What can “WE” do about Thug Kitchen?

Posted on October 20, 2014


Please notice that I said “we” as in not solely black people. But all those who are offended by the shenanigans played upon the public by a group of people who used a stereotype to its fullest extent, and in the process were rewarded for their efforts.

Understand too, that this was a few years in the making, so followers are to be expected. Don’t be disheartened if you happen to notice the book selling.

Books can be returned. And books, just like offensive promos can be utilized to show a digital trail of deceit. But most of all, nothing worthy and lasting can be built from premeditated, mockingly offensive caricature and deception.

People are buying the cook book for various reasons. While there are those truly interested in Vegan food and seek out recipes, some are new to Vegan food and wonder about the taste, nutritional benefit and authenticity of the recipes. Others don’t care about the controversy and don’t want to know about it. Some people endorse things just to spite others. There is also a denial component to this, where some very vocal defenders (see the screen grab I managed to get before it was deleted) have no clue (“even if it were racial just a little . . .”).

The only thing I’ve deleted on this screen grab are the names. It’s the attitudes that I’m primarily focused on:


“Even if it were racial just a little” and “lighten up” and “Seriously?”



Link: www.ttbook.org/book/cooks-thug-kitchen


Part of the shameful history of America is that during slavery and segregation, curiosity about black culture and even individuals were used for amusement and to profit off of.


Human Zoo inhabitants. A popular attraction back in the day, before people complained

Human Zoo inhabitants. A popular attraction back in the day, before people complained



Drawing of Stepin Fetchit, ironically from the Disney movie "Mother Goose from Hollywood"

Drawing of Stepin Fetchit, ironically from the Disney movie “Mother Goose from Hollywood”



From the Disney animated film Mothergoose from Hollywood, a caricature of Stepin Fetchit

From the Disney animated film Mothergoose from Hollywood, a caricature of Stepin Fetchit



Aunt Jemima mangles the english language, just like Aibileen and Minny

Aunt Jemima mangles the english language, another popular stereotype regarding African Americans that persists today.



Dancing, wise cracking crows from Disney's classic animated feature Dumbo. There's one even named Jim Crow

Dancing, wise cracking crows from Disney’s classic animated feature Dumbo. There’s one even named Jim Crow. The voices attempted to mimic the African American dialect.




The Publisher Knew

That’s right. The publisher and or representatives knew the duo/collective behind this ruse were white and that they’d taken on a street caricature to promote their recipes. And they probably knew the eventual reveal would cause controversy. So just remember that the next time you pick up a book and the publisher is Rodale. Remember the name, because respect is a two way street. And with this type of shit going to print, someone okay’d a continuation of digital blackface:



Using the imaginary “Thug” persona, the creators of Thug Kitchen try to spice up their recipes using digital blackface.




Example number two

Digital blackface continues in print via the book for Thug Kitchen



Behold the words of Mary Ann Naples, senior v-p, publisher at Rodale, stated in this Publisher’s Weekly interview:

“We think their work speaks for itself—Thug Kitchen’s goal has always simply been to entertain [by] verbally abusing people into eating some goddamn vegetables.”


Link: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/people/article/64404-four-questions-for-thug-kitchen-publisher-mary-ann-naples.html



That’s right. All their “work” like the alter ego persona of a slang dropping, over the top kitchen creation known as Thug. The same imaginary narrator was used to give answers to interviews in full digital blackface. More info can be found by reading Naple’s glowing interview condoning what this “collective” did, by any means necessary. And don’t kid yourself. More people were involved in this fiasco. A quick internet search yielded a number of early interviews using the “Thug” persona as a spokesperson. And what was also telling was the amount of evasiveness involved:

“The writer or writers (its believed to be more like a crew) come from Los Angeles, but who they are exactly remains a mystery. Though we tried to who find out, Thug didn’t respond to our emails.”

Link: http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2013/05/03/who-heck-is-thug-kitchen/



“In addition to frequent swearing, anonymity had been a trademark of the blog since it launched in the fall of 2012.  When I profiled Thug Kitchen last year for The Post’s Food section, all of our correspondence took place over e-mail.”

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2014/09/30/the-creators-of-thug-kitchen-are-white-does-it-matter/



By mid-2013, the singular “thug” had become “we” and a collective:

“The Thug Kitchen collective is a group of people who intend to remain anonymous, and who strive to focus on spreading the good word about healthy cooking and food accessibility.”

Link: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/09/thug-kitchen-creators-dish-on-vegan-recipes-blog-in-gangster-voice.html



And by 2014, their identities or basically, the individuals picked as the face of the “collective” had been revealed:

“It didn’t occur to us” to use our names, Davis said in a recent interview. “It wasn’t something we were sharing around, and when it got popular we just kept it the way it was because (anonymity) had clearly worked.”

Link: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/thug-kitchen-writers-talk-dirty-clean-food-26049367



So let this book be an example. Let it serve as a reminder that this:


Amos and Andy (blackface version) note the "Here we is again. Ain't dat sumden!" which perpetuates the dialect stereotype

Amos and Andy (blackface version) note the “Here we is again. Ain’t dat sumden!” which perpetuates the dialect stereotype



Writers and original performers of Amos and Andy

Writers and original performers of Amos ‘N Andy a still popular radio show that started in the late 1920s and continued until the 1960s, until protests took the show (with black performers by this this) off the air.



Is simply this:


Creating a monster caricature one recipe at a time

Creating a monster caricature one recipe at a time



And simply more of the same. Amos ‘N Andy for a new generation. 


In the captioned cartoon below, everything in the balloons and along the bottom of the screen are actual quotes from either the Thug Kitchen website (via recipe promos) Twitter, or Facebook


In their own words. Actual quotes from the creators of Thug Kitchen.

In their own words. Actual quotes from the creators of Thug Kitchen, from the numerous recipe promos used to mock African American vernacular. This is simply a new version of Amos ‘N Andy




This isn’t cool. And it’s not cutting edge. It’s actually a sad commentary on ambition by any means necessary.

The only way to send a message to Rodale and also the group behind Thug Kitchen is not just with outrage. Ignore them.

And what I mean by that, is do not endorse them, in any form or fashion. Please understand that there are a number of people (like Gwyneth Paltrow) who thought they were endorsing someone cool and the next big thing in media. Now that the truth is out there, the very celebrities this duo and others (again, if you think this was simply the work of two individuals, you’re mistaken. This took “friends” on twitter and blogs to put the word out) may covet in order to bolster what little credibility they have left, may ultimately end up shunning them.

The book is out now, so let it serve as yet another example to show the lengths some people will go in order to “make it.”

Instead of relying on their talent they took the quickest and shadiest route possible. In the end they simply repeated what many of their their forefathers have done.


And that’s use another culture as their “spokesperson” while capitalizing on an over the top rendition of that culture. Entitlement is a hell of a thing:


Thug Kitchen faking the funk example 3





I’ve already gone over the use of the word Thug in a previous post. However, I will repeat it here because some folks continue to pretend as if they have amnesia.

In late Feb of 2012, Trayvon Martin was murdered. In May of that same year, Geraldo Rivera started a firestorm when he claimed Martin’s “thug” clothing may have contributed to his death. In support of Martin, Miami Heat players (including Lebron James) wore hoodies in support and solidarity. There were not only racial implications in Trayvon Martin’s murder, but America was divided. Even now, if you Google Trayvon Martin and “thug” sites and articles will pop up, where the teen’s name has been slurred with the word “thug.”


Thug Kitchen’s first post was in August of 2012. So while their PR spin has been this (item is bold is my doing):

“Holloway says for him, being a thug means “just not taking ourselves too F_________ seriously  . . . It’s a personality. It’s an aggression.”

Audio interview found here: www.ttbook.org/book/cooks-thug-kitchen



Yet they can’t keep their stories straight, because in another published interview, Holloway contradicts himself (item in bold is my doing):

“When we created it, we weren’t trying to load our blog with lots with personality like a lot of websites or food blogs.  I personally find that really alienating . . . so we really didn’t want it to be about personality.”

Link: http://www.popsugar.com/food/Who-Thug-Kitchen-Creators-35918743


At no time did this duo attempt to set the record straight that “Thug” didn’t exist. Someone even did interviews in character, knowing full well that if they didn’t hide their identities, the outcry could scare off major publishers. But it didn’t scare off Rodale, because all Rodale saw were dollar signs. 


This is one of the best summations I’ve read on “identity” gate:

“They have not used a dialect particular to black culture, and yet they still intended from the very beginning to have the audience perceive the author of the work as black (and male) by their own anonymity and the association of the author with the word “Thug”. 

(How would one go about making Thug Kitchen less racist? Go back in time and stop the authors from pretending to be black.)”soycrates


Link: https://www.tumblr.com/search/feel+free+to+challenge+me+on+this+I+may+not+be+right



But going back to 2012, because of all the media coverage of the Trayvon Martin murder, it’s inconceivable to me that in August of 2012, the creators of Thug Kitchen decided the word would somehow be “fun” for them to use. However, they did. But they took it a step further. They adopted an imaginary persona of a character simply known as “thug” who used over the top, outdated street vernacular. So understand, the use of “Thug” was premeditated in order for the duo to promo their alter ego.

The problem for them, regardless of a best selling book is the digital trail they left. Whether its Facebook, Twitter or their own site, the proof of them using digital blackface in their posts to promote their recipes is the real issue. I submit that they didn’t care about the usage of the word but that it fit into their overall plan to have this Amos ‘N Andy type character as a spokesperson.

Much like people no longer want to be associated with Amos ‘N Andy, as that new car shine and smell wears off of the duo behind Thug Kitchen, they will have no more gimmicks to fall back on. They’ve played their ultimate hand. There is no real life “Thug” in the kitchen.

The shock will be that the imaginary creation was more popular than the real life creators. And as the realization slowly dawns on them, perhaps they’ll even attempt to resurrect this persona.

But it’s a bad parody of an already maligned culture, and the imaginary thug has been exposed. Two 29 year old opportunists who looked at another culture as their meal ticket. However, they’re not being embraced by that culture. There will be no TI or Little Wayne cooking in the kitchen alongside this duo, because they both mocked and maligned us. That’s not to say the PR machine the duo won’t try to line up a B, C, or even D list black celebrity. Maybe Stacy Dash or Jimmy “Dynamite” Walker. It’s been known to happen, as it was back in segregation with Amos ‘N Andy.*

It has to be the culture that they mocked, the celebrities in the black culture who won’t co-sign on to this so that the creators can hold up their cookbook and claim, “see, it can’t be all bad. Look who’s posing with us.”

Turn your back on them. And over time, more people will realize just how corny and effed up all this is.


*Repeat of another one of my posts


To be continued . . . 

Posted in: Blog