Attention: Caterers and Event Planners
Authentic Asian Cuisine, what?

Catering Blunders, Big Time!

Welcome to “Aren’t Asians All Alike?” I trust your answer is a resounding no. Caterers and event planners, this episode is for you, if you want more and better clients and don’t want to make culturally insensitive embarrassing mistakes that people talk about on podcasts and blogs, than listen in.

“Let’s eat Asian food” -Avoid embarrassing catering mistakes My name is Jolene Jang, Asian American Ambassador. Educating folks on Asian Americans.
We are talking about Authentic Asian Cuisine.  What does that mean?  I would expect that is term is from people who have no idea that Asians are from different countries, same continent but different countries. This term is bad unless it followed up with for our Korean menu who are serving Korean BBQ and all side dishes. It is bad. This contributes to people thinking Asians are all alike.

On my journey back from the Muhammad Ali Awards in Kentucky, where I received a humanitarian award for educating white corporate audiences about Asian Americans, I overheard a lady in the airport exclaim, “Let’s eat Asian food.” A phrase unfamiliar to me.

In Seattle, we’re accustomed to hearing specifics like sushi, pho, or pad thai. Even those less fond of Asians can distinguish between Chinese and Japanese food.
If the humor eludes you, it’s a reminder of the importance of continually learning about Asian American cultures. Caterers and event planners, pay attention. Avoid culturally sensitive blunders like this. Let me share an incident from last week. I attended a conference of elite event planners—4000+ attendees. We ventured to an offsite park for a grand reception. I heard chinese drums from a lion dance performance team in the distance in front of me was a  massive sign “Cherry Blossom Festival,” leading to a food station adorned with pink cherry blossom branches, a red lantern proclaiming happy new year in Chinese, and a sign reading Cherry Blossom Corner Menu:

  • – Tri Tip Bao Bun
  • – Soup Dumpling
  • – Shrimp Kimono
    I tried the soup dumpling, visually appealing but disappointingly cold and hard. As someone of Japanese, Chinese, and Swedish descent, wasting food is against my principles.

For those of you unfamiliar, soup dumplings are Chinese, notably served at Din Tai Fung. Baos, steamed buns of Chinese origin, come in various forms.
And then they saw what looked like deep fried egg rolls, which are chinese. I am guessing they named them Kimono Shrimp because maybe they that the wrapper looked like a traditional Japanese silk formal special clothing from 800 AD? What, are you kidding? This is  San Diego.How did they botch this up? This was a large event meant to accommodate at least 2000 people and probably 50-100 people knew about the catering. Were none of them Asian American? Or if these position was lower, maybe that thought they would be gaslit so they didn’t say anything or maybe it is a normal practice to group all the Asian food together and mislabel it because they were playing to a white audience?

The impact is significant. Mislabeling Japanese culture as Chinese contributes to miseducation and perpetuates the belief that all Asians are alike
For event planners and caterers, such errors project an image of ignorance and uninformed practices. Recognizing the difference between Chinese and Japanese food is essential, reflecting an understanding of diverse cultures, including marginalized groups.

Event planners and caterersThink about how this happened? It possible they had not Asian Americans on the team for this huge event for thousands of people, but if they did have AA think about why they were not brought in for their feedback and or why they may have not spoken up? Was it safe space where they voices was valued and they felt respected? Where was the breakdown? This unacceptable and I am embarrassed for them. As an outsider, this says to me, they don’t have a diverse staff or they don’t ask for opinions or make it safe for them to share.

Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Nike prioritize cultural competence. To avoid looking foolish, follow suit and tap into the untapped market of diverse businesses.

Speaking of Asian food, let me share my recent Costco adventure. Amidst various Asian offerings, mostly Chinese, I discovered items like Golden Swallow Nest Soup, Braised Abalone, Shrimp Chips, Fried Calamari, Pineapple Cake, Cake with Seasoned Meat Floss, and Egg Yolk Pies. Even Korean street food had its busy corner. Yet, even in a less Asian-centric Costco, the mislabeling persists. “Authentic Asian Cuisine” tagged on items like humbaos with yellow custard, marketed by Okami, perpetuates the trend of fake Asian food. They got bad reviews. Were the buyers, did they get any Asian American feedback on this imitation generic an mislabeled food? Food education is enjoyable. It’s a window into understanding diverse cultures.

Caterers and event planners, please take care to learn from this. Seek input from the community you’re celebrating, promote local vendors, and, most importantly, stay true to the authenticity each culture deserves. Let’s strive for authenticity. Event planners, as you want to be more inclusive and want to celebrate Lunar New Year, bring people who celebrate, this is more than one person and educate, in addition to eating and watching cultural  visuals that mean nothing. Explain them. Lunar New Year is coming up February 10.

In NYC it is an official holiday. https://qns.com/2023/02/city-council-passes-lunar-new-year-resolution/

This podcast is learn about how Asians are not all alike, through history, current events, food and much more. You will hear my unfiltered thoughts, something that is hard to get from your Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander friends and as you listen in, you will learn why.

And learn how Asians are not alike.

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Picture of an Asian woman wearing a white suit on a red background pointing to the words "Aren't Asians All Alike? PocastAren’t Asians All Alike Podcast

Find the answer here. Jolene tackles Asian challenges in this unfiltered podcast, sharing personal stories and offering bold, vulnerable, no-codeswitching talk. The goal is to make you think, reflect, and make better choices by understanding the impact of today’s actions.

 

Tune in for stories from Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander voices. Meet courageous Asian Allies. The impact of these stories aims to make you pause and inspire action. It’s a bold space for authentic conversations, unheard stories, and empowerment.