Caprice Holdings’ Ivy Asia came under fire over the weekend after posting a promotional video filled with racist stereotypes and reductive caricatures. The Ivy Asia Chelsea, which is the third restaurant in a group known for its use of Orientalist decor and culturally flattening menu descriptors, removed the video from all social media channels on Sunday August 8, before first publish a short one, then a second longer one. “apologies for any offense caused.”
The promotional video featured women dressed as geishas struggling to get into a rickshaw, driven by an elderly Asian man who was described as unable to support their weight. When the rickshaw crashes, the two women are rescued by a so-called “hero” in stereotypical warrior attire. In fantastical scenes, the “hero” propels the two women into the restaurant, where they crash into with several shopping bags, and are then stared at by a dining room full of white customers. The women do not speak but make indecipherable noises, reminiscent of the sitcom’s racist skits little britain.
Ivy Asia Chelsea’s account initially disabled comments on Instagram before deleting the video altogether after several online observers pointed out stereotypes and racism. Then come the “sincere” apologies, but no explanation. The apology was for “the offense caused”. “It was wrong,” the Ivy Asia Chelsea account wrote. “It was done naively and it was totally inappropriate and culturally insensitive. We had complete ignorance of understanding…We are doing an immediate internal review of our marketing processes…We need to educate ourselves.. We need to learn lessons and move forward in a totally new and appropriate way.
The video no longer exists on The Ivy Asia marketing channels. But the Chelsea restaurant, along with another in St. Paul’s, the first in Manchester, and a huge opening soon in Mayfair this year, will go nowhere; the group is only growing. A restaurant whose brand uses stereotypes, which fetishizes peoples, cultures and foods and reduces them to a catch-all descriptor will continue to exist, cook and welcome customers in the belief that these things are acceptable. Unless the internal review of the company’s marketing processes leads to a complete overhaul of the restaurants themselves.
Such stereotyping and flattening is typified by the “Zen Stack” advertised in the video, a selection of largely Japanese dishes given a Buddhist title to which they bear no relation and grouped together. Much like Gordon Ramsay’s widely criticized “Authentic Asian Dining House”, chosen indiscriminately in Japan, China and all of East Asia, Ivy Asia seems more concerned with taking advantage of Asian cultures than to respect the diversity and variety of these. cultures and peoples.
Writer MiMi Aye was among the first to point out the anti-Asian racism contained in the video.
Later, Observer Restaurant critic Jay Rayner was unequivocal in linking the video to the conditions that produced it. “The knuckles behind Ivy Asia Chelsea’s sad promotional video”, he wrote on Twitter, “decided they were just naive and insensitive rather than, you know, armpit in premeditated racist stereotypes back and forth from the house.”
Eater contributor and Free time Journalist Angela Hui pointed out in an Instagram Story (now expired) that no one “stopped it”, which “further proves how deeply rooted and normalized racism is in our society”. She added: “I can point out a million things wrong with this video, from wonton police to tired oriental tropes and two Asian ladies being a ‘joke’… The only thing that’s a joke is is the owner of the restaurant, its investors, any influencers, writers or critics who have promoted it…”
Elsewhere, Resy’s international editor, David Jay Paw, wrote on Instagram over the weekend: “It’s 2021 – Asian diaspora communities around the world have seen punitive spikes in violent racism against their communities. …to erect this hate crime of a ‘restaurant’ and share this heinous promotional video? Every detail, big and small, a decision that not a single person within its parent organization rejected?”
In a year where racism and anti-Asian attacks have fueled disproportionate levels of discrimination against East and Southeast Asian communities through the COVID-19 pandemic, cultural vandalism and the profit of Caprice Holdings – and the layers of corporate ignorance within it – is all the more alarming. And while future marketing campaigns may not trade in such overt caricatures and stereotypes, the three restaurants and counts, which exist on the same basis, have not been removed.
The Ivy Group press office only highlighted the statement posted on Instagram when pressed to comment on the video’s approval internally.