The Daily Show alum Samantha Bee highlighted the role of undocumented immigrants in America’s restaurant industry during a segment on her TBS show, Full Frontal, Wednesday night. Bee, the relentless and sometimes controversial Donald Trump critic, explained how immigrants play a part in every aspect of this country’s hospitality business, trying out her best Guy Fieri and Top Chef impressions along the way.
Bee, cosplaying as “Girl Fieri” complete with a vintage muscle car, visits South Philly Barbacoa in Philadelphia to speak with owner Cristina Martinez, an undocumented immigrant. Despite her legal status — she fled to America to escape domestic violence — Martinez does not fear showing her face and chatting on camera. “I’m not afraid to talk about the platform that chefs have because we have the power to change the system,” she says.
Speaking with some restaurant workers who chose to remain anonymous, Bee notes that undocumented immigrants are often vulnerable in the restaurant industry since unscrupulous owners can use their employees’ legal status as leverage. “They made me do jobs like unclog the toilet,” one cook tells the host. “I said, ‘But that’s not my job. I’m cooking. You pay me to cook.’”
In the second half of the segment, Bee meets with Top Chef judge Padma Lakshmi and playacts a QuickFire Challenge.
“I think the food landscape in this country would be completely different without immigrant labor,” Lakshmi says. She goes on to explain that immigrants are the unsung heroes of restaurants because they “will do the grunt work that nobody else is willing to do, because they have to support themselves, their families.”
As a way to say “thank you” to immigrants in the restaurant industry, Bee is selling a t-shirt on her official website. The garment is made in Puerto Rico, and proceeds benefit the Giving Kitchen, an Atlanta-based non-profit that provides emergency grants to restaurant workers in need.