Woke till you choke: Now restaurant names offend


Dining out tonight? Take care, because you could be guilty of white privilege, casual racism, identity unconsciousness, bias and wilful ignorance before you've even ordered the spring rolls.

The restaurant industry, battered and bruised by the events of the past 12 months, is the latest target of the politically correct, with one of Queensland's most successful eateries skewered in the current edition of a national food magazine.

Sum Yung Guys, which is run by four men who happen to be white, is one of the most popular restaurants on the Sunshine Coast, but is also, it now seems, "symptomatic of a society that weaponises languages against the very people who own them".

"It's not the Sum Yung Guys name alone that offends," complains writer Amy C. Lam in Gourmet Traveller.

"It's the overall aesthetic, the extra details that bloat the package.

"In multiple iterations, the Sum Yung Guys logo is presented in wonton font - fun and vibrant colourways with the same Orientalist messaging.

"It homogenises and flattens Asia's 40-plus countries and cultures into a kitsch two-dimensional tableau.

"It's lazy. It's mediocre. It's a neo-colonial act of erasure."

I've never eaten in the restaurant, but I wonder if all the thousands of people who have were aware that they were contributing to a neo-colonial act of erasure.


Matt Sinclair at his restaurant Sum Yung Guys at Sunshine Beach
Matt Sinclair at his restaurant Sum Yung Guys at Sunshine Beach


Dr Tim Soutphommasane, a former race discrimination commissioner, was happy to give the four young guys a lecture in wokeness.

"People should understand that racism is, as much as anything, about power," he told the magazine.

"When you have people draw upon others' ethnicity or culture in ways that belittle or demean them, chances are you've got racism at play."

There are now those who are so desperate to find a reason to be offended that they seek out evidence to support the belief that they are victims in every corner of our society.

I cannot imagine having a life so empty and bereft of achievement and purpose as to be reduced to seeking proof that Australia is a racist nation because of its restaurant names.

The Sunny Coast chefs aren't the only ones to feel the heat.

Down on the Gold Coast, the Margarita Cartel restaurant at Burleigh Heads, which promises traditional Mexican street food, also attracted the attention of the magazine, which quoted Swinburne University of Technology senior lecturer in media Dr César Albarrán-Torres as saying: "It's insensitive naming a restaurant like that because of the stereotypes and racism they perpetuate."

The name is harmful, it seems, because it presents a parochial view of the diversity of Latin American people and culture.

"If we're to discuss cartels and drug trafficking, we should do it in a way that doesn't make a spectacle or entertainment out of people's suffering," he said.

Really? Can anyone seriously entertain the belief that enjoying a margarita and hoeing into some tacos on the Goldy is somehow disrespectful to Mexicans and legitimising the drug trade?

Down in Mollymook on the NSW south coast, there's a restaurant called Gwylo which takes its name from "gweilo", the Cantonese word for foreigner.

The problem here, as any woke person would be quick to point out, is that Chinese people might feel that they were being discriminated against because the name suggested that only foreigners - white people - would be served there.


Ivan Lotti, owner of Margarita Cartel
Ivan Lotti, owner of Margarita Cartel


"If we're talking about whiteness, power, and privilege, it's uncertain how this exercise in language-ownership evens out the field of equality and representation by symbolically shutting out Chinese people," writes Ms Lam.

"There's still something discomforting about a white owner, in the 21st century, proclaiming his whiteness in neon lights while cooking and profiting from food cultures that are not his own."

Given my heritage, I should feel offended by the number of faux Irish bars with names like O'Flaherty and Murphy scattered throughout the land, for surely they suggest that the Irish are a bunch of tosspots who spend their days gargling Guinness.

I've tried to feel offended but I just can't manage it, not being possessed of the necessary degree of wokeness.

If people don't complain about racist restaurant names it is because, writes Ms Lam, the model migrant complex encourages people of colour to stay quiet and invisible and because it's a more odious crime to question a person's racially insensitive behaviour, than to be the instigator of the behaviour itself.

Sum Yung Guys have returned fire to the magazine, with one of their number, Matt Sinclair, saying in a statement that "articles like this are the only problematic medium in society right now.

"Does the world really need another fuse lit to incite hate, now or ever?"

He's right, of course.

People now seek to find offence where none exists, the search for victimhood never ending.

I'm off to Sum Yung Guys next time we're up the coast.

Apparently the Crying Tiger pork belly is to die for.




Originally published as Woke till you choke: Now restaurant names offend