Chef Jamie hits back in ‘jerk’ rice row as Rustie puts boot in Celebrity cook drops into his Birmingham restaurant
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.
> TV chef Jamie Oliver, left, with his mentor Gennaro Contaldo at his restaurant in the Bullring, Birmingham
> Rustie Lee