We, the owners, management, and employees (our “family”) at Indigo Café and Catering in downtown San Diego would like to take a few moments to respond to the recent review of our restaurant in the April 15 issue conducted by Ms. Naomi Wise. We found this review to be offensive, inaccurate, and unprofessional.
Before attending to the multiple mistakes made by Ms. Wise regarding our California-Cajun menu options, we would first and foremost like to address the offensive tone and culturally sensitive content featured in Ms. Wise’s critique. Her review began with an assumption — that upon first glance, our cook “looked more likely to be from Nuevo León,” Mexico, “than from Nuevo Orleans,” but she “didn’t yet lower [her] expectations.” Is this comment necessary? What does ethnic background have to do with cooking abilities? Moreover, it is impossible upon first glance to tell the ethnicity or cultural backgrounds of any San Diegan, and this cultural stereotype is neither appreciated nor taken lightly by our staff or our regulars. Although Ms. Wise does suggest that “good cooks can easily learn other cuisines,” it is inappropriate and borderline racially discriminatory to suggest that ethnic background can be determined by looks alone, and therefore that any expectation of food quality should be lowered or questioned. Our staff is highly trained in the art of California-Cajun cuisine, and our cooking staff has taken personal offense to the judgments asserted by Ms. Wise.
Ms. Wise also felt comfortable making several corrective suggestions regarding our menu selections. We stand behind our food 100 percent and have operated for ten years within the San Diego community with great success. Never on our website, nor in our restaurant, do we claim to offer authentic Louisiana cuisine, nor authentic Creole, nor authentic Cajun. Rather, we pride ourselves on our ability to offer a California-Cajun-inspired menu, one that celebrates the delicacies passed along through Louisiana recipes and culture. By definition, the word “Creole” (coming from the Latin word Creare) means “to create.” Creole food is the creation or evolution of cultures and cuisines that have inspired recipes from the South for decades, and we in California continue to “create.”
Ms. Wise also states that “somebody got their recipes crossed,” and we are afraid that has been Ms. Wise! Our jambalaya is tomato-based, made with thick Andouille sausage, the description that Ms. Wise gives of our gumbo; and our gumbo is roux-based, the description Ms. Wise gives for our jambalaya. We do not prepare our jambalaya with a roux base, nor do we prepare our gumbo with a tomato base. We understand that everyone has different and unique food preferences; however, Ms. Wise was clearly confused which items she was in fact critiquing. These were not her only mistakes — our Cajun Pesto Pasta does not feature “shrimp” nor any type of seafood, nor does it contain “mozzarella” (rather, Parmesan cheese), a claim made by Ms. Wise; we do not serve 1000 Island dressing on our Po’ Boy Sandwich (1000 Island contains relish, our homemade sauces do not); we do not feature a “chipotle aioli,” rather a chili aioli made from scratch.
Calling out our staff’s professional experience, specifically our owners’, by questioning “have the owners never heard of cookbooks? For a few bucks’ investment, the kitchen could get some education” assumes that our owners are inexperienced and uneducated. Rick Trevino, owner and chef, is a graduate of the San Diego Culinary Institute, and his outstanding talent and creativity earned him the Peter Metz Award — clearly he has read a cookbook or two. While we do not argue that each individual maintains their own food preferences, we strongly stand behind our expertise and our recipes and believe that each one, upon critique, should be reviewed professionally.
Given the current economic climate, when “mom and pop” businesses strive to bring in new business, we cannot help but assume that the harsh tones in the article were meant to hurt both our employees and our business. We question whether Ms. Wise, having accumulated a bill that included seven mixed drinks and a bottle of wine, was qualified in her judgments to write such a mean-spirited review. Perhaps her cocktails contained more alcohol than she thought (our sweet cocktails disguise a powerful punch).
The tone, verbiage, and overall connotation of Ms. Wise’s critique were personally offensive to our staff and attacking on many levels. However, despite Ms. Wise’s attempts to paint a negative portrait of our restaurants, our local patrons have responded with generosity and concern. Their utter disbelief that someone with professional credentials and community influence would write this critique has strengthened our bond as a “family.” We appreciate the opportunity to express our feedback and thank you for your time and consideration.
Rick and Tiffany Trevino
Indigo Café and Catering
Naomi Wise responds: In today’s climate, any mention of race at all seems to translate instantly into “racism” for those who are looking for it. Hell, everybody knows that in San Diego, Latinos make up most restaurant kitchen staffs at every economic level, and as I mentioned in that review, any good cook can master another cuisine. (Off the top of my head, I’ll cite Tijuana-born Damaso Lee, famed for his Italian cooking at Trattoria Acqua.) Only, somebody’s got to teach them, to make that happen. (Whereas, if the cook behind the counter were a born Louisianan, s/he wouldn’t need any instruction from the boss to correct the cockamamie recipes that shaped the food we ate there.) I’ve spent a lot of time in Louisiana (mainly New Orleans, but also some in “Cajun Country”), eating happily, and have been cooking this cuisine at home for some 30 years. (I also collaborated with “Queen Ida” Guillory, zydeco accordionist, on her cookbook for Prima Press, Cookin’ with Queen Ida.) The essential problem at Indigo is that almost nothing has the authentic taste of Louisiana! It’s fine to do “creative” versions of this cuisine (as, for instance, Susan Spicer does), but Indigo’s dishes seemed deracinated — Louisiana ingredients assembled in very non-Louisiana ways.