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Calif. Chef's Restaurant Receipts Share Message on Immigration

The Mexico-born chef competed on “Top Chef” season 12 in Boston and “Top Chef Mexico”



    Chef's Receipts Come With Message: 'Immigrants Prepare and Serve You'

    A Japenese-Mexican chef in Whittier has included on every receipt a line that's says "immigrants prepared and served you today. He owns eight restaurants across the country and he's putting that on receipts at all his restaurants. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News on Tuesday, July 17, 2018. (Published Tuesday, July 17, 2018)

    A Food Network Top Chef who's worked in some of the most acclaimed kitchens in Los Angeles is printing a message on his receipts — but he says it's not political, it's just the truth.

    Katsuji Tanabe, currently running six restaurants including The Nixon Chops & Whiskey in Whittier, is half-Japanese and half-Mexican.

    "The whole situation now with this new xenophobia, and this dumb racism, sometimes it's good to remember that...immigrants are cooking and serving you," he said. 

    The Mexico-born chef, who competed on "Top Chef" season 12 in Boston and Top Chef Mexico, says he's an immigrant himself, and he writes this on the bottom of every receipt to let his customers know:

    "Immigrants prepared and served you today. #itookarisk"

    He says that writing that at the bottom of every receipt at every one of his six restaurants around the country isn't political at all — it's fact — and it's something he hopes will lead to conversations.

    "Sometimes people ask: 'why did you write this?' And I go up an explain — I am an immigrant, and I cooked for you," he said. "It's not a political statement. I could care less about politics. But I care about my future, and I care about my past."

    In the kitchen, at the bar, on the floor, at the hostess stand — all immigrants. 

    Tanabe said he sees backlash and comments on social media all the time.

    But he says he takes risks, like the hashtag he puts at the bottom of the receipt.

    It's a nod to his days on "Top Chef," where he won the fan favorite award — and a new model for his life.

    "Every time we will do something 'risky' — like 'oh, I poached an egg, I took a risk.' But it's starting to be my life model. Every time I put something, or do something at my restaurants, it's risky. Coming to this country, it was a risky situation. Opening an upscale Mexican restaurant is risky. Everything I do, I always take a risk," he said.