The Thug Kitchen Cookbook launched in bookstores this month, and with the tagline “Eat like you give a fuck”, you can tell their brand ethos revolves around using a lot of swear words.
It may also revolve around talking like an African American person – but that’s up for debate.
One thing no one is debating is that Thug Kitchen, a healthy eating cookbook, has not run an effective marketing campaign.
Pairing vegan cooking with an “I don’t give a damn” attitude to copy has earned the authors quite a following.
The Thug Kitchen cookbook debuted in the October 26 New York Times Book Review in first place, at number one on Amazon's list of vegan cookbooks and in number one in Amazon books overall.
Surprisingly fucking simple, yet surprisingly fucking effective, as they might say.
Three weeks ago Thug Kitchen released a trailer for the upcoming release.
As the video starts you think you’re being burdened with a fear-peddling, American there’s-probably-something-wrong-with-you-luckily-there’s-a-drug-for-that ad.
Until you hear what that something-wrong is: “Not giving a fuck about what I eat”.
The ad continues to shock with its use of expletives, with a young mother using the F-bomb, and an old granny too.
But others have seen it in a different light: a bunch of white people advertising healthy eating where they expected, or perhaps merely hoped, to see black faces.
As a bit of background, the authors have been anonymously writing the Thug Kitchen blog for years in a profanity-ridden tone, and have been wildly popular.
Publisher’s Weekly wrote that the blog was generating about 800,000 hits per month.
This activity got the attention of famous militant healthy-eater Gwyneth Paltrow, who gave them a hand up, and they were signed by wellness-centric publisher Rodale.
That’s where the trouble began.
Media outlets called for a boycott of the book. Bookstores were pressured to cancel the couples’ appearance. And fans from their following of half-a-million on Facebook lashed out.
Followers called for the authors and publishers to “Stop using blackness as a marketing strategy.”
In an article entitled “Thug Kitchen: A Recipe in Blackface,” The Root slammed the marketing practice, saying “ it’s deceptive and feels a lot like the latest iteration of nouveau blackface”.
“With African Americans especially plagued with obesity and the accompanying stressors and diseases, it was a refreshing idea that a young black man would be the purveyor of not just healthy eating but vegan cuisine at that, a leap that some health-conscious folks might find it difficult to make, given the restrictions on eggs and dairy in addition to meats,” they wrote.
But the revelation disappointed.
Either way, it doesn’t appear to have hurt their profits. None of which, it seems, will be going to black people.