KnoxNews: Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month and Knoxville’s Asian-owned business in a new scavenger hunt

What’s the name of the Filipino purple yam commonly used in desserts at Knoxville’s only Asian bakery Girls Gotta Eat Good? What staple Korean side dish does Seoul Brothers have on its menu?

These are just two of the questions that are part of the scavenger hunt local business owners Jessica Carr and Vic Scott created to honor Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

The hunt requires participants to use an online questionnaire to learn about several Asian-owned businesses in Knoxville and about various Asian cultures. The winner will receive a package featuring gift cards, menu items and merchandise from eight of the participating Asian-owned businesses.

“This is a great moment to educate the public about all the different facets of the different Asian cultures,” said Scott, who co-owns Seoul Brothers with her brother Josh Coates.

“The Asian continent is huge and there are so many different cultural experiences that we have as individual countries that people just assume it’s all one big blanket culture and it’s not,” she added.

The contest is helping to break that misconception. Scott and Carr both say that since the hunt began earlier this month, it has opened a dialogue about specific Asian cultures between owners and customers. Plus social media interactions have increased and customers are adding events like the annual Knox Asian Festival to their August calendars.

“(The scavenger hunt is) a great way for all of us to come together and say like, ‘Hey, we’re Asian and we’re proud, and we’re here and we’re part of the Knoxville Community,’ and we just want to share that with everyone else as well,” said Carr, owner of Girls Gotta Eat Good.

Showing pride in their Asian-American backgrounds through their work is paramount for Carr, who’s lived in the South her entire life, and Scott, who grew up in the East Tennessee Tri-Cities area.

“I grew up riding in trucks and doing all the things that we do here in East Tennessee that, you know, we love,” Scott said about her childhood. “We go hiking in the mountains and all that kind of stuff, and we enjoy Southern food. We cook Southern food.”

“I’m a Southern woman and I’m an Asian woman,” Carr said. “I’m trying to tell people (my desserts are) not some foreign or exotic dessert(s). This is something that you recognize, that’s very familiar, just with an Asian ingredient added to it.”

Carr was disappointed after opening her bakery in 2020 and realizing that it was a rarity for Knoxville’s Asian communities to be celebrated. She felt little thought was put into last year’s AAPI Heritage Month locally.

“I just thought: Why don’t we just do it ourselves?” she said.

So, she called Scott and reached out to other businesses like Hey Bear Café, Fai Thai Kitchen and Ramen Bones. They were all eager to contribute.

“Being able to collaborate with these other Asian businesses is amazing in that I get to experience more of their culture. I get to share their stories with the Knoxville community,” Scott said.

If you’d like to get in on the fun and learn more about Asian culture in the process, you have until May 27 to complete the APPI scavenger hunt and submit your answers online.

The questionnaire can be found here or through links in the bio sections of their Instagram accounts @girlsgottaeatgood and @seoulbrothersknox.