The owners of a Portland, Ore., small business called Kooks Burritos have shut down their business after an interview detailing their trip to Mexico to learn about the burrito-making process resulted in a debate about “cultural appropriation.”
Kooks Burritos owners Kali Wilgus and Liz “LC” Connelly spoke with the Willamette Weekly about what sounds like, essentially, a fact-finding trip to Mexico in search of the best burrito.
Some have called it “polite white supremacy.”
Here are the pieces of the interview that sparked outrage online and effectively closed down the business:
CONNELLY: I picked the brains of every tortilla lady there in the worst broken Spanish ever, and they showed me a little of what they did. They told us the basic ingredients, and we saw them moving and stretching the dough similar to how pizza makers do before rolling it out with rolling pins. They wouldn’t tell us too much about technique, but we were peeking into the windows of every kitchen, totally fascinated by how easy they made it look. We learned quickly it isn’t quite that easy.
On the drive back up to Oregon, we were still completely drooling over how good [the tortillas] were, and we decided we had to have something similar in Portland. The day after we returned, I hit the Mexican market and bought ingredients and started testing it out. Every day I started making tortillas before and after work, trying to figure out the process, timing, refrigeration and how all of that works.
The Willamette Weekly has since added a note at the bottom of the story, saying, “Kooks Burritos has closed.”
The reaction on the internet has had everything to do with it.
Consider Mic’s headline, “These white cooks bragged about stealing recipes from Mexico to start a Portland business.”
Or the Portland Mercury’s headline, “This Week in Appropriation: Kooks Burritos and Willamette Week.”
Here’s how that piece began:
Portland has an appropriation problem.
This week in white nonsense, two white women—Kali Wilgus and Liz “LC” Connelly—decided it would be cute to open a food truck after a fateful excursion to Mexico. There’s really nothing special about opening a Mexican restaurant—it’s probably something that happens everyday. But the owners of Kooks Burritos all but admitted in an interview with Willamette Week that they colonized this style of food when they decided to “pick the brains of every tortilla lady there in the worst broken Spanish ever.”
The fundamental contention of both articles is that white Americans went to Mexico and exploited the labor and methods of people of color without compensating them, in typical colonial style.
There is even a Google document circulating that lists restaurants in the Portland area that aren’t appropriative.
“This is NOT about cooking at home or historical influences on cuisines; it’s about profit, ownership, and wealth in a white supremacist culture,” the note at the top of the list says.
Almost as soon as the owners of Kooks Burritos expressed excitement about the prospects of their business — “The second we had the tortilla, we were like, ‘We’re doing this'” — the excitement was over.
The business is dead.