By using Peter Chang’s name as part of his self-professed mission to teach the Midwestern masses about non-Americanized Chinese food, Andrew Zimmern wanted to pay his respect the D.C. area’s best-known practitioner of the country’s cuisines. But Gen Lee, Chang’s longtime business partner, tells Washington Post reporter Tim Carman that the Bizarre Foods host and nascent restaurateur has failed to honor the chef’s name.
Ever since Zimmern started selling “Peter Chang’s dry fried eggplant” at Lucky Cricket — the recently opened venture outside of Minneapolis that prompted Zimmern to attack “horseshit restaurants masquerading as Chinese food” around the region in an interview — Lee says his phone has been buzzing with messages about how the dish is a crappy imitation of the one popularized at Chang’s cafe in Glen Allen, Virginia.
In Chang’s version, sticks of eggplant are deep fried until crispy and generously dusted with dried chile powder. Lee tells the Post he’s received several complaints that Lucky Cricket’s supposed ode is limp, bland, and lacking in Sichuan-style spice.
Lee also says Zimmern used Chang’s name on the dish without asking.
“If you’re going to put a name on it, you have to do it right,” Lee tells the Post.
In a response to Lee’s assertions, Zimmern gave a statement to the Post saying that “99% of restaurants just steal ideas” and “we named the dish after him out of respect.”
In an unexpected, but somewhat related twist, to the @andrewzimmern saga, I received a text out of the blue from Gen Lee, the business partner to chef Peter Chang. He was hearing poor reports about the Peter Chang Dry Fried Eggplant at Lucky Cricket. https://t.co/j4MnYOyIo5— Tim Carman (@timcarman) December 27, 2018
The back-and-forth came after Carman visited Minnesota to report on the deep feelings of anguish and anger Zimmern’s comments caused in Asian members of the restaurant community there and to present that response to the repentant celebrity chef.
A review from Minnesota-based magazine the Growler said pieces of the dry fried eggplant at Lucky Cricket “were soggy and none packed much spice.”
In a report for Eater, soon-to-be San Francisco Chronicle critic Soleil Ho called her experience at Lucky Cricket “worse than food-court Chinese.” Ho did mention an eggplant duo — half the fried kind cribbed from Chang, and half a glazed variation that references Happy Stony Noodle in Queens, New York — as one of the rare “compelling” parts of the menu.