Texas Chef Threatens to Sue Vietnamese Woman for Correcting His Spelling of Bánh Mì

Vietnamese restaurant

A White chef who runs a Vietnamese restaurant in Texas is facing allegations of harassment against Asian Americans.

 

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What started it all: Peja Krstic, owner of Mot Hai Ba in Dallas, is accused of lashing out at Asian Americans who corrected a spelling error he had made in an Instagram post.

  • In the now-corrected post on June 16, Krstic, who is Serbian, reversed the letters “h” and “n” in “bánh mì,” a popular Vietnamese sandwich that fuses ingredients from the local cuisine.
  • Three Vietnamese American women reportedly replied to correct the error, but Krstic allegedly snapped in his response.
  • Among them was Tiffany Tran, owner of SneakerBaby Macarons and a Mot Hai Ba fan who simply commented: “Bánh Mì*.”
  • Krstic reportedly replied “I mess it up always,” to which Tran returned with “It hurts my eyes!”
  • The exchange allegedly continued privately, with Krstic sending Tran a series of hostile messages that concluded with a permanent restaurant ban and a lawsuit threat if she continued to talk about their conversation.
  • “You calling me out for a writing mistake like this is wrong on many levels,” Krstic sent Tran, adding that he felt “very insulted and racially profiled.”
  • “If anything everyone in Dallas knows how much unselfish I am,” Krstic went on. “I guess I was a complete piece of sh*t to you all these years. Thanks for the fake support.”
  • Krstic allegedly then contacted Tran’s boyfriend, who previously worked with him on past professional events.
  • “Your girl took it too far with me today for no reason,” he allegedly told him.
  • Last week, Krstic posted a video of himself “apologizing” to Tran, saying that he misunderstood her original comments while partly blaming the coronavirus and the stress of opening a new restaurant.
  • In an Instagram post, Tran rejected Krstic’s apology, saying that it was nothing more than “damage control.”
  • “It’s an eight-minute video, but it’s not an eight-minute apology. It’s a one-and-a-half minute apology with six-and-a-half minutes of self-promotion,” Tran told Eater Dallas. “It really disappointed me that he called it an apology when he didn’t address threatening to sue me, or calling my boyfriend. He never acknowledged doing anything wrong other than being too busy to read my whole text message.”

 

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Re: peja011’s apology video

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More accusations emerged: Tran is not the only Asian American who came forward with allegations of harassment from Krstic.

  • Two other Instagram users who commented under Krstic’s spelling error were reportedly accused of “crucifying” him and blocked from his account.
  • Donny Sirisavath, who is also a chef and owner of Khao Noodle Soup, then recalled Krstic calling him an “Asian piece of sh*t” during an altercation in February.
  • Sirisavath, a 2020 James Beard Award semifinalist, happens to succeed Krstic as a holder of the Dallas Observer’s “Best Chef” title.
  • Their conflict started after a Khao Noodle Shop employee claimed that someone from Mot Hai Ba tried to offer them a job.
  • Sirisavath found Krstic at a bar and asked him whether he was trying to poach his employees.
  • “He just went off,” Sirisavath told the Dallas Observer. “Threatened me, trying to fight me and we got into a shoving match. We ended [up] outside [the bar], that’s where he called me an Asian piece of sh*t.”
  • Reyna Duong, owner of Sandwich Hag, first shed light on Krstic’s “Asian piece of sh*t” remark a day before Sirisavath shared his story.
  • Duong primarily called out Mot Hai Ba for including Xiu Mai to their menu, but with only pork as the major ingredient resembling the original recipe.
  • Duong argued that it is not Xiu Mai without the garlic-tomato sauce — and that it is a “disservice” to customers, to the dish and the Vietnamese heritage.
  • “I hope Peja doesn’t threaten to sue me, call me a racist, find my cell phone number to harass me, tell me my career will be ruined, or calls me an ‘Asian piece of sh*t’ like he has with other Asian folks that have spoken up,” Duong wrote.

What people are saying: Krstic’s video apology is publicly unavailable, but he has since received criticism from other Instagram users for his alleged actions.

  • “Don’t give your money to this fraud … stealing Viet Culture to make ends meet and then has the audacity to trash the same people,” one wrote under a post on Mot Hai Ba’s Instagram page. “I will never dine at this establishment again.”
  • “Disgusting behavior from the chef. His apology was a non-apology and he spent most of it talking about himself,” another weighed in.
  • One demanded: “Spell your dishes correctly next time instead of lashing out at people who want to correct you!”
  • “If you don’t want people to correct you, learn to spell,” another echoed.
  • “Nothing but an obtuse White man,” one claimed.
  • Another user wrote: “You don’t get to profit off our cuisine while simultaneously belittling the culture + communities from which it arises.”

Feature Images via @peja011 (left) and @nerdy_drinker (right)

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