On Thursday morning, the 61-year-old food magazine Bon Appétit published a video titled “This Is How You Should Be Eating Pho” starring Tyler Atkin. As the owner of Stock, a “southeast asian byo cafe” in Philadelphia, Atkin is a white chef who makes Vietnamese food, and in the video he instructs his viewers to leave Sriracha and hoisin sauce out of the soup’s broth. The Internet was not amused.
Shortly after the video went live, Bon Appétit’s Facebook page was flooded with angry comments from readers, accusing the publication of appropriating the dish, whitesplaining its proper preparation, and pitting one culture’s cuisine against another by dubbing pho the “new ramen.”
The criticism was directed at Atkin (as Eater points out, his restaurant lost a full star on Yelp in the wake of the controversy), as well as at Bon Appétit for the way the publication framed the clip.
“Hey Vietnamese people, guess what?” one user wrote. “We’ve been eating pho the wrong way.”
The magazine ultimately pulled the video and issued a brief apology on Facebook (the accompanying article is now titled "We're in Love with This Pho"), but continued to scold users for leaving “harassing comments and threats toward chefs and restaurant owners.” The message did little to quell the barrage of criticism, and hundreds of readers continued to take to the comments.
“You might act like this ain't a damn thing, but if you made a similar video on ‘How to Eat and Cook Memphis-Style Ribs’ that featured a hipster chef from Portland cooking his ribs in the microwave and saucing it with kale puree, you'd be up to your eyeballs in shade from the BBQ community,” Ranier Maningding, the writer behind the page The Love Life of an Asian Guy, wrote in the comments, punctuating the message with the hashtag #ChristopherPholumbus2k16.
Though there were Asian-American writers who came to Atkin’s defense—placing more of the blame on Bon Appétit’s “need for slickly packaged content”—in 2016, the appropriation and Columbusing of cultural dishes remains a hot-button issue in food-media, and the problem seems to be as prevalent as ever. Last month, April Bloomfield’s White Gold announced plans to make “guilt-free,” $15 bodega food, and earlier this week the website Epicurious was slammed on Twitter for asking readers if they had “heard about mumbo sauce.”