A Texas chef has come under fire for his response to a Vietnamese American woman who had corrected his spelling of the popular Vietnamese bread bánh mì, NextShark reports.
On June 16, Peja Krstic, the Serbian owner of Vietnamese restaurant Mot Hai Ba in Dallas, shared an Instagram post announcing the opening of both of his locations in Lakewood and Victory Park. He included two photos: one of Vietnamese meatballs and the other of a bánh mì sandwich. The issue? He incorrectly spelled “bánh mì” in his caption.
When Tiffany Tran, owner of SneakerBaby Macarons, pointed out the mistake and provided the correct spelling, Krstic allegedly snapped at her, replying “I mess it up always.” According to NextShark, after Tran jokingly wrote that the typo had hurt her eyes, things took a turn.
The chef purportedly decided to continue the back-and-forth via private text messages, threatening Tran, a fan of Mot Hai Ba, with a permanent ban from the restaurant and a lawsuit. Tran told Eater Dallas that the chef had obtained her phone number by using the restaurant’s reservation system.
In those messages, Krstic, who felt he was being publicly shamed, reportedly told Tran, “You calling me out for a writing mistake like this is wrong on many levels.” He also oddly claimed that, in addition to feeling “very insulted,” he felt “racially profiled.”
Tran said the chef then went on to contact her boyfriend, who had previously worked with Krstic on several events. Krstic allegedly told Tran’s boyfriend that his “girl had gone too far.”
“I was hoping that the next day he would cool down and apologize,” Tran told Dallas Eater. “Maybe he had a rough night and took it out on me. I gave him five days to reach out to me and apologize, and the whole five days I was miserable just sitting on it.”
Eventually, Krstic apologized for the exchange with Tran, posting a video explaining that the situation had “escalated” because he had been so preoccupied with opening his Victory Park location.
“I apologize for not reading everything,” he said. “I know I need to eat some crap right now, because I deserve it. I based my conclusion off of something in the first paragraph, which is so wrong.”
Tran, however, said she would not accept Krstic’s apology, responding with a lengthy post on Instagram.
“My past week has been unnecessarily hellish, stressful, and fearful because of your actions, and I do not accept your non-apology,” she wrote. “I wanted one last Tuesday night after you got my number and texted me with your unfounded accusations of racial profiling. I wanted one after you shamed me and banned me from your restaurant.”
Tran further accused the chef of trying to “save face” and carrying out “damage control.”
“It’s an eight-minute video, but it’s not an eight-minute apology,” she told Eater Dallas. “It’s a one-and-a-half minute apology with six-and-a-half minutes of self-promotion. It really disappointed me that he called it an apology when he didn’t address threatening to sue me or calling my boyfriend. He never acknowledged doing anything wrong other than being too busy to read my whole text message.”
Krstic was also called out by Sandwich Hag chef Reyna Duong, who suggested that the Serbian chef not only culturally appropriated but culturally “eradicated” Vietnamese cuisine by offering menu items devoid of main Vietnamese ingredients and engaging in an argument with Tran.
“Here’s the kicker, when you also, in the same post, spell Bánh Mì wrong and several Vietnamese women asked you to correct the spelling, and your go-to reaction is to call THEM racists and that you, a [white] male chef, is being racially profiled … then I think it’s time you look inwards,” Duong wrote on Instagram.
The latest exchange with Krstic is not the first time Krstic has been accused of disrespecting people of Asian descent. Khao Noodle Shop owner and chef Donny Sirisavath claimed he and Krstic got into a heated argument at a Dallas bar in February after Sirisavath had asked Krstic to stop poaching his employees.
“He said he didn’t know anything about it, and started verbally abusing me and trying to fight me,” Sirisavath said. “He was threatening to kick my ass, telling me I wasn’t anybody in the industry and had no right to be a chef.”
What’s worse is that Krstic, whose very restaurant appropriates Asian cuisine, allegedly called Sirisavath an “Asian piece of s***.”
“I was outside, my wife was in the car, and Peja comes out and starts attacking me and getting up in my face,” Sirisavath said. “I got a little irate, and the bartenders had to literally drag him inside. I’m not the person to have conflict, so I just laughed it off. But when this happened with Tiffany, I knew I couldn’t just sit here and be quiet about it. It was eating me inside. I’m not glad the situation happened, but I’m glad I got to tell my side of the story.”
Eater Dallas said that Krstic did not respond to requests for comment.
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