Chef Han Ly Hwang of Kim Jong Grillin and Chef Kyo Koo of Danwei Canting in Portland, Oregon claimed they were discriminated against after they contacted a local hood cleaning service and were told the company doesn’t serve “Oriental” restaurants.
“We don’t service Orientals,” Ginger Koch told the weekly. “We don’t have the manpower. They have a grease residue that is like an adhesive you can roll with your finger. The grease they produce does not come off easily, does not clean easily because we don’t have the right chemicals or the right equipment.”
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“Rather than take the job and run them around and lead them on as to whether we can do it—we made a policy we don’t do Orientals. This is after years of trying. What they use to cook with—you cannot get it off. Rather than take the job and do a poor job, my husband would rather not go into that field. That’s not discrimination. We know our limitations.”
Ginger also said that she and her husband refer customers to other businesses that may be able to help.
But Hwang and Koo confirmed to Eater that they were never asked if they use peanut oil or referred them to another cleaner.
“He wasn’t combative,” Koo said of Hot Shot co-owner Bob Koch. “He just said, ‘We don’t do Oriental restaurants.’ I wanted to tell him that it was a semi-racist word, but I just bit my tongue. Maybe he’s had a bad experience. I’m sure it was some super greasy wok kitchen, and he had a bad experience. He just said it in a semi-nice, kind of racist way. He wasn’t unpleasant. He’s obviously just kind of ignorant.”
While the term “Oriental” is outdated and considered offensive, rejecting the two chefs request for service is also against the law.
“Public accommodations law says that if you own a public business that provides some service — like restaurant or car cleaning — when you open your business you need to serve the public,” Bureau of Labor and Industries spokesman Charlie Burr told the weekly. “It’s unlawful to deny service based on race, national origin, and the like. There are clear protections when a person goes about their daily life, when they’re going to a shop. National origin is a protected class. You couldn’t have a policy against African Americans.”