What’s the deal with Saffron Colonial?

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Saffron Colonial, located on North Williams Ave. Brie Barbee/PSU Vanguard

For a restaurant that has only been open for about a month—Saffron Colonial specializing in “British-colonial themed” cuisine and located on North Williams Avenue in the Boise neighborhood of Portland—has had a substantial amount of publicity.

Head Chef and Founder/Owner Sally Krantz has received complaints from locals as well as requests to change the names of her restaurant and food. Many of the dishes at Saffron Colonial reference British Colonialism, such as a “Tortolan Plantation Press” and a “Winston Churchill Breakfast.”

Protests have been hosted outside the restaurant since its soft opening last month with many demanding immediate action. A protest called “Stop Romanticizing Colonialism,” involving about 75 people, took place at Saffron Colonial on Saturday, March 19. The protesters wrote an open letter to Krantz.

In the letter, they state that “mentalities established during British Colonialism (like white supremacy) have led to the painful legacy of residential segregation and housing disinvestment, which continues to affect community members in Boise today. Which is why the decision to launch your business on North Williams is especially egregious. It’s a slap in the face to people who have experienced the harms of racist economic development policies (a legacy of colonialism), wherein land and resources were taken from black and brown people in order to make some white folks rich.”

It is not in any way acceptable to ridicule or mock the protesters who are outside of your restaurant, even if they are criticizing your business practices. Saffron Colonial’s publicist, Sean Hocking, decided to take to Facebook to slander the protesters as “idiots” and mention how he yelled to one saying he looked like a c***. Not only is this very naive as the publicist of the restaurant, but Krantz has also stated that Hocking continues to manage PR for the establishment.

As restaurant partners Ristretto Roasters, Steven Smith Teamaker, and EX Novo Brewing decided to sever ties with Saffron Colonial, Krantz has changed the name to B.O.R.C. (or British Overseas Restaurant Corporation), which is a reference to theprecursor to British Airways. She has also taken away any colonial references in the names of the dishes.

In an email to EATER, Krantz explained her decision to comply with neighborhood requests. “While it would have been nice to keep my branding and have an accurate descriptor of the cuisine, I recognize that this is taking the focus off of what I want to do with food. My mission in opening this restaurant is to celebrate the wonderful multi-cultural aspects of food in a beautiful and multi-cultural part of Portland: my hometown, and a city that I love.”

Krantz made a wise decision to listen to the wants and needs of people who are affected by such references. Although she may have had success in running a series of bakeries using the same Saffron name in Hong Kong, once a British colony, this does not mean that Hong Kong represents the international response to all affected by British colonial rule.

I am sure Krantz’s goal has always been to cook and provide her own flavor of cuisine, but it’s necessary to understand that we do live in a country of customer service. In a world filled with Yelp reviews, sometimes it’s best to adjust to the environment around your business and understand the community you are serving to.

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