Whole Foods Restaurant Goes Viral for Strange Name

Whole Foods
The Whole Foods 365 logo |

A newly opened restaurant at Whole Foods has caught the attention of the internet for its strange name.

An Asian restaurant called Yellow Fever has recently opened for business at Whole Foods 365 in Long Beach, California. It did not take long for it to go viral for obvious reasons.

The name of the place is being deemed racist, seeing that the term is often used to describe a white man's sexual fascination with Asian women. Yellow fever also happens to be the name of an acute viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted by an infected mosquito.

That being said, both associations with the term have many perturbed and made the restaurant instantly off-putting. The opening of the restaurant immediately resulted in major backlash on Twitterverse, with many calling out Whole Foods for greenlighting it in the first place.

The interesting thing is that this is actually the fourth branch of the restaurant. New York Times reports that the while the first location opened in the Southern California suburb of Torrance four years ago had some people disturbed due to the name, there was no uproar as huge as this one.

Yellow Fever co-founder and executive chef Kelly Kim sees nothing wrong, pointing out that the name was meant to celebrate Asian cuisine.

In an official statement, Kim said that Yellow Fever "celebrates all things Asian: the food, the culture and the people, and our menu reflects that featuring cuisine from Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand and Hawaii."

To her, yellow fever is "an attraction or affinity of Asian people or Asian things." "I never took it to a have deeper meaning. ... It's a little tongue in cheek, but I never saw it as offensive or racist or anti-feminist," she said in an interview with Washington Post.

Kim, who revealed that she talked to Whole Foods about the name but does not recall how the issue was raised, goes on to say that using Yellow Fever as the name was their way to embrace the term and "reinterpret it positively for ourselves."

She recognized the potential negative reactions towards it. Only last year, she talked about a friend of hers who had a white friend who wasn't sure if he was allowed to eat at the restaurant. She then reiterates that she wants to redefine Yellow Fever into something more positive.

However, detractors who think that Yellow Fever will be better off with a different name argue that the restaurant seem to make little to no effort to defy ideas about how Asian women are viewed sexually.

Los Angeles-based comedian and writer Jenny Yang took to Twitter to slam Whole Foods, commenting that the owners should have at least made more considerations before finalizing the name.

"This is not about taking down someone who is obviously putting a lot of energy into building their business and owning their dreams," Yang said.

"But when a restaurateur chooses to use a joke at the expense of Asian-Americans, I would hope they would consider the consequences on how they represent us — especially if they're going to have a larger platform partnering with Whole Foods," she went on to say.

For Susan S. Harmeling, an associate professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California, the name of the restaurant likely proved to be quite the success as far as publicity and marketing go.

She added that while it is a challenge to penetrate the restaurant game in California, Harmeling said that Kim "knew exactly what she was doing."

Whole Foods has yet to make an official statement about the issue, but it currently deems Yellow Fever as one of the "friends" of its local business program called 365.

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