Many newcomers to the United States diffuse and preserve their culture through serving their cultures’ foods in their local businesses. Xochitl Aguilar of La Taqueria Los Hermanos in Gwinnett County, Georgia does just that by creating the restaurant’s tamales the same way as her mother-in-law, Merced, who gained her knowledge of tamale making from the generations prior. Mexican restaurants are not the only minority-run businesses popping up in Gwinnett County, a county which turns out to be a microcosm of the United States’ growing diversity. 70% of all lodging and food-related businesses in the area were owned by minorities as of 2007, reflecting the increased number of immigrants entering the U.S. from new parts of the world that were less known for immigrating to this country in the past. These new minorities are driving growth in not only Gwinnett County, but throughout the U.S., and are bringing their food along with them.
Other restaurant types, not just Mexican restaurants, are also gaining traction in the Gwinnett County area. For instance, there are now over 100 Korean restaurants in the suburbs of Atlanta when just a few decades ago a Korean restaurant was a rarity. And it is not just people of the specific culture that are dining on their own native cuisine; people of all ethnicities are eating at the Japanese, Thai, Indian, Ethiopian, Mexican, and Korean restaurants that populate Gwinnett. Miguel Ballesteros, one of the owners of La Taqueria Los Hermanos, stated that around half of his patrons are white and that he has customers whose origins range from African America to Asian to Middle Eastern.
Many restaurants in the area are now incorporating multiple cultural cuisines into their menus. Local Republic, a restaurant that used to serve exclusively classic Southern style fare, is beginning to add such dishes as Thai mussels alongside its shrimp and grits. Some purists believe that too much integration between cultural cuisines can cause loss of identity and tradition. This is not necessarily the best approach according to Lisa Heldke, author of ExoticAppetites: Ruminations of a Food Adventurer, but a healthy respect for customs should be had by consumers. She considers eating types of cuisines other than one’s own as an opportunity to learn about other cultures.