“Immigrants prepared and served you today.” Those are the words you’ll find at the bottom of receipts at Katsuji Tanabe’s six restaurants. And though the message feels incredibly political at a time when the Trump Administration is vilifying this population, Katsuji says the phrase merely reflects reality.
Immigrants are the backbone of this country’s culinary institution. So much so that the late Anthony Bourdain said that without immigrants, the entire industry would collapse. But as xenophobic sentiments run high, this group has been the target of hate crimes. With his receipts, Katsuji – a Mexican-born chef who previously competed on Top Chef – wants to remind us about the ways immigrants have enriched their lives. “The whole situation now with this new xenophobia, and this dumb racism, sometimes it’s good to remember that… immigrants are cooking and serving you,” he told NBC Bay Area.
The chef, who’s part Japanese and an immigrant, has found himself explaining to patrons why he included the message. “Sometimes people ask: ‘why did you write this? And I go up and explain – I am an immigrant, and I cooked for you,” he added. “It’s not a political statement. I [could’t] care less about politics. But I care about my future, and I care about my past.”
Because trolls have already harassed him online, he braced him for a deluge of negative comments after NBC’s coverage.