Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Did we bash Koreans?

Nathaniel's review of Tomo Sushi prompted a few angry comments about what's been perceived as an anti-Korean bias.

Here's the main line in question from the review:

For all the attention he gave the fish, he paid none to us. Not so much as a “konnichi wa,” which is good because I’m pretty sure he’s Korean.

Here's an email we got that took issue with that line and others....

First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Olivia Olson, and I've worked at Ai Sushi for over two years. I decided to get a second job at Tomo Sushi about 2 weeks ago. I don't normally complain, and to be honest, I don't really enjoy it, but that article that was in the GO! Section of the Gazette, on March 30th 2007 about Tomo, was absolutely terrible. It's not because I work there, because every person is entitled to their own opinions, but the racial comments in that article, I could not ignore. I am half Korean, and the statement that Nathaniel Glen had made about the sushi chef not even saying "konnichi wa" and that which is good, because he was pretty sure that the sushi chef was Korean, was absolutely horrifying. I understand if you simply wrote about your terrible experience, but he collected "facts" including that the Japanese would pay one hundred dollars for the perfect watermelon, that is just uncalled for. I do not understand how that is tied in his experience. The whole sweatshop comment was absolutely disgusting to not only me, but every Asian that I know. There are still countries in Asia that have sweatshops...these comments are racial.
Not only did he offend the Asian community, but he went on about the deep fried rolls that Colorado Sushi Joints offered, and basically offended people from Colorado because we add calories to calories. The comments made by the ex-sushi waitress that Nathaniel Glen constantly brought up doesn't know what she is talking about. I do not understand why her opinions were published and made to sound like facts. "The Sashimi should be thinner," no acutally it depends on what fish should it be cut thinner, and in Japan, they cut the sashimi into cubes. Overall the article was atrocious. I, personally, was very offended.


Tell us what you think.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, the review was racist and unfair just like all the reviews he wrote in the past. Please do not let him write anymore "reviews". He just going to offend more readers with his nonsense.

6:54 PM  
Anonymous Monika said...

No you did not bash Koreans! But that's the funny thing about injecting racial commentary into a food review. If you are not of that particular race, what do you know about what will offend? Nothing. My father was
Black and my mother is German and I could drop your jaw at what stereotypical stuff people will say or ask of me because their eyes see a Black Woman.
Nate was a great choice for this position, but given the public audition process he was bound to be put under a microscope. Nate, now you know race is a touchy not "witty" topic and we can move on to more great food writing.

Now where are my damn movie tickets??

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Papi Sorrelis said...

Apparently Monika is a friend of the writer. Because in the real word mentioning a Korean and a sweatshop in the same sentence in a FOOD review is BEYOND offensive and insensitive.

I would hope that you really take some time to see what YOU did wrong and really ask yourself if you put the most thoughtful article forward. Other parts of your writing talent show in the article but it was WAY overshadowed by hopefully your temporary bout of insensitive and desperateattempt to be "witty".

In conclusion, Our family has gone to TOMO SUSHI and had wonderful experiences. We first went after the raving CSINDY review and found it to be just as good as that critic did. We have returned since and enjoyed the trips as well.

Keep it about the food, ambience, and service and work harder to stay away from sterotypes and degrading peoples character that you don't know or take the time to understand (Mr. Lee references). You would not go to a soul food restaurant and say you got served by some Aunt Jemimah lookin' lady would you?

8:18 AM  
Blogger Charlie Miles said...

If you or your editors need to even ask whether or not those comments in the article were insensitive then you all should seriously consider putting yourselves in social sensitivity classes.

I agree with the previous blogger. Keep it about the things that the restaurant offers, not what you think of the people inside the place personally.

You wrote somewhere that "since your article" Tomo has contacted you about the changes they are going to make. How admiral is that? Perhaps you could be as admiral and write a letter of apology for the dispicable and insensitive comments you wrote!

8:27 AM  
Blogger Warren Epstein said...

These discussions are sensitivity classes. That's the point.
And I do plan to address this in print next week and invite further discussion.
Now, I have to agree that the sweat shop reference was in poor taste.
But I think this idea of sticking to the food and ambiance and, for fear of offending, never even mention cultural differences and nuances is an absurd bow to PC.
In one discussion I had with John Ra, the owner, he took offense to the line about the sushi chef probably being Korean.
He argued, would we think it odd if, in a French restaurant, a non-French waiter addressed us with a French greeting?
Actually, our reviewer didn't mean to suggest it would be wrong for the sushi chef to say "Konnichiwa!" He was admonishing his own expectations that all sushi chefs should be Japanese. That could have been more clear.
But I think Mr. Ra raised an interesting cultural point about the non-French waiter speaking French. I think it might be pretentious.
Beyond that, though, the larger issue is that we should be free to have those discussions without fear of the PC police.

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you feel that any portion of the review was questionable then who was doing your job the day that it was published?

8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The safe and proper thing to do is to never mention the ethnicity or background of someone, unless it relates to the subject matter. Bad service is bad service, and good service is good service, so what does it matter what ethnicity the server is? This is just a case of the writer trying to be clever and being too smart by half. You are writing a food review, not the next great American novel.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Nydia said...

When we heard about the Gazette's review of Tomo, we wondered whether you were talking about the same restaurant we frequent.

It's hard to narrow down just how many people this article may have offended, but your reviewer certainly stepped in something messy.

We're regulars at Tomo--whose clientele, by the way, is growing quickly, precisely because they give stellar attention *and respect* to people and fish alike.

The judgment readers are doling out in return seems less about bowing to PC protocols than about your reviewer's own lack of respect for others.

I look forward to reading your follow-up...hopefully in the form of an apology to Tomo and your readers.

11:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the point that Nathaniel was trying to make is that the chef wouldn't be speaking Japanese because he's Korean. Period. Makes sense. Any other meaning infused into that statement did not come from the writer. It takes a giant leap on the part of the reader to link the fact that the chef was Korean with the bad service. Apparently, simply mentioning someone's ethnicity is racist? I think the real issue is that people disagreed with the review. It's clear that some people really enjoy Tomo. That's great, everyone is entitled to their opinion and I'm sure (like every restaurant) Tomo has their on and off nights. However, the night the review took place it was off. As a reviewer, Nathaniel has to be unbiased even if that means giving a new restaurant a less than glowing review. The most important thing for any reviewer, or journalist, is to be honest.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a note to the last post.. the reviewer shouldn't be doing reviews on one visit to a restaurant. They should make multiple visits,talk to the chef and owner about what they are trying to accomplish, and then write a review. One visit is not the way to do a review, on and off nights do happen, and warren maybe this is something you need to adress. I remember when anne christenshen wrote reviews and she always talked about multiple visits and how she had spoke with chef about their goals and what they were trying to accomplish.that might be a better way to judge a restaurant and not on one visit. what do you think warren?

5:16 PM  
Anonymous john said...

Mr Epstein,
I would like to make a correction. I never took offense to the partial sentence that the sushi man was probably Korean. I am Korean as well as my sushi chef (trained traditional and worked for over 12 years overseas) therefore there is absolutely nothing to get offened about. When I read the whole sentence, I felt the complete sentence was questionable.

I never asked for an apology, just an explanation of what Mr Glen was trying to convey with that sentence.

In defense of Mr Epstein and the Gazette, I would like to let the readers know that they spent quite a bit of time corresponding with me trying to answer my questions. To me, this shows that they care about issues that someone may have with them and try to resolve any such problems.

I believe that Nathaniel did not have the intentions of making any racially discriminating remarks nor to cause this type of racial controversy. I think it was just a poor choice of words.

I DO BELIEVE that Mr Glen did have the terrible experience that he wrote in his article. The worst night that we had since our opening, turned out to be the same night Nathaniel had come to the restaurant to do the review. I am not saying that was the only night.
I have had 3 nights that I would rather forget about, but cannot. I have given gift certificate for up to a 150% of what the dissatified customer had spent hoping that they would utilize them and give us a second chance. I DO NOT believe that "I'm sorry" is always enough. I will try to make up for our mistakes. I have also been giving out vouchers for free sake and wine for the inconvenience of not having a liquor license yet.

We have added more servers and sushi chefs, we have had more training and experience, and modified some of the procedures to speed up the process.

I sincerely apologize to not only Mr Nathaniel Glen for such a terrible experience but to anyone that has had any such like experience here at Tomo Sushi.

We want to be a part of the sucessful restaurant business here in CoSp and I urge everyone to help me suceed by giving me feedback, ideas, criticism, comments about their experiences good or bad and to give me the opportunity to fix whatever problems that you may have encountered. I take my customers experiences very personally, good or bad. I encourage you to help me and e-mail me at
www.john@eatattomo.com or call at 719-597-2422.

I would like to thank my customers for their continued patronage and support, as well as the Gazette for giving me the opportunity for the review, even though we dropped the ball.

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John has more class than Nate and Warren combined. Instead of just apologizing for the offensive review, you asked:" Did we bash Koreans?" Apparently you did because of all the negative comments.
This is not about bowing to PC. This is about writing an insensitive review. I read many reviews where cultural differences are mentioned but without offending people.
Please take a page out of John's book next time.

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have to admit after reading John’s post even after all of the controversy and insensitivity from Nathaniel Glen’s review, he has rose above with integrity and true customer appreciation.

I frequent Tomo Sushi and have always had an enjoyable experience and excellent quality sushi each and every time. It’s hard to believe that anyone could have such a negative experience however we all know everyone and every business has it’s bad days.

One point I would like to make is that when Nathaniel Glen posted his review and was trying to convey his day in “purgatory” that he really just ended up hurting his own reputation.

The GO section of the Gazette, especially the dinning section, could very well be one of the most read sections of the entire newspaper. With all of the controversy his article has created I would doubt that many readers would put much weight on his words in the future. I know I won’t.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I are huge fans of John Ra and his lovely wife, Carrie, since they ran Miyake. We had the Indy's review of his new venture and finally made it in last night for dinner, and as usual, dining at John and Carrie's place, was a fabulous experience! The service was friendly and the rolls were fabulous. I enjoy their creativity and anyone who hasn't tried Tomo is missing out. I can't help but think the Gazette only wrote a negative review because the Indy's was so positive. God forbid the Gazette could ever agree with those liberals over at the Independent!

9:20 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

I have to admit when I read Nathaniel's review of Tomo Sushi I was confused as to the intent of his "Korean" remark. I reread the sentence three times trying to make sense of it. In my opinion it sounded racist. It also shows cultural insensitivity on Nathaniel's part to think that every culture responds to customers with smiles and eye contact. Keep it about the food, please. I've been reading Nathaniel's reviews since he started ,and I have to admit he definitely has a lot to learn about food and the art of being tactful. In my opinion, he comes across as arrogant and pompous. His review of Tomo only encourages me to try it today. Finally, Warren, why are you apologizing for Nathaniel? Unless I missed it, where is Nathaniel's apology to Mr. Ra? Mr. Ra, I think you are a man of integrity and honor, and I can't wait to try your restaurant! In fact I have to stop typing...I'm on my way to lunch at Tomo Sushi. Gina

9:57 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

I have to admit when I read Nathaniel's review of Tomo Sushi I was very confused about the "Korean" comment. I reread the sentence three times trying to interpret his meaning. I don't think he meant to sound like a racist, but I think his inexperience at writing reviews caused him to come across as a racist. In fact I've read every review Nathaniel has written for the Gazette, and he comes across each time as arrogant and pompous. Warren, why are you apologizing for Nathaniel? Unless I missed it, where is Nathaniel's apology? Finally, Mr. Ra, you seem like a man of integrity and honor. I am looking forward to trying your restaurant. In fact, despite the lousy weather, I'm meeting my mother there for lunch in 30 minutes. I'm looking forward to it. Ironically, Nathaniel's questionable review will do anything BUT keep people away from Tomo Sushi. In fact I predict quite the opposite will happen. Gina

10:20 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

If you have to explain what you meant, it probably means that it could have been written in clearer manner so that the statement would have been more coherent. I know that it wasn't intended to be hurtful, but it came across that way. I think only those of Asian descent will be able to feel this type of pain and in this town we are a minority.

It is the same type of pain I feel when I hear 'no tickee, no laundry' at work in the IT industry. The pain of ignorant stereotyping of Asians. When people look at me in the stores here, sometimes they give me dirty looks as if I am low class and filthy, or they give me that look like I’m some sex slave shop escapee. Stereotyping perpetuates the prejudice.

Not so long ago the Chinese were limited by different states to professions open to them. In my grandparents time, it was groceries, laundry, restaurants, and farming. My mom wasn’t able to attend public school. It was not allowed by the state. As a child I endured many people calling me names, mocking me, and pulling their eyes tight and talking in a sing-song voice. My parents taught us to ignore these things and continue on with our lives. In our home my parents always stressed that we were Americans first. However, we are always viewed by the outside world as Asian first.

Why did I write this? I’m not looking for an apology. I would like for you to have more understanding of what people in the Asian community goes through daily. I firmly believe you have the right to express yourself as do I. We also both have the right to not agree with what each other has written as well. Until we live in a world where prejudices have been broken down, you will find that each race has its sensitivities.

I wish you well. I’m an avid fan of the dining reviews and will continue to read them.

Cheryl L. Hayden

11:08 AM  
Blogger Eli the Mad Man said...

Any other meaning infused into that statement did not come from the writer. It takes a giant leap on the part of the reader to link the fact that the chef was Korean with the bad service. Apparently, simply mentioning someone's ethnicity is racist?

Bingo. It is now.

This is called killing ourselves with Political Correctness. Our society has become so "over burdened" with free time and luxury that we have nothing else to bitch about anymore. Political Correctness was borne from sleazy politicians afraid of losing someone's - anyone's - vote and backed by billions of people (obviously) too afraid to HAVE their own opinions... let alone voice them.

Time is no longer of the essence, it's of the obscenely lazy. Look at all of us posting on this blog. Don't we have wars to win, fields to plow, hardships to overcome, poverty to eradicate, crime to fight? No. We in the United States are obscenely obese with free time. Ironic that we're talking about food here, huh? Such metaphors!

Nate... keep up the great writing. I never once read anything from the food section until you came along. Now I don't miss an article.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read all postings here and didn't see any single comment from Nathaniel Glen. I thought the review was written by Mr. Glen not Mr. Epstein. I would like to see what he has to say about what he was thinking when he wrote the review so I can make the better judgement.

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like Gina, I too had to reread that particular sentence over a few times. I think that this sentence is very unclear and poorly written. (Maybe this sentence is would be clearer if we could see it in the context of the article. I honestly don't know, I can't find this particular section of GO in the recycle bin.) I also don't believe that through this particular sentence Mr. Glen was "commenting on his own misplaced assumptions that the sushi chef would necessarily be Japanese." I'm not buying it. This is what I got from this statement: Mr. Glen felt that the sushi chef was paying more attention to the fish and didn't even bother to acknowledge Mr. Glen and his party or make an effort even say "konnichi wa." Why he would add "good because I'm pretty sure he was Korean" is beyond me. I think Mr. Glen needs to take some more writing classes. He also needs to develop some "common sense" because he seems to be lacking in that area by writing a comment like that.

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even Mr. Epstein admitted that the sweatshop reference is in poor taste and apologized because he's the editor but where is Nathaniel's apology?
He's the one who wrote the article so shouldn't he be the one apologizing or at least explains some of the comments he wrote? Is he so arrogant that he feels he did nothing wrong and doesn't need to explain himself?

Oh by the way, shouldn't Eli the madman be in Iraq fighting the war instead of playing computer games since you want to do something good for your country with your free time?

11:25 AM  
Blogger Nathaniel Glen said...

A breif explanation for readers.
There have been a range of opinions over the descriptions I used when reviewing Tomo Sushi.
Let me briefly explain how they came about.
1. People were agree that I wrote it was a good thing I didn't say Konichiwa to the sushi chef, because he was probably Korean. This was not meant to be a judgement about Koreans, but a realization by me that it would be inappropriate to assume that a skilled sushi chef is Japanese, since the Koreans (and the Hawaiians for that matter) have been eating sushi for generations. I certainly meant no offense.
Second, many have said the sweatshop comment was an insensative charactature of Koreans. I was inspired to make the comparison because as Mr. Lee toiled, with his eyes never lifting from his work, he was litterally sweating. It had nothing to do with the fact that he was Korean. Indeed, as far as I know, sweat shops are not a Korean problem. They are an element of other, less developed Asian countries.
I hope this illuminates where I was coming from. Believe me, you can't love food and hate other cultures. The two are one. I mean no offense and hope I can regain the trust of readers I offended.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

Nathaniel, I just read your latest posting,and all I can say is thank God for editors. Your writing skills are atrocious! The correct spelling is "literally" not "litterally." Also, the sushi chef "is" Korean, not "was" Korean. He hasn't changed his ethnicity since your review. Finally, what are you trying to say a few sentences into your reply? I think your editor should proofread and edit your blogs.

In addition, your racist attitudes are leaping off the page. Sweat shops don't exist only in Asian countries as you imply in your response.

Finally, in response to eli the mad man...Yes, we do have too much time on our hands. I know I do. My husband is off fighting a war in Iraq, so one of the many welcome distractions from worry for me is responding to this blog. I have to admit I've never blogged before, and when he gets home, I guarantee I won't be blogging! However, one of the things I will be doing is bringing hubby to Tomo Sushi.

In conclusion, thank you to the Gazette for providing this forum for us to express our views.

3:49 PM  

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