Cultural appropriation is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in in the modern food world. When globalism meets long lines of hungry Instagrammers, authenticity becomes harder to grasp and grey areas are further blurred. For instance, is a college campus that serves General Tso’s chicken with the wrong sauce to mostly-white students an example of cultural insensitivity?
Most recently, Kooks Burritos, a pop-up burrito cart in Portland, Oregon, was shuttered — just months after it opened — over public outrage regarding “cultural appropriation of intellectual property."
Kooks Burritos was born out of co-owners Kali Wilgus and Liz “LC” Connelly’s road trip to Mexico, where they “picked the brains” of every tortilla lady they could find, and brought those recipes back to the States.
“They told us the basic ingredients,” Connelly told Williamette Week in an interview featured in the magazine on May 16. “They wouldn't tell us too much about technique, but we were peeking into the windows of every kitchen, totally fascinated by how easy they made it look. We learned quickly it isn't quite that easy.”
The feature angered a lot of people who claimed that the women had stolen what was not rightfully theirs, from tortilla technique down to the recipes, just to make it big in hipster-ville:
1. White women sees som'n cool.
2. Steals it.
3. Claims altruistic desire to spread said som'n to wider audience. https://t.co/wMZP5wrYRO
— issa husband (@tdouble_u) May 20, 2017
It's only cute, exotic and trendy when white girls do it https://t.co/8g8SLmJIN5
— Hella Bella (@SelaSmella) May 19, 2017
These white cooks bragged about stealing recipes from Mexico to start a business
Kooks Burritos is a hot spot in... https://t.co/Q5la76vJYQ
— Krantzstone (@Krantzstone) May 19, 2017
Exactly one week after the article was published, Kooks had closed in the wake of the sociopolitical firestorm. The once-uber-popular burrito spot has deleted its website and all social media accounts.