A small chain of restaurants in Los Angeles is shutting down its operations a year after going viral for its name Yellow Fever, which many found to be culturally insensitive.
Originally a standalone spot for rice bowls and other Asian fusion cuisines in Torrance, Yellow Fever gained prominence in 2018 when it partnered with Whole Foods in Long Beach to open a mini location inside the grocery store.
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One more day before grand opening of YF LBC! @chefkellykim and the rest of the crew had so much fun at the open house on Saturday getting to know the neighbors and we’re finally opening our doors on Wednesday, 4/25 at 11am. Come on by! We’ll be celebrating all day with giveaways, 💁🏼♀️💁🏻♂️ and serving delicious Yellow Fever bowls now in Long Beach. Our Friends @365bywholefoods has been amazing through this journey and we’re so excited to part of this growth! Thank you to our incredible YF crew and all those came out including the office of @robertgarcialb @kozyndan @dj_tessa @thewillowfield.apothecary @healingwithcrystal @unionwinecompany @beachwoodbrewing 💁🏻♀️. And Be Yellow!
The restaurants, which eventually added a third location in Marina del Rey, are reportedly closing as they struggled to stay afloat due to sluggish business, according to owners Michael and Kelly Kim, Eater reports.
“This started and always has been a passion project more than a business, but at the end of the day if you can’t make money you won’t survive,” Michael Kim was quoted as saying. “We are so thankful for the experience and we know that we had an impact on some people’s lives and that makes the whole thing worth it.”
It is expected that all three locations of Yellow Fever will be closed by the weekend.
— 365byWholeFoods (@365byWholeFoods) April 25, 2018
While owned by Asian Americans, the restaurant was heavily criticized online when its opening was announced on Twitter.
Michael and Kelly Kim stood by their name choice even before the online backlash, explaining that they were trying to reclaim the term.
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Mug shot Monday today is Chef Kelly Kim – the mastermind behind the recipes and co-owner at Yellow Fever. Sometimes, customers will comment, “’Yellow fever’ – that’s racist, that’s demeaning to Asian women or that’s a disease, how can you call it that?” Well – here at Yellow Fever – it means we love all things Asian, especially Asian food! And – in case you were wondering – we are in fact a 100% Asian-owned business. Born in Seoul, Korea, Chef Kelly grew up as a Korean-American immigrant in Texas. From stereotypical family pressures to become a doctor/lawyer/engineer, to not fitting in at the local public schools, to being subject to random racial discrimination – there were times that she felt resentful for her ethnic heritage. But over time, @chefkellykim found her own way to become comfortable in her “yellow” skin and now she can express her creativity with a welcoming inclusiveness through food at Yellow Fever. And we’re glad she did! Check out her video on our web site yellowfevereats.com under BLOG – and what she does to balance herself between work and life.
“When we finally came up with the concept, all the names we thought of just plain sucked. Buzzwords like ‘traditional’, ‘bamboo’, ‘lotus’, and ‘golden’ weren’t memorable,” Kelly told NextShark back in 2017 before people online began taking issue with the name.
“One night, we just said ‘Yellow Fever!’ and it worked. It’s tongue-in-cheek, kind of shocking, and it’s not exclusive — you can fit all Asian cultures under one roof with a name like this. We just decided to go for it.”
“It’s re-appropriating a term — taking ownership of something and defining it in our own way,” she added.
Featured Image via Instagram / yellowfevereats (Right)