Samantha Bee explored the crucial role undocumented immigrants play in the food industry – and debuted her Guy Fieri parody character, “Girl Fieri” – on Full Frontal Wednesday.
As Bee noted, there are 1.3 million undocumented immigrants working in restaurants in the United States, and one of them, Christina Martinez, worked her way up from a dishwasher to the owner and chef of a popular taco spot in Philadelphia. In between dropping Fieri-esque “kablams” and “deep fried sizzle bombs,” Bee spoke with Martinez about why she left Mexico and why she’s not afraid to speak on camera, despite the hardline immigration policies of President Donald Trump.
“I’m not afraid to talk about the platform that chefs have because we have the power to change the system,” Martinez said. “If Donald Trump comes here, he is welcome… Because he is a human being.” An incredulous Bee then cracked, “But do you serve taco bowls here?”
However, most undocumented immigrants in the food industry aren’t able to speak so publicly. Bee found a handful of restaurant workers willing to chat, so long as their identities were obscured, and they all described being overworked, underpaid and under constant threat of being fired.
To help give voice to the undocumented workers at the bottom of the restaurant industry, Bee tapped another TV food hero, Padma Lakshmi, of Top Chef (before their interview, Bee insisted on completing an emotionally fraught quick-fire challenge, producing a ham and cheese sandwich with a side of Jolly Ranchers).
Asked why immigrants are the unsung heroes of the food industry, Lakshmi said, “Because they don’t want to cause trouble, they will do the grunt work that nobody else is willing to do. Because they have to support themselves [and] their families, they also often send money back to their birth countries. A lot of them are really afraid to speak up, but everybody has the right to be treated in a dignified manner. Immigrants are people too – we just want to work hard, we just want the same thing for our children that anyone else wants for theirs.”
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