Yesterday evening, the Los Angeles Times published an opinion piece from chef Nancy Silverton and her partner and former Times reporter, Michael Krikorian, that has since received strong negative feedback online. The op-ed was ostensibly meant as a way for Silverton, whose Mozza restaurants were broken into over the weekend, to tell her followers that they should not worry about her property, but instead focus on the protests over the death of George Floyd. However, some language used in the co-written article, including likening looters to “roaches” and a racist reference to bats and Wuhan, China, when discussing the coronavirus, has been heavily criticized.
Multiple Times staffers, as well as local and national food personalities, came out against the piece, including Food section editor Peter Meehan, who said on Twitter that his team had not been made aware that the op-ed was running, and that they had no oversight into its contents whatsoever. “I am beyond angry about it,” the tweet read.
Silverton operates four restaurants at the corner of Melrose and Highland: Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, Chi Spacca, and Mozza2Go, with its takeaway-only menu. The latter two were the most heavily damaged on Saturday night, with Chi Spacca’s open dining room and kitchen area partially burned.
Silverton and Krikorian’s opinion piece, which was written from Silverton’s point of view, seemed to critique the media’s coverage of the civil unrest as well as misplaced sympathies to affected business owners, but it also contained indelicate observations of those who stole merchandise from Melrose Mac:
The looters mostly sprinted east on Melrose, computer boxes tucked in like a football, making the sidewalk turn at Highland and getting into waiting, almost always shiny, newish cars — one was a black AMG Mercedes — then peeling out.
Flippant remarks with xenophobic language:
You remember the pandemic, right? That Wuhan, China, bat thing? We quarantined and wore face masks?
And likened looters to roaches:
Twice, though, it looked like the cavalry had arrived. Around 11 p.m. and later at 11:30 or so, 10 LAPD cruisers approached, sirens on. “Police!” the looters shouted and scatted like roaches. But the black-and-whites drove right by our mayhem, headed west. We understood. It wasn’t like saving Gaja or Giacosa reds was a priority for the police. They had bigger branzino to fry.
Tejal Rao, the California restaurant critic for the New York Times, was among the first to call out Silverton and Krikorian for their choice in language.
Yep, I remember. I remember how flip, inaccurate descriptions of covid-19 led to an increase in hate crimes against Asian-Americans. Disappointed in this piece by Nancy Silverton https://t.co/rQCTNbJxMa pic.twitter.com/oPFQA3hIMT— Tejal Rao (@tejalrao) June 4, 2020
Times staff members also spoke up, including deputy food editor Andrea Chang, columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson, and columnist Frank Shyong — who, after expressing that he was “angry and tired and fucking sick of this shit,” deleted his tweet about the op-ed after Krikorian publicly apologized, “because we just don’t need more trauma from social media.” After receiving a fairly lame response of “We can’t take down what’s already been published,” from the op-ed editor, food editor Meehan tweeted, “So that’s how your media sausage gets made, people: if there are some bats and roaches ground [into] it, just stand on ceremony and serve it up.”