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A Restaurant Named Yellow Fever Is Opening Inside a Whole Foods, and People Are Mad

A Restaurant Named Yellow Fever Is Opening Inside a Whole Foods, and People Are Mad

Whole Foods is facing some backlash on social media after the company announced that a California-based eatery called Yellow Fever, which bears the motto “Asian bowls for your soul,” was opening in one of its stores. The restaurant, which has locations in Torrance and Venice, is set to add a third dining spot within a Whole Foods 365 in Long Beach, California, as per an announcement from the supermarket chain earlier this week.

“Already ready for lunch?” the official Whole Foods 365 Twitter account wrote on April 25. “#YellowFeverEats has you covered with fresh, customized bowls at our brand-new #LongBeach365 location — now open!”

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People on social media took notice of the eatery’s name, with several people criticizing it for its offensive undertones. The term “yellow” is sometimes used as a racist slur against Asian people, and the phrase “yellow fever” is sometimes used as an equally offensive slang term to denote white men who date or fetishize Asian women. The original meaning of “yellow fever” is a disease that is spread by a mosquito bite, and is commonly found in subtropical areas of Africa and South America.

Given the history of the phrase, people are calling out both the restaurant and Whole Foods on Twitter for using the slur. “I can’t believe that’s real. How the hell did that make it out of a first pitch meeting? Gross,” one person wrote. Jessica Prois, executive editor at HuffPost‘s Asian Voices, wrote: “Yellow Fever has everything to do with Western culture cherry picking what they like about Asian culture, and that is basically affirmed, not subverted, with this whole concept.” NBC‘s Traci Lee added: “We shouldn’t even want to reclaim ‘yellow fever’ narrative. Let’s let it die as a whole.”

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In a statement provided to People, the restaurant explained: “Yellow Fever celebrates all things Asian: the food, the culture and the people and our menu reflects that featuring cuisine from Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand and Hawaii. We have been a proud Asian, female-owned business since our founding over four and a half years ago in Torrance, California.”

Executive chef Kelly Kim, who co-founded Yellow Fever, described the meaning behind the name in an interview with Next Shark. “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,” she explained. “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.”

Kim told CBS News that she didn’t face any backlash about her restaurant until she partnered with Whole Foods, noting that “we’ve been in business for four-and-a-half years.”

However, her explanation hasn’t gone over well with everyone on social media. One person tweeted: “‘You can fit all Asian cultures under one roof with a name like this.’ Excuse me? I understand you want the ‘Asian Chipotle’ but you achieve that by calling yourselves ‘Yellow Fever?’ Plus, you’re labeling all Asians and AA with having YF. No.” Another person wrote: “I’m still wildly uncomfortable with it. Aside from the obvious fetish thing, it’s also still a fatal illness.”

Teen Vogue has reached out to Whole Foods for comment.

Related: Whole Foods Says Avocado Toast Won’t Be Cool in 2018