Chef-Owner of Carrollton Market Serves Racist Customer a Piece of Humble Pie

Courtesy of Jason Goodenough’s Facebook profile

Update: According Chef Goodenough he’s raised over $11,000 for Cafe Hope, a nonprofit devoted to teaching the service industry and life skills to New Orleans youth.

Chef Jason Goodenough is the owner and sous chef of The Carrollton Market in New Orleans. Billed as a contemporary southern bistro, the 6 year old fine dining establishment has garnered an impressive resume of accolades including being named a 2018 Times Picayune Top 10 New Orleans restaurant

This time it was not the Garden District resident’s crab-parmesan crusted Gulf fish that made a wave, but a viral statement by the acclaimed chef in response to a disgruntled patron. By the chef’s own admission, many of those who frequent his restaurant are from the “conservative side of the aisle.” Yet it still came as a surprise to him when a Black Lives Matter sign displayed in the window of his establishment brought an accusatory and misinformed response from a patron.

Courtesy of Jason Goodenough’s Facebook post

In the screenshot above from Chef Goodenough’s Facebook page, the racist diner admits they enjoyed their meal and are indignant that there is a “Black Lives Matter” sign in the window. Swearing to never eat the delicious food from the restaurant again, this person goes on to pledge to tell their seemingly similar bland and tasteless circle of friends and neighbors that Chef Goodenough is the supporter of a “Marxist Organization.” The woefully misinformed customer explains how local businesses are only worthy of support if they refrain from making “political statements” that may personally offend racists. It is important to note: A Black person’s life mattering is not a political statement. It is simply a statement of fact. 

Chef Goodenough responded by first thanking the patron for his feedback then in the next 14 lines served up a roast and burn worthy of his profession. Of note, the chef explains, “I have marginal interest in seeing this business survive; your disgusting email reinforces my belief that busting my ass to create great experiences for fundamentally bad people is no longer worth the enormous effort for minimal reward.” The powder on the beignet comes in his closing remarks where he pledges to donate the gross sum of all the prejudiced patron’s money spent over a lifetime with the restaurant to Black Lives Matter aligned organizations and then match it with his own personal funds, all of which will be donated in the name of the aforementioned customer. The good chef ended the letter with a swift departing shot: “See you in hell.” 

Within 24 hours the post had gone viral with thousands of likes and shares across Twitter and Facebook. When asked about his response, Chef Jason Goodenough explained, “Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But my employees are my first priority. And when someone threatens the livelihood and job security of my staff because they’re offended at a sign of support, I say to them, “f you.

2020 saw a nationwide movement of businesses, organizations, and non Black individuals pledging their support to ending the systemic racism that has resulted in police brutality, voter suppression, and the varied daily aggressions visited upon Black people here in Louisiana and nationwide. Self proclaimed allies are finding out what Black people have always known to be true: to believe and vocalize that Black Lives Matter in a racist society is an act of treason because it dispels the illusion of white supremacy.

The act of Chef Goodenough publicizing the customer’s message was necessary because the best disinfectant is sunlight. There can be no fear or hesitation exposing racism. Centuries long widespread intolerance requires allies to face the ongoing reality of racist thought and behavior: someone may not patronize an ally’s business, they may face private and public criticism, neighbors may not like them. Yet even these pale in comparison to the generational violence and suppression faced by those whose “sign in the window” is their skin.

Effective allyship, like Chef Jason’s, goes beyond posting a sign in a window or changing a Facebook frame around a profile picture. It means acknowledging Black folks deserve co-conspirators in this fight for true equity. 

Black folks are owed allies committed to putting some skin in the game, regardless of the color of that skin. It requires not backing down because of the threat of peers, potential clients/customers, or because family members are uncomfortable with decency. It must go beyond thinking tolerant, benevolent thoughts. Intentions to be good are not equal to the impact of doing good. To think all the good thoughts and take none of the right actions is cowardice. 

Allyship requires using social capital and privilege to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most. It means choosing to no longer stand in rooms and shrink when someone says something derogatory about people of color. It means amplifying others’ voices and consistently choosing to to center a voice that is not your own. The people closest to the problem are the ones who are also closest to the solution. Pass the mic to them and defend their dignity. Use all social capital and privilege not afforded to Black people to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.

Allyship does not require being a culinary trained, no nonsense chef to step up and do the right thing. Nor does it require acknowledgement, praise, or gratitude. It does require every day people moment by moment being willing to do what is necessary to live in a world that values Black lives. That, and only that, makes allyship good enough.

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