Every once in a while you read a story that makes you shake your head and ask, "Is this really true?" Of course, as most of us have learned (and Mark Twain once observed), truth is often stranger than fiction.

Such was the case when a pan-Asian restaurant opened on Wednesday in a brand-new Whole Foods 365 market in Long Beach, California. The name of the restaurant?

Yellow Fever.

You don't have to be Asian to understand the inherent problem with that particular name. At some point in history, Westerners began to classify Asians as the "yellow race," ranking it (and blacks) below the white race. As Western nations became increasingly concerned that they would be overrun by Asian immigrants, they gave a name to this fear: the Yellow Peril.

But back to Yellow Fever.

The restaurant -- founded by Kelly Kim and her husband in 2013 -- specializes in bowls with rice, noodles, or greens as a base and such names as Tokyo, Shanghai, Bangkok, and California depending on what ingredients are heaped on top.

According to the Yellow Fever website, the company's name can be defined (among other things) as "When someone is obsessed with Asian things." In an interview, Kelly Kim 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."

And while Kim claims that the restaurant's name has not raised any concerns with customers since it was founded more than four years ago, all that changed when it landed in a high-profile Whole Foods 365 location. Social media exploded with outrage.

Interviewed by CBS2 News in Los Angeles, Brin Inks said, "I was shocked. I find it offensive." One Twitter user said, "Yellow Fever for an Asian restaurant? That's both unappetizing and racist."

Whatever you might think about the name of the restaurant, I suspect executives at Whole Foods are going to think twice before they approve putting another Yellow Fever restaurant inside one of their stores.

Published on: Apr 30, 2018
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