Chefs rally around MasterChef star Philli Armitage-Mattin
10th December 2020

Chefs rally around MasterChef: The Professionals star Philli Armitage-Mattin, 28, after keyboard warriors accused the ‘dirty Asian food specialist’ of cultural appropriation and racism

  • EXCLUSIVE: Aktar Islam has slammed ‘nasty social media users’ after Masterchef: The Professional finalist Philli Armitage Mattin was trolled online
  • Philli, 28, was accused of cultural appropriation after making Chinese dishes
  • Chef, who is of mixed Indian and English heritage, was slammed for saying she was an Asian food specialist despite training and working across south east Asia
  • Also accused of ‘racism’ for calling Asian food dirty, despite it being a term to refer to indulgent street food 

Chefs have rallied around MasterChef: The Professional finalist Philli Armitage Mattin who became embroiled in an online battle last week when Instagram users accused her of racism and calling Asian food ‘dirty’.  

Aktar Islam, who won Great British Menu in 2011 and Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word the year before, defended the 28-year-old, who is of mixed British and Indian heritage and slammed ‘cancel culture’ and ‘nasty social media users’. 

London-based Philli, who will compete in the final of the 13th series of the BBC Two show next week has since clarified her comments saying she has ‘never called Asian food ‘dirty’ in a derogatory manner. 

The star had ‘Dirty Food Refined’  ‘Asian Food  Specialist’ and the hashtag #prettydirtyfood in her Instagram bio, which drew allegations of racism and cultural appropriation, despite the fact ‘dirty’ is a common term referring to indulgent street food. 

Paul Foster, the chef-owner of the Michelin-starred Salt in Startford-Upon-Avon took to Twitter to defend the young chef, telling her to ‘ignore the haters’ and ‘it’s a phrase that is used with many different cuisines. 

Now, speaking exclusively to FEMAIL, Aktar, who was born in Birmingham to Bangladeshi parents and guest judged MasterChef this week defended Phili, saying that cancel culture can ‘stifle the progression of those pushing boundaries’. 

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Chefs have rallied around MasterChef: The Professional finalist Philli Armitage Mattin who became embroiled in an online battle last week when Instagram users accused her of racism and calling Asian food ‘dirty’ (pictured)


For years, Philli’s Instagram page has been full of photos of her travels in south east Asia, with her often sharing dishes cooked in and inspired by the area. She is pictured in Hong Kong, left and the Philippines, right

Philli, who will compete in the final of the 13th series of the BBC Two show next week has since clarified her comments saying she has ‘ never called Asian food ‘dirty’ in a derogatory manner

‘Philli is unique for her style. Whilst others are mostly rooted in the classical training of their respective kitchens, she looks to the street food culture of Asia; fried chicken from Korea and the Japanese savoury pancake, Okonomiyaki, are amongst some of her dishes in these early stages,’ he said. 

‘Philli has unfortunately became embroiled in a nasty case of cancel culture across social media. Her mistake was that she referred to the style of cooking as “dirty”, a colloquial term often attributed to fried foods, usually eaten with the hands. 

‘Google “dirty food” and you’ll find recipes for burgers, fried chicken, and hotdogs slathered in chilli. 

‘It’s the fuel that feeds the anti-clean living brigade, complete with bib and wet wipes. 

Taking to Instagram after being attacked, Philli said she was of mixed Indian and English heritage and shared a photo with her parents 

‘Philli used the term to describe the food she was cooking and in doing so became the target for a group who accused her of cultural appropriation, and, even worse, of implying that Asian food is dirty. 

‘The argument for them was a simple one; the stereotype of Asian takeaways and restaurants of bygone years were that of them being dirty in the hygienic sense. By using the term in any way, Philli was leaving the door of the coffin ajar,’ he added.

Philli has widely shared how her cooking was shaped by her travels in Japan and Indonesia and she has also worked at the Michelin-starred HAKU in Hong Kong, as well Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants in London.

Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL, Aktar, who was born in Birmingham to Bangladeshi parents and guest judged MasterChef this week defended Phili, saying that cancel culture can ‘stifle the progression of those pushing boundaries’.

Philli has widely shared how her cooking was shaped by her travels in Japan and Indonesia and she has also worked at the Michelin-starred HAKU in Hong Kong, as well Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants in London. She is pictured on MasterChef last night

For years, her Instagram page has been full of photos of her travels in south east Asia, with her often sharing dishes cooked in and inspired by the area. 

Last week, Philli was subjected to trolls who told her to ‘f*** off’ and that ‘white people shouldn’t cook Asian food’ after she shared a series of videos cooking cuisines of Korean, Chinese and Japanese origins.

Nasty trolls attacked her appearance and called her racist, while others took umbrage with her describing herself as an ‘Asian food specialist’.

Others said it was unacceptable to call her dishes ‘dirty food refined’ and implied she was referring to east Asian food as ‘dirty’. 

She later clarified her comments, saying that ‘dirty’ refers to indulgent street food, and that she has been ‘personally upset’ by ‘direct messages’. 


Pictured are dishes made by Philli, including Mackerel, left, and Korean fried chicken (right)

After a backlash on social media, Philli shared a statement saying that she ‘never refereed to Asian food as dirty’ 

Aktar, whose father and grandfather both ran curry houses in Birmingham, added that he’d been the victim of racist trolling.

The chef, who runs the Michelin-starred Opheem in Birmingham, focuses on using Indian flavours in a modern European,setting.  

‘I grew up knowing that [dirty] Asian stereotype all too well. Like many Asians growing up in 1980’s Britain I have been personally subjected to it.  

‘I’ve witnessed ignorant racism from those who assumed that all brown skinned people were the same, and more malicious attacks from the hardened racists,’ he added.

‘But the online attacks on a young chef like Philli don’t sit well with me. She is evidently passionate about the street food of Asia, from the hawker markets of Singapore to the corner carts of Mumbai. 

Philli became the victim of nasty trolls online, with many saying her cooking was cultural appropriation 

‘In my eyes the usage of the term has nothing to do with the environment it is cooked in, and everything to do with techniques used to be produced it and the manner it is eaten. 

‘Maybe it was misplaced, but I personally don’t see the difference between calling fried chicken from Kansas dirty or fried chicken from Korea. She has since taken to social media to apologise, clarify her stance, and remove the term, yet the vitriol continues,’ he added.

‘Perhaps my disappointment in this comes from a deeper place. I have long been the target of online trolls who are keen to attack my lack of Muslim values, despite me being an atheist. 


Philli, pictured, often shares videos and photos of her cooking to Instagram, despite horrible comments

Aktar Islam, who runs the Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Opheem in Birmingham, has said that cancel culture stifles creativity 

‘The primary thinking behind Opheem – my signature restaurant – was to provide an experience that all could enjoy, regardless of their beliefs or backgrounds. It is deeply personal to me, with the menu taking inspiration from my heritage and progressing it to a new refined level. 

‘We drew massive criticism for the use of pork on the menu, despite Indians eating 300 million metric tons of it per year and it being integral to the authenticity of the vindaloo that particular dish was inspired by.

‘Yes, my surname is Islam, but that has no bearing on who I am as a person, much in the same way I don’t make assumptions about people named Christian. This level of abuse is an everyday occurrence on social media.

‘I also understand how race and culture can inadvertently be used to stifle progressive artistic freedom. 

Aktar, who guest judged this week’s episode of MasterChef, said the trolling ‘stifles progression of those pushing boundaries’

‘I was scoffed at for opening an Italian restaurant, despite that particular cuisine and country being a favourite of mine. It became the only Italian in Birmingham to be listed in the Michelin guide. 

‘Was Jamie Oliver really deserving of the hate subjected to him for his jerk rice or paella recipes? Of course not, he was using his skill as a chef to reinterpret global flavours for a British palate.

‘Food, like any creative process, is very subjective. There is no right or wrong, no defining level of perfection. The reality is that our industry is bereft of take talented young chefs like Philli. 

‘We should be praising her for shining a spotlight on these dishes on primetime TV, not trying to erase her for a misplaced generic term of the style of food. 

‘The danger is that by attempting to cancel people when they clearly mean no harm, we are sending a message further afield that it is not okay to question the norms, and as such, stifle the progression of those pushing boundaries. 

‘I fear that by ostracising those using their ability to say something different, we risk turning the world into a far less colourful place.’

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