The Jamaica-born chef who once taught Jamie Oliver how to cook jerk chicken has weighed in on the controversy surrounding his new jerk rice product.
Oliver is facing accusations of cultural appropriation after launching the new range, with Labour MP Dawn Butler describing the branding as “not OK” in a tweet which has been widely-shared.
Now, Levi Roots, creator of the hugely successful Reggae Reggae jerk sauce, has addressed the criticisms surrounding the British chef, describing the product as “a mistake”.
"I do think it was a mistake by his team,” he said on Good Morning Britain.
Roots, who famously won a £50,000 investment on Dragon’s Den for his unique Caribbean sauce in 2007, was joined on the segment by TV chef Rustie Lee, who took issue with jerk flavouring being used for rice, when it is traditionally used on meats and/or vegetables.
“At the end of the day, I’ve tasted it and it tastes like Caribbean rice and beans with flavours in it,’ she said of Oliver's product.
“The jerk part of it is barbecue and you can’t barbecue rice.”
Lee added that Jamaicans would be offended by the product, describing it as “getting onto a bandwagon” by branding his rice as Caribbean, particularly when it excludes key ingredients such as allspice.
However, Levi disagreed and suggested that Oliver’s ”mistake” was purely down to a matter of missing the ingredients, rather than likening it to an example of cultural appropriation.
“I don’t think it’s that serious," he said, "I really don’t. Caribbean food for it to get to where we want it to get to we need to change things.
"You’ve got to know what jerk is. Jerk is either a method of cooking or it’s the marinade itself.
“If it doesn’t have these four things in it then you can’t refer it to jerk. You cannot call it jerk if it doesn’t have allspice.”
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