Yes, pho pas is a play on faux pas. No regrets.
By Rosin Saez
September 19, 2016
Much uproar has come after national food magazine, Bon Appetit, posted a video online of a Philadelphia-based chef (yes, a white man) “explaining” how people should be eating pho, the centuries-old broth-based dish that originates from Vietnam. If you’re from Seattle, it’s more than likely that you’ve come across a steaming bowl of life-giving pho, our strong Vietnamese community of immigrants has made sure of it.
But before you go on to give chef-owner of Stock, Tyler Akin, a piece of your rage or a bad Yelp review, know that Internet justice has already done so. More than that, know that Akin isn’t truly at fault here. Yes, nobody told him to say the things he did on camera or to clumsily wrap his rice noodles around his chopsticks…by hand (pause here to cringe), but a big-time magazine like Bon Appetit should have known better, which speaks to the startling fact that people don’t know better.
Enter some wise words from Pho Cyclo owner, Taylor Hoang, “I think everyone has a right to appropriate another culture’s dish as long as you do it in a way that is respectful. […] I think the audience was offended by the title of the article,” Hoang says. “It said, ‘This is how you should be eating pho.’ Taking something that has existed for many, many years, in a culture with a lot of history, and then making it into your own and Americanizing it, and owning it, and not giving credit back to the culture of which the people struggled so hard to bring it to this country.”
Hoang was in conversation with Rachel Belle on KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don show this week.
“Taking something that has existed for many, many years, in a culture with a lot of history…and not giving credit back to the culture of which the people struggled so hard to bring it to this country.” —Taylor Hoang
While cultural appropriation is not new and will likely not fade away anytime soon, appropriating a culture’s food is a slippery thing. Food is something we openly share with everyone; it’s a history told in flavors and textures. And if someone, a chef, is going to take these culture-bound dishes and try to best understand them and why they exist, then make their own version. That’s okay. That’s how food evolves. As Hoang says, just respect the history and give credit to those who have shared their culture’s story with you by way of food like pho.
Bon Appetit has since apologized and promised to do better. Here’s an excerpt of that sincere apology:
“[W]e misrepresented the chef (who is not Vietnamese), by putting him out there as a pho authority, something he never claimed to be. Instead, he’s someone who was kind enough to give us a day of his time so we could film a video in his small, independently owned restaurant, opening himself up to an avalanche of criticism. He is not the one to blame—that’s on us for not doing our diligence as writers, editors, and video producers.” —Adam Rapoport, Editor-in-Chief
Listen to Rachel Belle of KIRO Radio break down the situation
Ready for some comedic relief?
Inspired by Bon Appetit‘s tone deaf video, a group has created Bad Appetit, and made this video in response: