Jamie Oliver responds to cultural appropriation claims about his jerk rice

Jamie Oliver’s rice mixes garlic, ginger and jalapenos (Stefan Rousseau/PA) Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

TV chef and restaurateur Jamie Oliver has said he named his new product “punchy jerk rice” to show where he drew his culinary inspiration from, after he was accused of cultural appropriation by Labour MP Dawn Butler.

In a statement Oliver said: “I’ve worked with flavours and spices from all over the world my whole career, learning and drawing inspiration from different countries and cultures to give a fresh twist to the food we eat every day.

“When I named the rice my intention was only to show where my inspiration came from.”

On Saturday Ms Butler criticised Oliver’s decision to name the microwavable rice product after the Jamaican marinade, as it does not contain many of the ingredients traditionally used in it.

In a tweet the Shadow Equalities Minister wrote to 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. Levi Roots should do a masterclass.

“Your jerk rice is not OK. This appropriation from Jamaica needs to stop.”

Most variations of jerk marinade contain allspice and scotch bonnet peppers and often cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, brown sugar, ginger and salt.

Oliver’s rice mixes garlic, ginger and jalapenos “to create a jerk marinade with attitude”.

Celebrity chef Levi Roots, who successfully pitched his own jerk-infused Reggae Reggae Sauce on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, said Oliver’s decision to launch his jerk rice dish was a mistake.

Roots told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I do think it was a mistake by Jamie, either by him or by his team. Maybe he wasn’t actually involved in this.”

Roots, who was born Keith Valentine Graham in Clarendon in Jamaica, added he had shown Oliver how to make an authentic jerk chicken recipe on the Naked Chef star’s YouTube channel several years ago.