Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chez Manuel and Chinese Laundry

I’ve always been one of those few Asian people who doesn’t really like Asian food. It’s slowly grown on me as I’ve gotten older, but after watching the videos this week on “Chinese Restaurants,” I started to realize exactly how interesting Asian food really is. Watching Part II of the series introduced me to Colette and Manuel living in Mauritius who own and run Chez Manuel. Colette is responsible for all of the cooking as she combines Creole, Indian, and Hakka Chinese styles to create new dishes while Manuel doesn’t really seem to do much. I thought it was intriguing how we as viewers are transported into their mom-and-pop family business that is full of history and cultural pride. The relationship between Colette and Manuel was fascinating to me because although Colette did all the work, the restaurant was still called Chez Manuel and not Chez Colette. I think that this illustrates the gender hierarchy often seen between men and women in Asian culture because the female is expected to be humble and hardworking while the male has a lot more flexibility and freedom. This is similar to discussions we had while watching “Flower Drum Song” because again, the Asian male (the father) determines the future of his daughter Mei Li and she is expected to simply comply with whatever her male superior tells her to do.

Looking at the reappropriate.com blog about the Chinese Laundry is a significant departure from the video on Colette and Manuel. I am shocked by the advertisement for the restaurant and think that the writer of the blog makes a noteworthy point that “the advertisement implies that diners of this restaurant will be able to conquer the East, not only gastronomically, but sexually. The female form then becomes an object for sexual consumption.” I was surprised that the owner of the restaurant seemed so defensive about his advertisement and commented fervently that he did not mean any harm. Although I do believe that he has the right to create his advertisement as he wishes under his First Amendment rights, I am amazed that he believed that it would not spark any sort of controversy and that he thought it would be appealing to community members. Independently of the fact that I am part Chinese, I would be slightly insulted by the advertisement. At first glance, it seems like an advertisement for a strip club so I was pretty surprised that it was for a new restaurant. If I were in charge of the marketing and advertising for the restaurant, I would have gone about it in a much different way.

Kudos to whomever in the class wrote to Mr. Elkhay!

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