shake shack's korean inspired menu
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Calls of cultural appropriation over Shake Shack’s “Korean-Style” Fried Chicken

Some people are not happy with Shake Shack’s “Korean-Style” Fried Chicken not because of how it tastes but for cultural appropriation. The Korean-inspired menu debuted last week in the United States with items such as the “Gochujang-glazed fried chicken” sandwich to much delight of many but some saw it as a lazy interpretation, reports Eater New York.

“It feels like white people slapping together a bunch of things because they perceive it as Korean and then profiting off of those thing,” Dash Kwiatkowski, a comedian told Eater. “What makes it ‘Korean-style? Is the fact that they put kimchi on a fried chicken sandwich? Because that’s not Korean-style fried chicken.”

Shake Shack’s Korean-style fried chicken sandwich was created in South Korea. The New York City-based company worked with SPC Group, a food company in South Korea, that helped Shake Shack expand in the country. Together they developed the sandwich after Shake Shack’s culinary director Mark Rosati and his team visited Seoul where they ate at numerous Korean fried chicken joints.

The company decided to bring the sandwich to the states after it was a runaway hit in South Korea. It’s the first time Shake Shack has taken an international item and brought it over to the United States.

“I would love to hear what that research looked like,” Kwiatkowski said. “If you’re going to try to package someone else’s culture as a fast-food item, the very least you could do is really elevate someone from that culture, elevate some specific chefs and specific restaurants.”

In response to the backlash, Rosati told Eater New York he understood why some people would feel that way.

“I can understand to a point but I can never fully understand it, because it’s not my culture,” Rosati said. “It’s something we want to listen to, and understand.”

Mark Rosati explained that Shake Shack purposely used the words “Korean-style” and “Korean-inspired” in their ad campaign to note that the sandwich was not actually Korean fried chicken but an interpretation.

“We call it ‘Korean-style’ because it’s our take on a traditional Korean fried chicken sandwich, and is a slight variation to the one served in our South Korea Shacks,” he said. “..It’s such a broad category. For us, it’s important to say, this is a variation of it. This is something that we draw inspiration from. This is not definitive Korean fried chicken.

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