In a story that unfolds like a cautionary tale of our modern times, a sushi chef from North Carolina ignited a digital firestorm against a white Australian woman, Alex Marks, for the perceived crime of opening an “Aussie-style sushi” spot named Sushi Counter in Manhattan’s West Village. The controversy exposes the tangled web of cultural appropriation debates, online bullying, and the enduring spirit of resilience in the face of adversity.
Digital Bullying from Afar: Eric Rivera, a chef with Puerto Rican roots, took to social media, specifically X, to mock a TikTok video of Marks explaining her journey from corporate lawyer to sushi entrepreneur. In a bizarre turn of events, Rivera labeled Marks a “colonizer” for daring to sell sushi while being white. The ensuing online bullying campaign saw trolls flooding Google with one-star reviews of Sushi Counter and even led Marks to wipe her TikTok account clean.
The Fallout of Ignorance: Rivera’s followers and like-minded keyboard warriors seized the opportunity to lambast Marks, criticizing her audacity to bring a unique twist of Australian-style sushi to the diverse culinary landscape of New York City. Accusations of colonization and a woeful lack of appreciation for diverse Asian populations in the city were hurled without a second thought.
Cultural Appreciation or Segregation? Rivera’s retrograde stance and the fervor of his followers raised questions about the very essence of cultural appropriation. The historical foundation of the American experience is one of constant borrowing, innovation, and appreciation. To demand a genetic test before venturing into certain culinary territories seems not only ahistorical but also detrimental to the rich tapestry of cultural exchange that defines America.
A Sad Misunderstanding: Marks, according to a friend, introduced a style of sushi based on the on-the-go sushi counters in Australian shopping centers. Far from competing with high-end omakase experiences, her approach is simple, affordable, and inspired by a specific cultural context unique to Australia. Unfortunately, critics failed to grasp this subtlety in their rush to judgment.
Fusion Hypocrisy: Ironically, Rivera himself announced plans to open a Puerto Rican-Japanese fusion restaurant, showcasing the inherent contradiction in his argument. Social media users were quick to call out the hypocrisy, questioning the integrity of advocating for cultural purity while simultaneously planning fusion ventures of his own.
Resilience Triumphs: Amidst the chaos, the story takes a heartening turn. People rallied in support of Marks, boosting Sushi Counter’s ratings on Google to an impressive 4.5 stars. The online bullies, including Rivera and Queer Latifah, made their accounts private, while Sushi Counter continued serving affordable and accessible sushi rolls, proving that sanity and resilience can prevail in the face of unwarranted attacks.