Illustration by Sam Brosnan/Foodbeast
Conversations and quotes in this article have been transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup podcast episode titled “#94: Boba Guys Is For The Culture Pt. 2,” out now on Spotify, Anchor.FM and the Apple Podcasts App.
The current mainstream political atmosphere in the U.S. has an all-or-nothing, “choose your side” feel, and there’s very little room for moderates who see see the arguments from both ends of the political spectrum, as it can be misconstrued as choosing the wrong side, regardless of explanation.
That is the dilemma that Boba Guys co-founder Andrew Chau found himself in when he was asked about fellow Bay Area chef, Kenji Lopez-Alt, who tweeted (and later retracted) that he would ban customers wearing the infamous, red “Make America Great Again” hats made in support of President Donald Trump.
The hat itself is polarizing, as to many, it is a symbol of hate that they feel has accrued under the Trump administration. To others, it is seen as a sign of change they wished to see under the administration.
Chau, who is outspoken about his beliefs, made it clear that he is not a fan of the hat and the baggage it comes with. With that said, it didn’t sit right with him to take the type of stance that would lead to banning customers from his Boba Guys locations.
Chau detailed the decision on the Foodbeast Katchup Podcast, and explained why he did what he did (The timestamped segment of the podcast begins at: 9:27).
“I’m from California. I’m from San Francisco. Everyone should know where we stand… you know what side of the world we’re on,” Chau said. “My stance is… I don’t ban them, but I’m like, if you cause trouble, you’re on the radar. But I’m not into banning.”
When Chef Lopez-Alt issued his statement on the hat, Chau was immediately asked by his peers, and even his own staff, if he would follow suit. He did his best to explain what he wanted to achieve with his stance on the matter, and while it did not sit well with some, it was a decision he stood by.
“It comes back to dialogue. We forgot how to talk about difficult things,” Chau said. “I said we won’t ban MAGA hats because I think it stops dialogue. The goal is bridging cultures, and you can’t achieve the goal of bridging cultures if I ban MAGA hats.”
He then made sure his guests knew that he was not going to tolerate anyone using the hat to purposely incite problems.
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In the podcast episode, Chau went pretty deep into culture, food’s role in it, and ways he feels culture can be improved through empathy.
While his MAGA hat decision wasn’t a popular one, it is a form of diplomacy that isn’t often deployed in the U.S. these days.