Chef Jamie hits back in ‘jerk’ rice row as Rustie puts boot in Celebrity cook drops into his Birm­ing­ham restau­rant

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - San­jeeta Bains Fea­tures Staff

CELEBRITY chef Jamie Oliver has branded a war of words over his ‘punchy jerk rice’ as “daft”.

The row was sparked last week when he was crit­i­cised by a Labour MP over a new prod­uct from his Jamie Oliver food range.

He was ac­cused of “cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion” by Dawn But­ler while oth­ers tweeted their ob­jec­tions when he la­belled one of his new prod­ucts ‘punchy jerk rice.’

But the celebrity chef hit back on Wed­nes­day as he dropped in to his Jamie’s Ital­ian restau­rant in Birm­ing­ham’s Bull­ring, where he was launch­ing a new book.

He was joined at the launch by his men­tor and fel­low TV chef Gen­naro Con­taldo.

Oliver said: “Some­times you’ve just got to say noth­ing be­cause it’s daft. That’s what I chose to do the other day.

“Any­thing I do will be overly scru­ti­nised. It’s the job I have and I’ve been do­ing it for 20 years for bet­ter or worse.”

Ms But­ler turned the on­line criti- cism into front page news when she said the prod­uct was not true to tra­di­tional Ja­maican jerk recipes.

She tweeted: “Jamie Oliver, I’m just won­der­ing do you know what Ja­maican jerk ac­tu­ally is? It’s not just a word you put be­fore stuff to sell prod­ucts. Your jerk rice is not ok. This ap­pro­pri­a­tion from Ja­maica needs to stop.”

Birm­ing­ham TV chef Rustie Lee, also weighed in, say­ing: “At the end of the day, I’ve tasted it and it tastes like Caribbean rice and beans with flavours in it. “The jerk part of it is bar­be­cue and you can’t bar­be­cue rice. Jerk goes onto meat, it doesn’t go onto rice.”

Oliver later in­sisted: “When I named the rice my in­ten­tion was only to show where my in­spi­ra­tion came from.” With his new book to plug, Jamie Cooks Italy, Oliver also re­vealed his Birm­ing­ham restau­rant was in line for a full re­launch. In re­cent months the chef ’s pro­file has taken some­thing of a bat­ter­ing.

In Fe­bru­ary it was re­vealed the Jamie’s Ital­ian chain had debts of £71.5 mil­lion and since Jan­uary 2017, 18 restau­rants have closed in the UK.

Any­thing I do will be overly scru­ti­nised

Oliver said: “We’re very lucky to have our restau­rant in Birm­ing­ham. The city was very much de­vel­op­ing when I opened here back in 2010 and it’s fas­ci­nat­ing how much it’s changed. The ca­sual din­ing sec­tor at the mo­ment is re­ally tough for ev­ery­one, but we will be do­ing a full re­launch for the Birm­ing­ham site in the next few months.

“When I closed my other restau­rants it was very painful for me – a lot of peo­ple lost their jobs.

“I’m not do­ing any­thing pre­ten­tious and posh. This is still a ca­sual din­ing place and peo­ple trust me for ca­sual food.

“I as­sure you, hand on heart, if you start look­ing at £11 chicken dishes, I chal­lenge you to find another chain that is do­ing a lovely free range chicken by a rep­utable farm. Ev­ery­one else is rat­tling out min­i­mum stan­dards. ”

There has been a steep rise in the num­ber chain restau­rants clos­ing branches cross the UK of late.

Ri­vals that have closed in Birm­ing­ham in­clude CAU and Hand­made Burger Com­pany.

Jamie Oliver

> TV chef Jamie Oliver, left, with his men­tor Gen­naro Con­taldo at his restau­rant in the Bull­ring, Birm­ing­ham

> Rustie Lee

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