Monday, October 03, 2011

International Obama Foodie Homage In Beijing, China: Obama Fried Chicken

The White House disapproves of the use of the President's likeness for commercial purposes, but there are Obama-themed restaurants around the globe, from Kyrgyzstan to New York...and is this one racist?
A shop has opened in Beijing, China with the name "Obama Fried Chicken," and features a logo with a cartoon image of President Obama. He's clad in the signature "uniform" of KFC's Colonel Sanders--a red apron and black string bowtie. The sign on the shop reads 吹牛逼呢吧, or "We're so niubi [cool], aren't we?," according to Shanghaiist, the first outlet to report the find. The shop is already being rebuked by internet critics--and the Rev. Al Sharpton--as racist. (Above: The restaurant front)

“It’s insulting, offensive and plays to racial stereotypes,” Sharpton told the New York Post. “What makes it even worse is that when we deal with this global competition between the U.S. and China, for them to be mocking the leader of the free world, I find it even more appalling.”

But KFC is the biggest fast-food chain in China--bigger than McDonald's--and President Obama is extremely popular there following his visit in 2010, and his State Visit honoring President Hu Jintao at the White House in January of this year. There's no telling what the actual intent of the Beijing restaurateurs is--other than using the wildly popular President Obama to market what's considered an American food. Sharpton was responding to a theory floated by UK's The Daily Mail that the Beijing eatery is an answer to the US filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization against China for placing tariffs on imported American chickens. That's pure speculation on the part of the Mail.

Meantime, Obama Fried Chicken joins a long list of restaurants that are partaking in Obama Foodie Homage. While the White House has a long-standing policy of disapproving the use of the President's name and likeness for commercial purposes--no matter who is in office--the Obama White House hasn't been able to keep up with the flood of Obama-themed restaurants and food products that have appeared since President Obama was inaugurated.

There's Obama British Africa in Barcelona, Spain; there's The Obama Café in Moneygall, Ireland, the President's "ancestral" hometown, which he visited this year; there's Toronto, Canada's Obama Cafe; and there's The Obama Bar & Grill in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, among others. In the US, there's Brooklyn, New York's The Obama Flavor ; and on a smaller scale, Meal O'Bama, a food cart. (Above: The sign for Obama British Africa)

The President is clearly stimulating the global and US economy through food, though two Obama fried chicken restaurants that opened in New York City were excoriated as racist. German food company Sprehe pulled its "Obama Fingers" product in 2009, after cries of racial insensitivity, too. Those were fried chicken chunks. Some of the foodie creations have been decidedly racist: The Obamitas cookies from Spain, which looked like Pickaninnies or Gollywogs--and the Obama-Duet Ice Cream Bar, courtesy of Russia. The ice cream bar was chocolate on the outside, and vanilla on the inside, and featured an ad campaign with a cartoon rendition of President Obama as a slicked up, modernized Pickaninny. "The Flavor of the Week! Black in White!" was the tagline.

KFC has used President Obama, too...
In January of this year, KFC itself used an Obama look-alike as a spokesman to market its Soft Roll Fish Fillet sandwiches in Hong Kong, with a play on the President's election slogan as a tagline: "Mmmmm, change is good!" This post on Obama Foodorama about the commercial campaign caused global headlines, and parent company Yum! brands rapidly put an end to it. A spokesman said no ill-will was intended. (Above: A screengrab from the commercial, with the Presidential lookalike)

“It was meant to be a spoof and no disrespect was intended," Yum! spokesman Ben Golden told Obama Foodorama.

President Obama's State dinner for President Hu did not feature fried chicken, of course--the menu was dubbed "quintessentially American," and that was at the request of the Chinese Delegation, according to the White House. On offer to President Hu and hundreds of guests: Poached Maine lobster and Dry Aged Rib Eye with Buttermilk Crisp Onions, as well as delights created with the bounty from First Lady Obama's Kitchen Garden.

The Obama re-election Campaign is happy to market the President with food...
The White House policy barring the sale of Obama products for profit doesn't extend to re-election efforts, of course. Well aware that the President and food together are a hot topic, OFA has raffled Mr. Obama off--twice--as a dinner prize for Campaign donors, first with the "Dinner with Barack and Joe" and then with the Dinner with Barack II sweepstakes.

OFA is selling foodie swag, too: Check out the Fired Up Ready To Grill apron.

In this post, there's a round-up of the flood of beer, wine and other products that were being marketed in 2009 with the President's image--there was even a lichen named after Mr. Obama. (Above: The Obama Cafe in Moneygall, Ireland)

One of the KFC ad videos with President Obama's lookalike:



*Top photo by Weibo user binson; Moneygall photo by AP