Pittsburgh, Pa (2010-present)
Collaboration with Dawn Weleski
Conflict Kitchen is a restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. The restaurant rotates identities every few months in relation to current geopolitical events. Each Conflict Kitchen iteration is augmented by events, performances, and discussions that seek to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus country.
Our current North Korean version introduces our customers to the food, culture, and politics of North Korea. Developed in collaboration with North Korean defectors, our food comes packaged in wrappers that include interviews with North Koreans on subjects ranging from culture to politics. As is to be expected, the thoughts and opinions that come through the interviews and our programming are often contradictory and complicated by personal perspective and history. These natural contradictions reflect a nuanced range of thought within each country and serves to instigate questioning, conversation, and debate with our customers.
Operating seven days a week in the middle of the city, Conflict Kitchen uses the social relations of food and economic exchange to engage the general public in discussions about countries, cultures, and people that they might know little about outside of the polarizing rhetoric of governmental politics and the narrow lens of media headlines. In addition, the restaurant creates a constantly changing site for ethnic diversity in the post-industrial city of Pittsburgh, as it has presented the only Iranian, Afghan, Venezuelan and North Korean restaurants the city has ever seen.