Los Angeles-area fast casual bowl restaurant Yellow Fever opened in Long Beach’s Whole Foods 365 last week, but it was a tweet from the grocery chain that thrust the eatery into some unwanted national attention. A slew of online furor was heaped on Whole Foods and Yellow Fever directly, owing to the cringe-worthy name of the restaurant.
Although Yellow Fever has been serving bowls in greater Los Angeles since 2014, the backlash only began late last week when chef and co-founder Kelly Kim and husband Michael opened the Long Beach location as a partnership with Whole Foods. Many consider the name Yellow Fever disrespectful because of the term’s racist association with the fetishization of Asian women (usually at the hands of white men) and its historic negative connotation as an infectious tropical disease carried by mosquitoes.
Many people came out against the restaurant, keeping the discussion going by using the hashtag #YellowFeverEats:
stunned by the amount of ignorance that went into creating something as racist and degrading as an eatery called "yellow fever" and #yellowfevereats. this means multiple people pitched this, approved this, designed this, and funded this. trash ️ ️ ️ ️ ️ https://t.co/cPfvnIR4AM— dolly (@dollyli) April 28, 2018
How @WholeFoods let a new Asian food concept store be called #YellowFeverEats is a failure top to bottom of management. It is borderline impossible to come up with a worse idea than that. It’s not shocking to me at all that #AI is going to replace so many with the bar this low.— Drew Hall (@drewthall) April 28, 2018
Some even took direct issue with the name’s scientific definition, and how that shouldn’t be associated with a restaurant:
Yellow Fever...sounds YUMMY! "Yellow fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The "yellow" in the name refers to the jaundice that affects some patients." #YellowFeverEats https://t.co/QcUbbRTccn— Howard Ho (@ho_howard) April 28, 2018
#YellowFever : Why Does A Restaurant Have The Name Of This Disease?— Microbes&Infection (@MicrobesInfect) April 29, 2018
Would you eat at the Rabies Restaurant? How about the Diarrhea Diner? Plague Pies? Hepatitis Hotcakes? Or maybe the Tuberculosis Tea House?https://t.co/nkC1JM2gBg #YellowFeverEats pic.twitter.com/dcyLTJtQN9
Many Asians also took direct aim at Kelly Kim, and their belief that being Korean-American does not provide a pass to re-integrate racist language into the national discourse:
This is literally one of the most tone-deaf things I've seen in a while. Yes, even if the chef/owner behind this is Asian, #YellowFeverEats is just an irresponsible representation of... well anything Asian. https://t.co/5QqoQ5TU5B— Alton Wang (@altonwang) April 27, 2018
If #YellowFeverEats wants to name their restaurant "Yellow Fever," that's on them, but as an #AsianAmerican woman who has been openly & aggressively fetishized by men in ways that represents that context, I don't think I could ever eat there.#LetsDoBetterhttps://t.co/pJp54PJQiG— Kirsten Kikue (@KirstenKikue) April 28, 2018
Owner Kelly Kim has been defending her position from the beginning of Yellow Fever. In previous interviews Kim has said that she liked the name and wanted to re-appropriate the word into something new, pointing to her own heritage as a Korean-born American woman who grew up in Texas without much Asian cultural influence in her life. Others, like Food & Wine writer Andy Wang, agree:
Yes, Yellow Fever's a bad name. But this is also a L.A. restaurant that's existed for years & is run by a Korean immigrant chef who wants "to embrace the term & reinterpret it positively." Maybe that seems dumb to you, but this isn't as simple as just dragging Amazon/Whole Foods— Andy Wang (@andywangnyla) April 28, 2018
Meanwhile, everyone from the New York Times to The Independent have been asking Whole Foods for comment, but so far they have not responded.
3881 N. Lakewood Boulevard, Suite B
Long Beach, CA