MasterChef star hits back after he was accused of racism over his Asian restaurant Sum Yung Guys – and says bookings have skyrocketed since the controversy
- Matt Sinclair said business was ‘buzzing’ since the racism controversy
- Gourmet Traveller magazine said name Sum Yung Guys mocked Asian culture
- Co-owners defend the name as inspired by cult 1990s film Wayne’s World
- Restaurant names such as Gold Coast’s Curry Muncher also in the spotlight
Masterchef runner-up Matt Sinclair says the phones at his Noosa restaurant are ‘buzzing’ after its name was called a mockery of Asian culture by foodie bible, Gourmet Traveller.
The venue, Sum Yung Guys, was opened by the 2016 Masterchef runner-up with his mates Dylan Campbell, Jeremiah Jones and Michael Rickard in June 2017.
The restaurant’s menu and décor ‘highlight our spirit and passion for Asian cuisine and culture’, say the owners.
Matt Sinclair was runner-up in the 2016 edition of Masterchef before opening Sum Yung Guys
In a piece titled What’s In A Name, Gourmet Traveller writer Yvonne Lam wrote: ‘It’s not the Sum Yung Guys name alone that offends.
‘It homogenises and flattens Asia’s 40-plus countries and cultures into a kitsch two-dimensional tableau.
‘[It] arguably trades on the mockery of Asian communities and cultures.’
Sum Yung Guys was opened by Sinclair and his mates at Sunshine Beach, Queensland in 2016
Sinclair responded to the magazine: ‘When you start delving into the artwork, design and branding of our restaurant you enter an incredibly subjective topic.
‘We don’t feel the need to “defend” ourselves against suggestions it is ill natured.’
‘We hope to read more uplifting and positive articles from GT, aiding in the much needed recovery of hospitality in 2021.’
Sinclair (left) with co-owners Jeremiah Jones (back), Dylan Campbell (right) and Michael Rickard (front)
Asked by Daily Mail Australia whether the controversy had affected the restaurant’s business, Sinclair responded: ‘In all honesty the support has been overwhelming and the phones are buzzing.
‘We are comfortable with who we are and what we are doing. We understand we live in a world where everyone is free to publicise their opinions and feelings. Time to move on and stay focused on what we do best.’
Co-owner Jones told the The Courier-Mail the Gourmet Traveller story felt life ‘a bit of a hit piece’, and that the restaurant would not be changing its name or look.
In the magazine article, Lam points out that the owners’ have previously explained Sum Yung Guys was inspired by cult ’90s film Wayne’s World.
The article also takes issue with Cartel, a South American bar and eatery in Sydney’s Chippendale, and Margarita Cartel in Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast.
Lam quotes academic Dr César Albarrán-Torres, who says of a name like Cartel: ‘It’s insensitive naming a restaurant like that because of the stereotypes and racism they perpetuate.’
South American bar Cartel in Surry Hills, Sydney, was criticised for perpetuating racism
Gold Coast restaurant Curry Muncher has also been drawn into the debate. The owner of the long-running Chevron Island Indian restaurant, Anita Kumar, told the Gold Coast Bulletin the name is ‘a bit of fun’.
‘A few people might have a problem with it but not many,’ she said.
‘We’ve had Curry Muncher restaurants for 21 years and we’re proud of the name.’
The owner of Curry Muncher on the Gold Coast, Anita Kumar, has defended the name as ‘fun’
Restaurant names in Australia have become more controversial as movements such as Black Lives Matters have grown in prominence.
In April 2016, protestors gathered outside Vietnamese restaurant Uncle Ho, in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, which was named after communist North Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh.
The restaurant changed its name to Aunty Oh soon after and then ceased trading.
Minh Nguyen, the owner of Madame Nhu Vietnamese restaurants in Sydney – named after the controversial former first lady of South Vietnam – told the magazine complaints about the name were mainly from white people.
Racist restaurant name, or not?
Thai puns: Thai Foon, Thai One On, Thai-riffic, Thairanosauros, Thai-tanic, ‘N Thai Sing, All Thai’d Up… the list goes on across Australia.
MisoHapi: Sushi and ramen bar in Brisbane’s West End does Japanese food and a stereotypical Asian expression.
Woggies: Well established Italian family restaurant in Toowoomba, Queensland, that also goes by the tagline, ‘Justa lika Mamma’s’.
Suey Sins: The bar in Surry Hills, Sydney, drew flak in 2017 for naming itself after a 1920s Shanghai escort and projecting a ‘sexy pre-war Shanghai’ theme.
British Colonial Co: This bar in Hawthorne, Brisbane, attracted widespread criticism for claiming it was ‘inspired by the stylish days of the empirical [sic] push into the developing cultures of the world…’
Kum Den: Chinese restaurant in Melbourne’s Chinatown that’s name might not be racist, but leave something of a sour taste.
Double Happiness: Cosy Melbourne laneway bar inspired by Chinese Communist propaganda but with a nudge nudge wink wink name.
Ladyboy Dining & Bar: The modern Thai restaurant in Melbourne’s Richmond raises eyebrows while entertaining patrons with its playful name.