Shake Shack Responds to Criticism In excess of ‘Korean-Style’ Fried Hen Debut

Group-most loved burger chain Shake Shack has occur below fireplace immediately after a new, restricted-time “Korean-style” menu of rooster sandwiches and sides drew accusations of cultural appropriation for its unfastened interpretation of Korean fried chicken.

The menu debuted nationwide just one week in the past and capabilities a sandwich with gochujang-glazed fried rooster and a white kimchi slaw nuggets and fries served with a gochujang sauce and a black sugar vanilla shake. Shortly just after the expose, some men and women criticized the organization on line for showing up to interact in cultural appropriation. Other social media buyers argued that incorporating objects like kimchi and a gochujang sauce to a pair of menu goods and labeling it “Korean-style” fried chicken was a lazy interpretation of the beloved food stuff. Many others encouraged diners to visit regional Korean restaurants in their neighborhoods alternatively. “Yes, slap some gochujang on anything and it is korean,” Giaae Kwon, a Brooklyn-based mostly author, tweeted.

Kwon, who very first heard about the sandwich when it debuted at Shake Shack areas across South Korea past year, tells Eater New York that the menu start in the U.S. looked “like the most simple way to go about carrying out a Korean fried chicken.”

Other folks echoed the sentiment. “It feels like white people today slapping jointly a bunch of points simply because they perceive it as Korean and then profiting off of people matters,” claims Sprint Kwiatkowski, a standup comedian and podcast host dependent in Providence, Rhode Island, who also tweeted criticism of Shake Shack’s new menu. “What will make it ‘Korean-type?’ Is it the actuality that they place kimchi on a fried hen sandwich? Because which is not Korean-model fried hen.”

The U.S. launch was an iteration on a common gochujang fried rooster sandwich that experienced offered well at the chain’s 14 shops in South Korea final fall, according to the organization. The sandwich recipe was modified marginally for the stateside start, like incorporating a white kimchi slaw making use of kimchi from Portland, Oregon-dependent Choi’s Kimchi Co.

Kwiatkowski and Kwon both observed that it was nice to see the chain partnering with a small, family members-owned shop to supply the kimchi, but were being disappointed to see that the hip, NYC-based chain — which usually engages in buzzy chef collaborations — did not pick out to lover with a Korean cafe or a Korean chef to support launch the menu in the U.S.

In a cellular phone interview, Shake Shack culinary director Mark Rosati stated that his team, along with employees from SPC Group — a gigantic meals corporation primarily based in South Korea that partnered with Shake Shack in 2015 to enable it extend in the place — toured a assortment of fried hen dining places in Seoul whilst they were developing the chain’s sandwich, such as Hanchu, Hyodo Chicken, Ungteori Tongdak, and Jung-ong Sweet & Spicy Hen. They also sourced information and facts on fried rooster and Korean food stuff in standard from food stuff writers and influencers Matty Yangwoo Kim (@hungrymatty) and Jason Kim (@mykoreaneats). But none of that data designed it into the announcement for the U.S. launch.

“I would adore to hear what that study looked like,” Kwiatkowski suggests. “If you’re going to try out to package deal anyone else’s culture as a rapid-food items item, the quite minimum you could do is genuinely elevate someone from that society, elevate some specific chefs and distinct eating places.”

In reaction to the criticisms of cultural appropriation levied on-line, Rosati suggests that he could “definitely see how another person may feel this here” with the new menu start. “I can recognize to a stage but I can under no circumstances totally have an understanding of it, because it is not my tradition,” Rosati says. “It’s anything that we want to pay attention to, and fully grasp.”

This unique launch marks the initially time that Shake Shack has taken a menu product that has executed very well at a person of its worldwide areas and reinterpreted it for a nationwide rollout in the U.S., according to the business. The sandwich has been a perform in progress for the previous 5 yrs, Rosati says, and it debuted at Shake Shacks in South Korea late very last calendar year. The recipe was designed in collaboration with SPC Group.

When the sandwich appeared at Shake Shack’s South Korea places, the product was labeled as a “Gochujang Chick’n Sandwich,” attaching a uncomplicated title to the menu item. In the U.S., the nuggets and fries included in the new menu are labeled as “Korean Gochujang Chick’n Bites” and “Korean Gochujang Fries,” even though the sandwich seems on menu boards as a “Korean-style Fried Chick’n.”

That broad, flattening identify of the sandwich, employed as a catch-all phrase lacking nuance or context, skipped the mark, states NYC Korean cafe operator Bobby Yoon.

“If you feel about wasabi, or teriyaki sauce, or some sort of a Chinese food items, [it’s not labeled] as ‘Chinese-model,’” Yoon, the operator of Midtown Korean restaurant Yoon Haeundae Galbi, states. “They typically say, like, ‘teriyaki chicken,’ or ‘wasabi-flavored.’ But they do not just set it as, like, ‘Japanese-fashion.’” In the identical way, Korean food in the U.S. is so varied, Yoon states, that labeling a gochujang-sauced fried chicken sandwich with a blanket time period like “Korean-style” does a disservice to the myriad flavors and preparations of Korean foods.

“I’m not expressing that any person is carrying out a improper factor,” Yoon says. “But I think that if they wished to place it as the title [of the sandwich], I assume that they should have place it as ‘gochujang’ or what ever they consider that the Korean fashion is.”

A pile of reddish brown fried chicken with green garnishes sits on a white plate with a small pile of cubed, white pickled daikon radish sitting next to the chicken. The plate is set on a light wooden table.

Yoon Haeundae Galbi’s spicy fried hen
Yoon Haeundae Galbi [Official]

Shake Shack’s Rosati states that, shifting forward, the staff is “listening” to responses to the menu things, but they’re not employing any alterations primarily based on what they’ve heard so significantly. “We call it ‘Korean-style’ mainly because it’s our just take on a conventional Korean fried rooster sandwich, and is a slight variation to the just one served in our South Korea Shacks,” he says.

The corporation purposefully employed “Korean-style” and “Korean-inspired” in all of the marketing and advertising for the start in get to signify that the sandwich was not basically an instance of Korean fried hen, Rosati suggests, which is commonly twice-fried and dressed with a assortment of sauces and toppings. “It’s these a wide class,” Rosati claims. “For us, it is important to say, this is a variation of it. This is a little something that we draw inspiration from. This is not definitive Korean fried rooster.”

For some, the menu may perhaps have been additional perfectly-received if “it looked like they had completed more contemplating, and it seemed like they had been not just attempting to income off of [Korean food], but utilizing their system to truly open up people’s minds,” Kwiatkowski states. “I’m just expressing that men and women should really be far more thoughtful and additional respectful and actually check out to figure out how to elevate marginalized voices.”