WHITTIER (CBSLA) — As the debate about immigration into the United States rages, one Southland chef is lending his voice to those who have come into this country for a better life, just as he did.
Katsuji Tanabe is best known for his stint on Bravo’s cooking competition “Top Chef.” He now runs six acclaimed restaurants across the country, including the Mexican-Jewish fusion eatery MexiKosher.
At The Nixon Chops and Whiskey in Whittier, he’s using his name to shout out his immigrant staff on the upscale steak house’s receipts. At the bottom of each one, it says, “Immigrants cooked your food and served you today,” ending the message with the hashtag #ITookARisk.
“This isn’t about politics; I don’t know anything about politics,” the chef told CBS2 News Wednesday. “Tacos, I’m all over it, but it’s a conversation.”
Tanabe, the son of a Japanese father and a Mexican mother, was born and raised in Mexico.
“Being an immigrant — I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” said Tanabe, who added he’s not afraid of any backlash his stance could generate. “I came to this country with nothing. I have, now, everything.”
“It’s not about being upset, it’s not about being angry, it’s about making a change and [making] people think, ‘You know what? We’re better than this,'” Tanabe said.
Patrons at Nixon Wednesday seemed to agree with the sentiment.
“I think that’s what the great thing about America is, we are all immigrants except the Native Americans who were originally here, and I think that’s beautiful,” said diner Christina Thai.
Tanabe hopes his gesture will resonate as the debate over immigration continues.
“Face-to-face makes a huge difference. When you are on social media and you are talking to other people, you feel protected,” said Tanabe. “But in life, it’s a whole different story.”