In an email to Eater, Zimmern clarified his divisive comments about Chiang: “My point was simple. Michael White is one of the best Italian cooks in world, just because he is from Wisconsin doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be able to open an Italian restaurant if he so desires. Same with Bayless and Mexican food. I think P.F. Chang’s was a great example, that family had the name and the cultural background, and were great restaurant people, still are. But by the time PFC opened the family was as ‘American’ as I am in a sense. It was a vague metaphor but I hope people got my point. I guess not entirely clear. And this question of ‘who gets to cook what’ is one we all have to consider. It’s an important one.”
Zimmern brought on Alex Ong, a Malaysian-born chef whose career has focused around Asian and Chinese food, to help with the menu at Lucky Cricket. Even though Zimmern has “translated” Chinese foods at Lucky Cricket, Ong’s expertise helps infuse authenticity into the menu. Some of those dishes include Sichuan-inspired toothpick lamb, Dan Dan Noodles, a chicken-and-waffles entree featuring Hong Kong-style bubble waffles and Shanghai-style fried chicken, Hand Pulled Xian Cumin Lamb Noodles, and Signature Dim Sum.
The highly debated question about whether or not Zimmern is the right person to open this concept will continue to come up as the restaurant grows and evolves. But if not Zimmern, then who could open this concept? Whether you agree or not with his controversial comments, Zimmern stands behind his belief that he’s the right person to do this and do it right. Left up to someone else, a person’s first experience with authentic Chinese food might not be so authentic, Zimmern said.
“It’s true that this market needs that kind of thing, and it’s true that I want to do it,” Zimmern tells Fast Company of pan-Asian-style restaurants like P.F. Chang’s and Lucky Cricket. “Does it need to happen? I think it does, I think it does. Someone else is going to do it, someone else is going to be the next P.F. Chang’s, and I don’t want ’em to blow it. And is it up to me to do it? I don’t know. I certainly think I’m in the conversation, you know? And just because I’m not Chinese, I leave that to the rest of the world to judge. But if I can get people to open up their mind one degree, just spread those blinders one degree about something new to eat from another culture, I think we … the rising tide floats all boats. Plus we have a T-shirt that says ‘Get Lucky’ in Chinese on the back."