What was supposed to be an innocuous review of Kooks Burritos, a new burrito cart in Portland, Oregon, led to a lot of anger and the cart being shuttered. The review, published by local alt-weekly Willamette Week, might have gone unnoticed if not for this quote from Kooks cofounder Liz "LC" Connelly about how she and her partner, both white women, attempted to steal the original recipe from “every tortilla lady” they encountered on vacation: “[T]hey showed me a little of what they did… They wouldn't tell us too much about technique, but we were peeking into the windows of every kitchen, totally fascinated by how easy they made it look. We learned quickly it isn't quite that easy." The business closed two days later, and the story soon became national news.
The owners of Kooks didn’t succeed at their business, but they reignited a conversation about cultural appropriation and the treatment of immigrant business owners. A June 6 Oregonian article, called “Where do we go from here?,” features five people of color — four chefs and one community coordinator — sharing their opinions on cultural appropriation in the restaurant industry. Their views range from resignation to optimism, and ultimately suggest that it’s people of color who will drive productive conversations about such nuanced issues.