Research topic

Proposed research question (with plan)

How to protect your cultural food from food appropriation.

In Johanna Blakley’s TED Talk, she reminded the audiences lessons that we could learn from fashion’s free culture. While the free culture has a huge impact across different creative industries. The food industry is innovative, creative and links closely to personalities. However, recipes can not be licensed because it is a set of instructions, it’s a fact. No matter how unique your dish is, you can not protect it from being reproduced by others.

Meanwhile, there are also issues around cultural appropriation in food. Many current studies have talked about cultural appropriation in fashion, music but little of them are about cultural appropriation in food.

Why is that and where is the line between culinary cross-pollination and cultural appropriation?

That is what this project will explore and try to find answers for.

Cultural Appropriation:

Definition: taking a symbol or a cultural practice out of its original context and situating that practice so that it becomes devoid of its original meaning.

Fusion is a common thing in the food industry. Food is something you can experiment with. Like Johanna said above recipe is a set instruction, they act as guidelines. But in recent years with the popularisation of ethnic food, some chef’s experiments became offensive.

In many cases of controversial food appropriations happen when the reproduced chef changes the recipe without understanding the historical context and not taking the time to understand what it is.

Take the case of a food podcast host Dan Pashman‘s innovation idea “Bi Bim Bundt”.

Bibimbap is a traditional Korean rice dish served in a hot stone pot which keeps sizzling the rice even after the dish is front of you. You have to mix it to let the ingredients cook, and the rice becomes light brown and crispy.

In his podcast with Food Network star Sunny Anderson they were talking about “if the stone pot had more surface area, it would come into greater contact with the rice and you’d have more crispy rice to eat.”

“Immediately I pictured a bundt pan. Its trademark centre cylinder and fluted perimeter are the perfect alterations to the traditional dolsot, vastly increasing surface area, and thus stone-to-rice contact.

The Bi Bim Bundt was born. ” – Dan Pashman

Some were insulted by the idea.

Nick Cho, a Korean-American listener of the show, tweeted them that he was offended, so Dan invited him on his new show “Other People’s Food” to talk about food appropriation.

In the podcast NYU Professor Krishnendu Ray also highlighted the issues around cultural appropriation in food: “You can be white and an acclaimed chef you can play with other people’s food, but if you are not white or an acclaimed chef you do not have the freedom to do that.”

Cultural appropriation is when the dominant culture takes bits from the minority culture and make it their own. Cultural food is the memory to many people when a chef changes it without context that is when the community feels insulted.
Me as a food lover and Asian women from an immigrant city in China currently base in England have always questioned what counts as authentic food. Is there a way besides license it to protect certain food? Some may argue it is for the better to allow food appropriation because otherwise we will be limited to only the dishes we know from our memories there will be no innovation in food anymore, and the race of the chefs should not determine their cooking skill on cuisine from a culture they were born in.

Proposed format and why

I will carry this research by creating a video essay around this topic. I will interview acclaimed food bloggers, people from different ethnic groups about their experiences and opinions on Food appropriation.
I chose this format because it will be the best communication method with the audiences. The visual elements will help them understand the context(Especially what those food look like!) quickly, and the interviews will create a narrative and add a human touch to the video. The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.” summaries why I choose to produce a video essay for my topic.



Sponsored or licensed?

Bloggers created another type of job: Influencer. They are basically the curators in the digital era. Instead of presenting artworks they present their own discovery in life.

Having sponsored posts may cause the blogger to lose his or her credibilities but at the same time. Brands would only want to collaborative with an established blogger to achieve their goal so does it mean having sponsored posts shows that you are a successful blogger?

When it comes to brand licensing, it is actually rare to see it in any blogs. Most bloggers like Scarlett London produces sponsored blogs.  Screen Shot 2016-12-06 at 13.08.52.pngScreen Shot 2016-12-06 at 13.08.35.png

Usually big brands are very careful with licensing out their brands, even for high fashion blogger like Susie Bubble she was allowed to post pictures of Chanel’s archive but she does not make direct profit from curate that to viewers, and she can not resell her products to her viewers.

Big brands do collaborate with bloggers and even use fashion bloggers as their model for their campaign. For example, SALVATORE FERRAGAMO hired Nicole Warne AKA Gary Pepper Screen Shot 2016-12-06 at 13.50.07.pngScreen Shot 2016-12-06 at 13.49.55.png

and she was granted the right to live stream fashion show on her blog by Valentino. Screen Shot 2016-12-06 at 14.16.02.png

I think for brands they do see bloggers as the licensee because they get free publicities from every single blog post and bloggers do not have the rights to reproduce or distribute their products so they would not lose profit.

On the other hand, each blogger has their own brand. When they collaborate with other brands they are also licensing their brand out to the other brand. Like Scarlett London who I have mentioned before. She collaborated with this clothing brand to create her limited edition T-Shirt in this scenario Brand Attic gets the publicities they wanted and Scarlett may have dividends for the product sold.Screen Shot 2016-12-06 at 13.56.15.pngScreen Shot 2016-12-06 at 13.56.31.png


To read more on this:


  1. Why the Licensing of Luxury Brands Can Pose a Risk

What is a Licence?

The licence is a permit from an authority to own or use something, do a particular thing, or carry on a trade, defined by Oxford Dictionaries.

In relations to intellectual properties, a license is a permit from an authority to own, distribute, and reuse the protected resources.

There are three types of commonly used licenses in the media industry.

  1. Rights Managed (RM)

This license was designed to protect owner’s work on a per use basis. For example, if you want to use a high-resolution photograph for your website you would have to pay for the license to use it.   Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 12.17.21.png

The license owner decides the terms and conditions of each picture, the numbers of copies it can be used in, what mediums they are allowed to be published on, and such.


  1. Royalty Free (RF)

“Royalty Free was created as a licensing model in response to the need that advertisers have to use images for a whole campaign. An advertising agency might design a campaign for their client that includes a brochure, a website, ads in magazines and newspapers and billboard ads. Pictures are often fundamental to such a campaign, and the advertising agency does not want their client to have to pay for every different usage or every time the campaign is rolled out to a new market. Therefore, stock photo agencies in the 1990s developed Royalty Free.”(Larsen, no date)

Royalty Free licenses work by image size; the larger the file is the pricier it becomes. Because the larger the file you have at your disposal, the more uses you can put it to.

One example of this can be the Enhanced licences listed on Adobe Stock license information page. You can pay £399.99 for the higher resolution version or £199.99 for the 1699 x 1125 pixel version.

  1. Creative Commons (CC)

With the internet and digitalisation, it is harder for artists to declare their rights and make profits out of each single copy of their work. Creative Commons were developed by a not for profits organisation in the US. It will allow your copyrighted work to be freely shared and you can determine the conditions of that sharing.  

Under this category, there are six licences that vary in their openness from a license where anyone can use your work or anything as long as they attribute you as the creator of the work.

Usually, a lot of artists use this licence to share their work for free marketing. You can see this type of licence on various multimedia search engines.  


To find out more about licensing check out the links below:

Africa Media Online:

Creative Commons:

Center of the Study of the Public Domain: