Kelly Kim and her husband wanted the name of their new pan-Asian restaurant to stand out, leaving no threadbare or stereotypical phrases like bamboo, dragon and lotus.
Then it hit her. Yellow Fever
"This is unforgettable," recalls Kim when she opened her husband Michael in a Saturday interview with the Washington Post before their first appearance in late 2013
After opening a third location in a Whole Wednesday Foods 365 store in Long Beach, California, it could be unforgettable in another time.
The announcement triggered a nationwide outcry in social media, with many criticizing the racist undertone of the name.
Yellow fever is an infection transmitted by mosquitoes that kills thousands every year, mostly in Africa, and called for bleeding jaundice that produces the virus. But the term is also a general reference to an expression associated with the sexual fascination of a white man with Asian women.
Kim, who said that this week's name was not a problem, did not take the term too overtly sexual or even negative meaning, adding that it is more nuanced than what critics have said.
The term implies "an attraction or affinity of Asian people or Asian things," such as Korean pop music or karaoke, she said. "I've never brought it to a deeper meaning … It's a bit ironic, but I've never seen it as offensive, racist or anti-feminist," she said.
Kim, who is also a chef, says she discusses the full name of her restaurant with Whole Foods but can not remember if her partner or the company raised the issue.
Whole Foods, Austin, Texas, made no request for comment. The company lists Yellow Fever and another business, Groundwork Coffee, as "Friends of 365," a Whole Foods program that gives local businesses a place in the business to attract more customers. (Whole Foods is owned by Amazon.com, and Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, also owns the Washington Post.)
The restaurant, serving bowls of rice, pasta or salad with various toppings and sauces , has long adopted its name and interpretations.
"Yellow Fever … yeah, we really said that, yes, the name definitely gets your attention, but instead of connecting it closely with a deadly disease or with racist stereotypes" We choose the term and interpret it positively for
In previous media interviews, Kim has recognized the potential for negative reactions to the name.
"Once" I had a friend who packed our food for lunch and was her white friend not sure if he was allowed to eat here, "she told Asian cultural site" Next Shark "last year, adding that she wanted to" re-appropriation "term to define it in her own way.
The di In social media, the shock became more heated.
"An Asian bowl resto named YELLOW FEVER amidst the whitest Whole Foods ̵
While some found the name racist, others noted the association of the deadly disease that devastates poor nations.
"I can not separate the name from yellow fever (the disease) or the damn painful vaccine that was shot against it," wrote Laura Seay, a Colby College government professor and an Africa analyst, on Twitter.
However, some in social media, like Seay, chose to return their criticisms after learning the business had existed for some time and was created and named after an Asian-American woman.
Much of the discussion focuses on Whole Foods and the perception of the store, which targets a wealthy white population.
"I do not understand why" yellow fever "is racist, that's the problem," wrote a Twitter user on Saturday. Brin Inks, a woman interviewed by CBS 2 before the shop, said the term carries an offensive sexual and racial accusation.
Others were worried that the name of the restaurant and the partnership with Whole Foods would legitimize the term.
Kim sticks to the name, she told The Post.
Negative comments and news she received this week were made by non-Asian Americans, she said.
Asian-American and white customers have come to support them, she said, and the business was doing well at their new location, with no protests or backlashes yet.
Long Beach is a food desert, she said, and the store was a welcome addition. That makes a controversy all the more frustrating, she said.
"We're just a small business and people are suddenly beating us," she said.
Review of the chain was overwhelmingly positive The bright decor and wide variety of Asian-inspired dishes such as the Seoul and Tokyo bowls are notable. Guests looking for a light refreshment can opt for the "Bruce Lee" – a blend of green tea and lemonade. "So delicious," beamed a Yelp reviewer.
But other yelpers embarrassed the name.
"First, change the name, do you think it's cool to use racial terms for you, do you think it's okay for Asians to call themselves by that name?" A reviewer wrote in October 2016, leaving one Star back.
Another restaurant struggled to reconcile the name with their affection for food.
"Ugh the name of this place skeeved me out," said a woman in an August five-star review, "but I'll be damned if she does not make a tasty bowl."
– Alex Horton (c) 2018, The Washington Post