                                                      Estados Unidos Mexicanos

                                                                      In Spanish, a citizen of USA (Estados Unidos de America) is called estadounidense

                                                                      Usage notes on Americano (subject to some opinion differences):

                                                                      "Only in the United States is americano currently used in reference to the United States. Otherwise, in Spanish americano is always used in reference to the American continent. For the United States (country) in particular, the correct global term is estadounidense.

                                                                      The usage of the term norteamericano in reference to the United States is also not entirely correct, as this term technically refers to North America (which includes Canada, United States and Mexico), but it is very common in reference to the U.S."

                                                                  2. re: linguafood

                                                                    Chinese, Filipino, Japanese would be Asian....I didn't make this stuff up. However I do believe "human race" was invented by marketing types

                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                      True. "Breed" would be more accurate, since AFAIK, all "races" can interbreed successfully.

                                                                  3. re: linguafood

                                                                    that is like saying that a Chihuahua and a Bullmastiff are exactly the same because they are both canine.

                                                                    1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                      Yep. They're dog breeds. Breeds ≠ races.

                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                        I believe the two are equal. Just as you have differences in dogs depending on where is the breed originates from, you also have differences and the different ethnicities and/or races of humans depending on where they are from. A Chihuahua is as different from a Bullmastiff as an African Maasai is as different from an Alaskan Inuit. I'm not saying one is better than the other, but I bet the maasai would not have as many tasty whale blubber recipes as the Inuit.

                                                                        1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                          But that doesn't mean they can't learn to prepare it just as well, given the ingredients and instructions.

                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                            oh of course. just because there are racial differences among people does not mean that a member of One ethnicity cannot master the cuisine of another. Of course, there are those of the French persuasion that would argue that point vehemently, even to the extreme of arguing regional cullinary differences within that country.

                                                                  4. I don't see where it would - heck, my favorite American-style bar is owned by a friend who is Vietnamese. And they serve some really great tacos.

                                                                    But I will say that since moving to an area with far fewer Indians and Asians (of Chinese, Filipino or Japanese backgrounds), I get very weirded out being in Indian or Asian restaurants with no sign of anyone of that nationality actually eating there. Back home, my friends who were Indian or Asian would always steer me to restaurants where people of the same nationality as the cuisine actually ate. I realize it's just demographics, but it's still strange to me to be in a good Indian restaurant and look around to see almost exclusively white faces seated at the tables.

                                                                    1. I believe race does matter in a kitchen, if not only for the cohesiveness of the kitchen to operate.....whether or not they speak English is not important, as long as they do the job they are required to perform....and can take direction and instructions from someone who is in charge of the kitchen and who leads them.

                                                                      There was a large Restaurant group that employed Chinese Kitchens exclusively for American fare. The Chain lasted well over 40 years. Latin Kitchens are very productive and loyal without formal training, only hands on experience. There's also a celebrity Asian Chef that has his kitchen without any Asian employees. For these examples, race is important as a special feature or characteristic of the specific restaurants.

                                                                      1. I'm not sure that ETHNICITY (is there a geneticist in the house?) even matters so much when it comes to cooking deliciousness.

                                                                        Rick Bayless
                                                                        David Thompson
                                                                        Diana Kennedy

                                                                        I'm sure savvy 'hounds will have more to add to the list...

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                          Fuchsia Dunlop
                                                                          Naomi Duguid
                                                                          Elizabeth Davis

                                                                        2. No, it doesn't matter. My uncle ran one of Phoenix's most successful Chinese restaurants for probably 40 years until he retired (and then my cousin ran it into the ground), but in the kitchen, the guy running the show was black, and he started at a time when there was a LOT of racial tension in Phoenix. I don't recall the cook's name now, but that guy could cook anything.

                                                                          OTOH, I've been in some really popular Japanese restaurants that are run by non-Japanese Asians (Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Korean) where the food is decidedly NOT Japanese. Ramen and udon made with a typical Chinese broth, for instance. I don't that this is a matter of race/ethnicity as it is of making business decisions and going with what they know.

                                                                          There's also an element of what the customer base wants. Forty years ago, a friend's family relocated from California to somewhere in the midwest. The family was Pilipino through and through, but when they settled in Indiana (I think...don't recall exactly), they opened a Chinese restaurant. When he returned to continue schooling in CA, I asked him about that. He said the locals didn't know they weren't Chinese.

                                                                          1. Hi Steve:

                                                                            I'm Iranian-American, and seeing Iranian-American cooks in the kitchen of Persian restaurants is normal. Similarly, non-Iranian cooks in Persian restaurants seems abnormal, and would raise my eyebrow.

                                                                            It's analogous to the rare occasion I meet a non-Iranian who speaks fluent Farsi. Hearing Farsi out of the mouth of an Iranian is normal, but the former is always surprising and unexpected.

                                                                            There is nothing to prevent anyone from mastering Persian cooking (or language). Food should be judged blinded to the individual(s) who prepared it in order to prevent bias.

                                                                            However, the likelihood that a great cook of Persian food is of Iranian descent is high, and the likelihood that a great cook of Persian food is of non-Iranian descent is low, though nothing would preclude it from being possible. It's just rare.

                                                                            We make the decision to pay for the food at a restaurant before having the opportunity to try the food. In the case of two identical sushi restaurants with identical menus, and all other things being equal, before having tried either one of them, I might be tempted to try the one with Japanese chefs rather than the one with French chefs. In simpler terms, we're forced to "judge the book by its cover" a bit before making the financial investment of trying a restaurant.

                                                                            Despite this temptation (or prejudice), there is no way to know which restaurant serves the better food without trying the sushi at both locations. And there is obviously no genetic aptitude to making sushi, and a sushi master like Jiro Ono could train any diligent apprentice to be a master sushi chef given enough time and effort.

                                                                            To reference the Anton Ego from the highly relevant 2007 cartoon film, Ratatouille:

                                                                            "In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the *new*. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new: an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto, "Anyone can cook." But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist *can* come from *anywhere*. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau's, who is, in this critic's opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau's soon, hungry for more."


                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: alarash

                                                                                This is why I am your disciple...

                                                                              2. I think race is important in every setting and it should be more openly (and respectfully) discussed. I honestly think a lot of trouble could be avoided if people weren't so touchy about discussing race and ethnicity. I find it both interesting and stereotype-shattering, for example, to know that the person who made my fabulous Turkish dinner is a white Midwesterner, or that the guy who's showing off his knife skills at my Japanese steakhouse is from Taiwan.

                                                                                36 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Isolda

                                                                                  I think isn't important in almost every setting and we talk about it way too much.

                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                      I'm hesitant because it's off topic for this site and Ï don't want to put a lot of effort into something only to see it vaporized. Plus I'm not sure what more there is to say. Ones race has nothing to do with the quality of their character or their ability to do a job. And I think we (the USA) spend too much time talking about race (obsessing over it really). I think if we'd quit talking about so much we would eventually move past it. As I is, we're just keeping it on the forefront of everyone's mind.

                                                                                      1. re: carolinadawg

                                                                                        Why would we want to "move past" race?

                                                                                        We should celebrate it. It is what makes us unique and different. It is part and parcel of what makes "me" and you "you".

                                                                                        Race only becomes a derogatory notion when one uses the notion of race to, not so much differentiate, but to discriminate.

                                                                                        Differentiation, divorced of normative judgments, should not be looked upon as verboten.

                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                          Obviously, I'm talking about moving past the negative aspects of race, which causes so much friction in this country. I'm not talking about celebrating culture and heritage. Do I really need to say that?

                                                                                          1. re: carolinadawg

                                                                                            I think you do.

                                                                                            There certainly are merits to discussing even the "negative aspects" of race.

                                                                                            It's the yin-yang of life.

                                                                                            Balance in everything we do.

                                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                              Agree. One of those name it/claim it things.

                                                                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                            I still fail (I suppose miserably)
                                                                                            to understand how a chefs/cooks race in a restaurant setting would be known to me. Food truck, maybe. Very familiar with the staff, sure. But generally speaking I don't see how I would know who is preparing my meal. I would never ask.

                                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                                              You walk by a kitchen and you can see. Sometime they stick their heads out of the kitchens. Other places like sushi bars or ramen houses, the kitchens are in the middle of the restaurants.

                                                                                              I would say I know what the chefs look like for >50% of the restaurants which I frequent.

                                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                That may be true. I can only say that for a small portion of the restaurants I've been to for the first time. With generations born of mixed couples (myself included) I've been incorrect about race on occasion. And I've been in the company of family & friends who had assumed incorrectly about race as well.

                                                                                                But in regard to the OP, in a kitchen setting this does not matter to me.

                                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                  < I can only say that for a small portion of the restaurants I've been to for the first time.>

                                                                                                  Although I said that I know the races of the kitchen staffs and chefs for most of the restaurants I frequent often, these are afterall restaurants which I go more than a few times.

                                                                                                  In answering the original poster's question, I don't believe race/ethnic background is a determining (cause and effect) factor, but it can be a correlation factor. Let's just take Persian poetry for example, does it take Persian gene to write a good Persian poem? Of course not, no one believes that. However, is there a correlation between being a good Persian poet and being an ethnic Persian/Iranian? I believe so. On the other hand, this correlation is very weak or almost nonexistence for Democracy and being Greek. I think cooking is somewhere in between.

                                                                                                  <"The best ramen in DC is run by Hispanics?"
                                                                                                  I don't know about the management of the restaurant,...>

                                                                                                  Of course, a Hispanic (or anyone) can make ramen, but I also don't think the original question is out of line. If someone asked "The best Persian poem is written by a Hispanic?" Would it be so out of place?

                                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                    I think this thread and question illustrates that our perspectives are going to varying a great deal based on our upbringing and life experience. Food or otherwise, we all have examples and reasons for how "we" see it.

                                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                        fwiw, I don't believe the question is out of line or not worth discussing. Just that our population is high in mixed race experiences, my own included, and one slice of how one person views DC ramen doesn't sway my experience enough to make general statements about race mattering in a kitchen.

                                                                                                        However that cook/chef came by their experience in a kitchen, the lessons will always vary. And given that every race also boasts poor cooks, should we also concede that there are no guarantees?

                                                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                          When I said "Sure, sure", I wasn't mocking you. I really was agreeing with you. Just in case you thought I was being sarcastic -- I wasn't.

                                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                            Nope, no problem here. If you had been it went right over my head anyway. :)

                                                                                          3. re: carolinadawg

                                                                                            <Ï don't want to put a lot of effort into something only to see it vaporized. >

                                                                                            Totally understand.

                                                                                      2. re: Isolda

                                                                                        I had a small bbq spot in Summerville, SC a few years back. Closed not long after opening because of very slow traffic in the door.

                                                                                        I had a Summerville native tell me to my face that it was because my wife was Indian (she's from Trinidad & Tobago in the Caribbean) and people there didn't want Indians cooking their bbq. The funny thing is she usually only came one day a week and only ever helped me prep side dishes.

                                                                                        The native person made it clear that our food was excellent, but people were afraid they'd be getting some weird Indian bbq.

                                                                                        I also overheard some folks talking about my restaurant in a local home improvement store one day. One asked the other had they been to "xxx BBQ" yet? The other person replied, and I quote because I was literally standing RIGHT there in the check-out line right behind them, "You mean that place run by those Indians?" She was there one day a week for goodness sake! LoL

                                                                                        Interesting first-person examples for this topic.

                                                                                        1. re: JayL

                                                                                          No, not LOL. Makes me sick. But thank you for sharing one of the not-so-subtle ways that prejudice shows its ugly face.

                                                                                          1. re: JayL

                                                                                            Wow. I want to say I had no idea such prejudice occurred, but it still somewhat shocks me when I hear such blatant bigotry.

                                                                                            Several years ago, a BBQ mostly take-out place opened not too far from my office in St. Paul. On the way home I stopped buy and bought a bucket of rib tips and a side of fried okra. The owner said I was 'the first white-boy to order the okra'. Of course they had not been opened long and okra is not on the menu of too many places, even today in Minnesota.

                                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                                              Is that really bigotry? Not wanting an "Indian" making their BBQ?

                                                                                              Is it bigotry if I don't want an American tailoring my suits, but prefer a Brit from Savile Row?

                                                                                              Or if I prefer a foot massage from a Vietnamese lady and not, for example, an African-American one?

                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                Good point. There's bigotry and there's stereotype

                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                  I think it may be bigotry if someone bases their decision on ethnicity before actually tasting the food.

                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                    Then I think you have a very different definition of bigotry than most.

                                                                                                    Am I a bigot if I won't even try on a Donna Karan suit simply because it's designed by an American?

                                                                                                    Stubborn maybe. Obstinately myopic perhaps. And even "set in your ways" ... But a bigot? Really?!

                                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                      No, I think that fits the definition of bigotry, though perhaps it is not one of the word's more horrific facets. You're still excluding someone from consideration not because you know them personally but strictly because you associate certain traits or abilities with certain ethnicities/races. You are making assumptions about them or setting restrictions based on their ethnic/racial background. I believe that qualifies as bigotry. It doesn't always have to be about cross burnings and concentration camps - bigotry spans a wide spectrum.

                                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                        Bigotry can take the form of intolerence all the way to hatred. I don't care where you buy your suits.

                                                                                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                      Of course, it's really bigotry if someone sees an Indian person and assumes they are going to be getting "some weird Indian bbq" and refuses to try to the place, or does try it and still doesn't return because it's run by "those Indians." Just the word "those" displays bigotry -- the notable thing about the restaurant is that it's run by people who aren't like me. I hate to use the word "bigotry" or "racism" because it implies that you are a bad person, and that's not constructive or usually true. But to answer your question, yes, the other things you mentioned are also bigotry, because they are based entirely on racial preference without reference to actual people or circumstances -- maybe the American is fantastic at tailoring suits or the African-American person gives incredible foot massages, but you'd never know because you wouldn't give them a chance.

                                                                                                      Anyway, I was actually here to agree with Isolda's point. I do think race is relevant. I know anyone can be trained to cook any type of food, but I think it's interesting when someone grew up with a certain tradition or culture and their cooking reflects it. Or the opposite, when, say, a white Southerner is cooking Nepalese food -- I would expect that there's a story there. It's not always about race -- sometimes it's geographic area, religion, etc. -- but yes, I think the background of the owners and chefs is relevant.

                                                                                                      1. re: Pia

                                                                                                        If using the word "those" is bigoted, I would hate to think what kind of monster would use the word "them!"

                                                                                                        The point ipse is making is that we stereotype based on experience and sometimes inexperience. I know British suits fit me better than American ones so I preference British makers over Americans. I know when I want spicy food, I am better off going to a Thai restaurant than a Southern restaurant. Mistaking heuristics for intolerance is a far quicker rush to judgment than that of a person wary of trying a new cuisine.

                                                                                                        1. re: Pia

                                                                                                          @Pia and Heatherb

                                                                                                          I think we just have to agree to disagree.

                                                                                                          In your world, I would be a bigot. So it is, I suppose.


                                                                                                      1. re: JayL

                                                                                                        Wow. I'm sorry that happened.

                                                                                                        1. re: JayL

                                                                                                          These are the kind of things that make people wonder, "what if the South won?"

                                                                                                          1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                                                                            As a military historian, from another continent, I could give an answer to that. But it wouldnt involve food, so would be very off-topic for this board.

                                                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                                                              It'd be a good history channel series

                                                                                                              1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                                                                                During the great Tamale Trek through the Delta a couple of years ago, I stopped at a pawnshop in Clarksdale. Nothing there, but Abes was next door.

                                                                                                                In the middle of the afternoon, the place was packed. I ordered ribs and pulled pork to go. I had no idea that this was one of the most famous BBQ places in the nation. Remember, I was in the Delta for tamales.

                                                                                                                After hellos, they asked if I played golf! The actor Morgan Freeman was hosting a charity tournament and they were working at filling out foursomes. At $100 each in the poorest part of one of the poorest states, they had their work cut out for them. Time and obligations did not allow me to stay.

                                                                                                                And the mix that day for the workers ranged from every spectrum of the human rainbow.

                                                                                                                Damned fine ribs.

                                                                                                      2. Actually in NYC many of the top working chefs are Peruvian guys, not the prep/line cooks but the ones who run the kitchens in top restaurants, earning, in some cases over $100K. The peruvians have an excellent "feel" for food. Call it an aptitude, knack, etc. but these guys just know how to produce consistently great dishes. Sorry for sounding sexist; but I have not to date, met a Peruvian female who is in this restaurant sub-culture!

                                                                                                        1. The more politically correct question would be " does it matter if the owners and/or kitchen staff of are from the same culture as the food on the menu".

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                            I would say thats the more pertinent question, not the more politically correct one, although it may well be that too.

                                                                                                          2. The ethnicity of the person cooking your food doesn't matter in the least. Sure, if you're in a Chinese restaurant, it might be surprising to see - say - a Hispanic guy cooking your Dim Sum, but any person has the capacity to learn to cook any type of food.

                                                                                                            In Indianapolis, a large number of working line cooks are Mexican. And, from my experience, they tend to be some of the best line cooks in the business.

                                                                                                            I will grant that if the owner of an ethnic restaurant isn't of the same ethnicity as the food, then you might not have the best experience. For example, a Chinese owner of a Turkish restaurant might not be able to produce the best Turkish food you've ever eaten, but even that isn't a hard and fast rule. After all, Rick Bayless is considered one of the best Mexican Chefs in the US; and, obviously, that gringo isn't Mexican.

                                                                                                            As Bourdain pointed out in 'Kitchen Confidential':
                                                                                                            "... But who's actually cooking your food? Are they young, ambitious culinary school grads, putting in their time on the line until they get their shot at the Big Job? Probably not. If the chef is anything like me, the cooks are a dysfunctional, mercenary lot, fringe-dwellers motivated by money, the peculiar lifestyle of cooking and a grim pride. They're probably not even American. Line cooking done well is a beautiful thing to watch. It's a high-speed collaboration resembling, at its best, ballet or modern dance. A properly organized, fully loaded line cook, one who works clean, and has 'moves'-meaning economy of movement, nice technique and, most important, speed-can perform his duties with Nijinsky-like grace. The job requires character-and endurance. A good line cook never shows up late, never calls in sick, and works through pain and injury.

                                                                                                            What most people don't get about professional-level cooking is that it is not at all about the best recipe, the most innovative presentation, the most creative marriage of ingredients, flavors and textures; that, presumably, was all arranged long before you sat down to dinner. Line cooking -the real business of preparing the food you eat-is more about consistency, about mindless, unvarying repetition, the same series of tasks performed over and over and over again in exactly the same way. The last thing a chef wants in a line cook is an innovator, somebody with ideas of his own who is going to mess around with the chef's recipes and presentations. Chefs require blind, near-fanatical loyalty, a strong back and an automaton-like consistency of execution under battlefield conditions.

                                                                                                            A three-star Italian chef pal of mine was recently talking about why he -a proud Tuscan who makes his own pasta and sauces from scratch daily and runs one of the best restaurant kitchens in New York - would never be so foolish as to hire any Italians to cook on his line. He greatly prefers Ecuadorians, as many chefs do: 'The Italian guy? You screaming at him in the rush, "Where's that risotto?! Is that fucking risotto ready yet? Gimme that risotto!" . . . and the Italian . . . he's gonna give it to you . . . An Ecuadorian guy? He's gonna just turn his back . . . and stir the risotto and keep cooking it until it's done the way you showed him. That's what I want.'

                                                                                                            I knew just what he meant. Generally speaking, American cooks-meaning, born in the USA, possibly school-trained, culinarily sophisticated types who know before you show them what monter au beurre means and how to make a béarnaise sauce-are a lazy, undisciplined and, worst of all, high-maintenance lot, annoyingly opinionated, possessed of egos requiring constant stroking and tune-ups, and, as members of a privileged and wealthy population, unused to the kind of 'disrespect' a busy chef is inclined to dish out. No one understands and appreciates the American Dream of hard work leading to material rewards better than a non-American. The Ecuadorian, Mexican, Dominican and Salvadorian cooks I've worked with over the years make most CIA-educated white boys look like clumsy, sniveling little punks.

                                                                                                            In New York City, the days of the downtrodden, underpaid illegal immigrant cook, exploited by his cruel masters, have largely passed - at least where quality line cooks are concerned. Most of the Ecuadorians and Mexicans I hire from a large pool - a sort of farm team of associated and often related former dishwashers - are very well-paid professionals, much sought after by other chefs. Chances are they've worked their way up from the bottom rung; they remember well what it was like to empty out grease traps, scrape plates, haul leaking bags of garbage out to the curb at four o'clock in the morning. A guy who's come up through the ranks, who knows every station, every recipe, every corner of the restaurant and who has learned, first and foremost, your system above all others is likely to be more valuable and long-term than some bed-wetting white boy whose mom brought him up thinking the world owed him a living, and who thinks he actually knows a few things.

                                                                                                            You want loyalty from your line cooks. Somebody who wakes up with a scratchy throat and slight fever and thinks it's okay to call in sick is not what I'm looking for. While it's necessary for cooks to take pride in their work - it's a good idea to let a good cook stretch a little now and again with the occasional contribution of a special or a soup - this is still the army. Ultimately, I want a salute and a 'Yes, sir!'. If I want an opinion from my line cooks, I'll provide one. Your customers arrive expecting the same dish prepared the same way they had it before; they don't want some budding Wolfgang Puck having fun with kiwis and coriander with a menu item they've come to love. ..."

                                                                                                            That's working and cooking in a professional kitchen.

                                                                                                            A good cook needs to be able to produce the menu items as the Chef has taught them time and again.

                                                                                                            I just worked at a restaurant in Louisville for the KY Derby; saute station was manned by a Hispanic male, veg/mid station was (wo)manned by a Hispanic female. They never fell behind, never had any question as to what they were doing. They knew they job, and they did it extremely well.

                                                                                                            Immigrants aren't the only ones who can do it, but they populate the kitchens in restaurants of every variety. They DO show up - hungout or hungover - and they do the job.

                                                                                                            The fact of the matter is, there are a lot of immigrants working at all levels in the restaurant industry, and without them, a lot of restaurants would need employees.

                                                                                                            21 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: IndyFoodBlog

                                                                                                                Well said, but remember thta not every non-white is an immigrant.

                                                                                                                1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                  Of course, many whites are immigrants as well.

                                                                                                                  1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                    Of course not every nonwhite is an immigrant. Would be ignorant to think so. And, as Chemicalkinetics points out, there are white immigrants too.

                                                                                                                    There were a number of older guys at the cigar store I hung out at who assumed all the Mexicans were illegals. It pissed me off no end, and I regularly reminded one guy in particular that he was an idiot to say and think that. Ironically, he loved going down to the Mexican grocery store & buying food from their little taqueria. (Of course, then he would grouse that they "didn't speak English" and claim they were all illegals and should be deported.)

                                                                                                                    (That cigar store was in an area that is seeing a lot of Hispanic residential and business growth. The owner retired and closed the store, hence the past tense "hung out at".)

                                                                                                                  2. re: IndyFoodBlog

                                                                                                                    <In Indianapolis, a large number of working line cooks are Mexican. And, from my experience, they tend to be some of the best line cooks in the business.>

                                                                                                                    So you are saying that race does matter then?

                                                                                                                    <I will grant that if the owner of an ethnic restaurant isn't of the same ethnicity as the food, then you might not have the best experience.>

                                                                                                                    Owner or the head chef? Would the head chef has more impact than the owner when it comes to the execution of the dishes?

                                                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                      Of course not. I wasn't saying race matters at all. Point being, they're willing to do the work as they were taught. They're willing to learn how the Chef wants the food prepared, and that's how they do it. The do it with pride. I was attempting to make the same point Bourdain did as to how immigrant line cooks can be relied on to learn and execute the recipes. (Pick the ethnicity that most populates the kitchens in your area. It just happens that the majority in Indy are Mexican.) If we had a lot of Chinese line cooks in Indy, I'm sure I would be saying exactly the same thing.

                                                                                                                      For the sake of simplicity, I was lumping "owner" and "head Chef" together.

                                                                                                                      Here's a related article from a couple of weeks ago about pizza makers in Italy. They're probably Egyptian immigrants, not Italian. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/world...

                                                                                                                    2. re: IndyFoodBlog

                                                                                                                      You prefer they come to work with fevers? Are these immigrants illegal aliens? I remember that rant from Bourdain as well

                                                                                                                      1. re: IndyFoodBlog

                                                                                                                        I'd prefer the people handling my food stay home if they're sick, regardless of their race, nationality or citizenship status.

                                                                                                                        1. re: carolinadawg

                                                                                                                          Need to tie this thread to this one


                                                                                                                          The point being the chef wants to see enough dedication that the sick guy shows up for work and when the chef see's the sick cook, the chef makes the decision to send him home.

                                                                                                                          Similar thing happens at my office. Sick guy shows up sniffling and coughing and blowing his nose. The rest of the office tells him to go home and not get us sick. He shows his game face, ready to play hurt. Now the guy who calls in "sick" on the morning after we all left the office the afternoon before and had a few drinks together? You know what we think of him...

                                                                                                                          1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                            I'm glad I don't work at your office. It sounds like a bunch of insecure, middle school, who can be the most macho boys.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                              Abusers aside, I think that was the thinking back in the old days, suck it up and get to work. These days, where workers wear lots of hats, my boss has more important things to do than micromanage my health, and get everyone else feeling lousy.

                                                                                                                              Years from now, dying in your bed (Braveheart) is going to work when you were sick gonna matter when standing tall before your God?

                                                                                                                              1. re: BiscuitBoy


                                                                                                                                You all miss my point and the issue raised by AB. We're not sadist or masochists that want sick people at work. You want to work with a group of people who are as dedicated as you are to a team effort. Someone that shows up everyday ready to work even if not at 100% says something about that person. I don't then tell the guy to get into the game. I show my appreciation for answering the call and I tell him to go home and get some rest and come back when he's better. I know who I can count on and who may be less reliable. I don't need to hear excuses.

                                                                                                                                I think that dedication makes a kitchen or office function better. If you happen to believe otherwise, that's fine. So no worries, we won't be in the same office. I don't worry about explaining myself to god or anyone else. I'm comfortable in my skin.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                                  No, no, I understand what you're saying. I feel guilty if I need to call in sick...comes a point, tho, where you've got to have the cajones to make your own decisions

                                                                                                                              2. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                                Well said. *I* get what you're saying.

                                                                                                                            2. re: IndyFoodBlog

                                                                                                                              Generally speaking, if I were a CIA educated white boy, I might take offense.

                                                                                                                              Would you make this statement about any other group other than "American white boys?"

                                                                                                                              "I knew just what he meant. Generally speaking, American cooks-meaning, born in the USA, possibly school-trained, culinarily sophisticated types who know before you show them what monter au beurre means and how to make a béarnaise sauce-are a lazy, undisciplined and, worst of all, high-maintenance lot, annoyingly opinionated, possessed of egos requiring constant stroking and tune-ups, and, as members of a privileged and wealthy population, unused to the kind of 'disrespect' a busy chef is inclined to dish out. No one understands and appreciates the American Dream of hard work leading to material rewards better than a non-American. The Ecuadorian, Mexican, Dominican and Salvadorian cooks I've worked with over the years make most CIA-educated white boys look like clumsy, sniveling little punks."

                                                                                                                              1. re: 9lives

                                                                                                                                This is why I though the whole passage actually states that "race matters".

                                                                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                  Don't you just love generalisations and stereotypes. Of which I can be just as guilty as the next person.

                                                                                                                              2. re: IndyFoodBlog

                                                                                                                                Generalizing that entitled white CIA graduates show up drunk/hungover while the hardworking sober non-white workers shake their head and sigh knowingly, sounds like a Hollywood interpretation of race in the kitchen. Real life is not that simple.

                                                                                                                                Furthermore, even though I come from a background that worships hard work with a cult-like reverence, showing up sick in the food preparation/service industry is just plain irresponsible and that some workers feel pressure to do so speaks to the working conditions, management and their desperation rather than any positive merit.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                                  From the responses my original post got, I guess I shouldn't have quoted Anthony Bourdain...

                                                                                                                                  The point still stands that race/ethnicity in a kitchen doesn't matter. Any properly trained cook can learn to cook any type of food, and it's common in the industry for line cooks to be of many different ethnicities, and those ethnicities often don't "match" the type of food they are cooking.

                                                                                                                                  That was the entire point I was trying to make.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: IndyFoodBlog

                                                                                                                                    I'm a big fan of AB and have read Kitchen Confidential and everything else he's written and watch him whenever I can. I can imagine myself laughing at reading his words because he has a great sense of humor. he is also a CIA trained white American boy.

                                                                                                                                    Maybe his humor got lost when you quoted him.

                                                                                                                                    Being that you quoted him, my comments were directed to you and not AB. Obviously since you quoted him, I have to think you agree. I "get" and enjoy AB's sense of humor. I don't know yours.

                                                                                                                                    If you were to make a statement like this and (insert skin color other than white) and insert (any nationality other than USA born American), I imagine there would be great outcry.

                                                                                                                                    "a lazy, undisciplined and, worst of all, high-maintenance lot, annoyingly opinionated, possessed of egos requiring constant stroking and tune-ups, and, as members of a privileged and wealthy population, unused to the kind of 'disrespect' a busy chef is inclined to dish out. No one understands and appreciates the American Dream of hard work leading to material rewards better than a non-American. The Ecuadorian, Mexican, Dominican and Salvadorian cooks I've worked with over the years make most CIA-educated white boys look like clumsy, sniveling little punks."

                                                                                                                                    I think most of us are in agreement that race doesn't matter in the kitchen; or other places. Hard work,sense of pride, drive and other qualities you mention do matter; and there are even some White American boys that possess those qualities.

                                                                                                                                    If that was your point, I agree with you..maybe just a clumsy way of stating it..:)

                                                                                                                                    I do get your point (and others) about coming in sick or "not at your best." To be successfful in any field, one has to be willing to "play hurt" of course keeping in mind the effects that your own health might have on coworkers or customers.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: 9lives

                                                                                                                                      The paragraph above about white boys, sickness, etc, was part of the Bourdain quote; it wasn't entirely relevant to the conversation, but as I was doing a copy/paste from an e-version of the book, I left it in.

                                                                                                                                      You're right, the larger point I was attempting to make was hard work, dedication and sense of pride.

                                                                                                                                      The even larger point than that though, was that many people of many enthnicities work in all types of kitchen, and that being good at their job is what makes them valuable in a professional kitchen.

                                                                                                                              3. Does it "matter"? Not really. Is it sometimes interesting? Well, sure. Personal stories can be intriguing.

                                                                                                                                1. It doesn't matter ultimately if what you get is good/waht you expect.

                                                                                                                                  But you do EXPECT that, for example, the guy running the authentic cantonese restaurant, and the chefs, are actually Chinese. I'd be surprised if they weren't, but wouldn't care if the food was as good and they had the authentic type stuff I expect to see on the menu.
                                                                                                                                  It's just that it honestly doesn't happen a lot, for certain kinds of food and certain races, so it can be a surprise.

                                                                                                                                  1. Not at all. If you can cook something well you can cook it well. Race is completely irrelevant.