A White Sushi Chef Is Mocking Japanese Accents. Here’s Why It Matters.

Over the past few years, New York City has celebrated David Bouhadana as one of its youngest and most talented sushi chefs. And the Florida native has the rsum to prove it.

Bouhadana has trained under Japanese sushi masters both in Japan, where he lived for three years, and at the L.A.-based Sushi Chef Institute. He became the head chef of a restaurant at 19, nabbed a chef gig at Morimoto at 23,opened the Sushi Dojo restaurant at 26 and landed a spot in Zagats 30 under 30 at 28.

Now, just after making headlines for opening an omakase-style shop named Sushi by Bou this spring, the 31-year-old chef is facing heat from his fans for reportedly mocking Japanese accentswhile talking to his customers.

Eater reported Friday that tipsters and the websites staffers have heard him in the act.

Per Eater:

During service, he casually moves from speaking Japanese, to speaking English with a fake Japanese intonation, to speaking English in his natural American accent. For instance, he might present a fish in English, say oishi, oishi (Japanese for delicious), and then follow it up with dericious, dericious in his version of a Japanese accent.

Bouhadana, who learned to speak Japanese while interning in Japan, admitted to the site that he did use the accent as little fun jokes.

Maybe in my mind I think Im Japanese, Bouhadana, a French-Moroccan-American born to immigrant parents,told Eater. He also described himself as an ambassador of Japanese culture in the U.S.,a role he took on while hosting videos, including an entireEater video series, on Japanese cuisine.

Youre probably wondering why a white guy is teaching you how to use chopsticks, but this white guy has lived in Japan and his inside is Japanese, Bouhadana once said of his appreciation for Japanese culture in a Zagat video on how to use chopsticks.

He did not respond to HuffPosts request for comment on Eaters article on Friday.

Bouhadana didnt become a famous sushi chef overnight.

After training in American restaurants at a young age, he dedicated three years to studying sushi under real masters of the craft in Japan. Old YouTube videos show Bouhadana speaking the language, pickling barrels of vegetables with an elder Japanese woman and cutting tuna with his master chef.

He took the time to immerse himself in the culinary community and has a clear appreciation for the art of sushi, but his accomplishments and appreciation dont excuse him from being offensive.

It doesnt give him a pass to insult Japanese people with a mocking accent or freely use I am Japanese statements.

As a celebrated chef in New York, Bouhadana has a responsibility to present Japanese culture to other Americans in a respectful way. He has a responsibility to present Japanesepeoplein a respectful way. Mocking their accents is the opposite of that.

Asian accents lump us all into one category, they mock us, and they simplify us. Celeste Yim, Vice

Bouhadana has more appreciation for Japanese cuisine and culture than the layperson, so why do his jokes, however allegedly innocent, matter?

Asian accents in America have always been a laughing matter, unlike the romanticized British and Italian accents, as Taiwanese-American comedian Jenny Yang pointed out to Celeste Yim, a Canadian-Korean journalist for Vice.

The apparent comedy of the accent, whether its Japanese, Korean or Filipino, is proof that many Western cultures still find Asian people and culture inferior, Yim wrote. And when ones accent is singled out as a joke, it diminishes and shames the speaker. It reminds the speaker that they are not yet accepted in this country. It reminds them that theyre different and that their differences make them a joke.

Like bringing a smelly lunch to school, our accents are one of the many signifiers of our decided hodge-podge Asianness that are paradoxical, Yim wrote. The Asian Americans I spoke to seem to agree, albeit for different reasons, that Asian accents lump us all into one category, they mock us, and they simplify us.

When Bouhadana mocks the very same people who taught him his craft, especially in front of his customers, he gives people the impression that its OK to insult Japanese people. Its a signal to his customers that being Asian is still a joke, even if you do appreciate the food.

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