Cookbook And Website Thug Kitchen Is Changing Its Name After Reckoning With The ‘Racist Connotations’

Kristin Salaky
Photo credit: Bernard Weil/Thug Kitchen - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bernard Weil/Thug Kitchen - Getty Images

From Delish

The creators behind the popular vegan site and cookbook collection Thug Kitchen have announced they will be changing their brand name and re-evaluating past content following criticism of "the racist connotations" of the name.

Matt Holloway and Michelle Davis issued a statement on their website called "We're Changing" in which they explained why they chose the name in 2012 as a way to "signal our brand’s grit in the otherwise polished and elitist food scene," as previously reported by The Takeout.

Criticism of the brand's name is not new, as they also mention in their post, but its writing style, which is explicative-ridden, purposely abrasive, and often references rap lyrics and films by Black artists, has also been under fire in the past. When it was revealed in 2014 that two white people were behind the brand, they received backlash, with some calling it "digital blackface." Chef Bryant Terry wrote a powerful piece on the subject at the time for CNN.

"The contrast drawn between the consciously progressive dishes shown and the imagined vulgar, ignorant thug only works if the thug is the kind of grimy person of color depicted in the news and in popular media as hustling drugs on a dystopian block, under the colorful glow of various burger stands, bulletproof take-out spots or bodega signs," he wrote. "'Those kind of people,' the visual gag suggests, 'intimidating you into... preparing arugula or tempeh? How absurd, how shocking, how hilarious!'"

The recent statement explains why the pair previously dug their heels in despite that criticism:

Over the years, as our critics pointed out the racist connotations of two white people using the word 'thug,' we tried to contextualize it by talking about our backgrounds and our beliefs. We realize, however, that whatever our original intention, our use of it reflected our privilege and ignored the reality that the word is assigned to black people in an attempt to dehumanize them. That’s fucked up and not at all what we want to stand for. We apologize. We recognize we need to do better.

They went on to say they'll be changing the name of their company, plan to "discontinue the use of Thug Kitchen as the title of all our previous cookbooks, and closely re-evaluate the content of each book," but noted it will take some time to get everything updated. As of right now, the name Thug Kitchen is not heavily featured on their homepage, though it is still part of the URL and their LLC is at the bottom. The top of the website as of this writing reads "verbally abusing you into a healthier diet."

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