Just over a week ago, the longtime Bizarre Foods host and four-time James Beard award winner Andrew Zimmern opened Lucky Cricket, his first-ever standalone restaurant. The Minneapolis press was quick to call it “one of the Twin Cities' most anticipated restaurants,” and eagerly anticipated Zimmern’s take on contemporary Chinese food.
But instead of talking about the whole roast duck, the char siu barbecue pork, or the impressive dim sum menu, Zimmern has spent Lucky Cricket’s early days apologizing for disparaging comments he made about other Midwestern Chinese restaurants.
In a recent interview with Fast Company, Zimmern talked a big game about Lucky Cricket, suggesting that this shiny new St. Louis Park location would be the first of 200 locations scattered throughout the meaty center of the United States. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of ambition, but he followed that up with some harsh criticism about the establishments that have preceded his own. “I’m saving the souls of all the people from having to dine at these horseshit restaurants masquerading as Chinese food that are in the Midwest,” he said.
Zimmern’s remarks were received with near-universal criticism, and he was dragged hard—and dragged appropriately—by Asian-Americans on Twitter. “Can someone tell @andrewzimmern that those ‘horseshit’ restaurants he’s talking about are run by immigrant families trying to give their kids a better life?” the daughter of two Los Angeles restaurateurs tweeted. “The menu was intentionally Chinese-American because it’s the kind of Chinese food that paid our bills.”
“The Midwest’s ‘horseshit restaurants’ are what paved the way for Zimmern’s venture and more broadly, Chinese cuisine in America,” Ruth Tam wrote for the Washington Post. “Chinese American food may have originated in the nation’s coastal cities, where immigrants first opened shop, but I’d argue that this cuisine’s ability to thrive in the Midwest with fewer Asian patrons cemented its lasting role in this country.”
And thus, Zimmern has spent the last few days apologizing. On Monday, he used 699 words to say “I’m sorry” in a Facebook post. “Let me start by saying most importantly how awful I feel and how sorry I am for my recent remarks. I am completely responsible for what I said and I want to apologize to anyone who was offended or hurt by those sound bites,” he wrote. “The upset that is felt in the Chinese American community is reasonable, legitimate and understandable, and I regret that I have been the one to cause it.”
On Tuesday, he sent the same statement to the Star Tribune. On Wednesday, he issued another lengthy mea culpa to the Pioneer Press. “I’m 57, not 27, and I know that words matter and I should have been much more responsible and much more careful,” he said. “And I am deeply, deeply wounded personally that people I have spent nearly 20 years supporting and caring for [...] I let those people down and hurt so many people.”
Now that he’s gotten those apologies out of the way, maybe Zimmern will scroll through the comments, read his mentions, and listen to some of those responses he’s gotten from Asian-Americans. That seems just as important as saying sorry—if not more.