Whole Foods Blasted for Partnering With Restaurant Called 'Yellow Fever'


Yellow Fever founder Kelly Kim, a native of South Korea who was raised in Houston, Texas, refutes claims that the name of her restaurant chain is culturally insensitive.

Then it hit them.

"We were anxious about a strike at first", she told Asian-American news outlet NextShark past year.

A new restaurant in the name of Yellow Fever was inaugurated in the 365 store of Whole Foods in Long Beach, California. Once the new location was announced, many took to social media with their critiques.

The term "yellow fever" refers to a mosquito-borne illness that produces jaundice, or yellowing effect, in its patients.

She debuted the first "Yellow Fever" restaurant in late 2013, a self-aware reference to a term commonly associated with a white man's sexual fascination with Asian women.

The Whole Foods Market 365 location in Long Beach opened April 25, and the 28,000-square-foot smaller-footprint store is the eighth in the U.S.

Whole Foods didn't return a request for comment Friday night.

Yellow Fever's menu offers basic staples such as triptych rice, rice noodles, or field greens.

"Yellow Fever for an Asian restaurant?" Yes, the name definitely gets your attention.

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Company branding materials provided to BuzzFeed News acknowledge the name's associations but say the restaurant aims to instead "embrace the term and reinterpret it positively for ourselves". "Once, I had a friend who was grabbing our food for lunch and her White friend wasn't sure if he was allowed to eat here". This fetched a huge number of negative reactions from the social media platforms.

For some on social media, the issue isn't just with the potential racist or sexist overtones, noted People. The phrase "yellow fever" has taken on racist connotations in some circles and is perceived as racist enough that a moderate Twitter-based angry mob formed nearly immediately.

"Fetishization is a huge issue for Asian women like myself".

Much of the discussion is aimed at Whole Foods and the perception of the store catering to an affluently white demographic. But the sexual connotation of the term has drawn considerable scrutiny. "THAT's exactly the problem", one Twitter user wrote Saturday.

"Gosh, nothing like a racist meal that might *also* give you a horrific disease", one Twitter user responded.

Kim has shrugged off concerns about the name in the past, suggesting her quiet, local success may have helped avoid a spotlight on the name. That makes a controversy all the more frustrating, she said.

Eventually, she and her husband decided on something very different: Yellow Fever. "Now all of a sudden people are bashing on us", she said. There have been no protests, and the restaurant has been receiving positive reviews for the food. "So so SO delicious", one Yelp reviewer glowed.

Others took the name in a more literal way. "First off, change the name". She elaborated the meaning behind the term used for the joint. "Do you think it's OK if Asian are calling themselves with that name?" one reviewer wrote in October 2016, leaving one star.

Another diner struggled to reconcile the name with her affection for the food.