Chefs defend MasterChef: The Professionals 2020 contestant Philli Armitage-Mattin, targeted by antiracism campaigners

The  Staff Canteen

MasterChef: The Professionals semi-finalist Philli Armitage-Mattin has been embroiled in a bitter online debacle after she inadvertently called herself an "Asian specialist," calling her style of cookery "dirty food refined" and including the hashtag "#prettydirtyfood in her Instagram Bio.


The chef, whose culinary repertoire was largely forged during travels across Asia, where she indulged in local cuisine and worked in award-winning kitchens including Michelin-starred HAKU in Hong Kong, has defended her love and respect for the region's food in all its diversity.

“I have never called Asian food ‘dirty’ in a derogatory manner. I have never used the phrase ‘dirty’ to reflect being unclean or unhygienic,” Philli wrote in a post last week. 

“The way I mean food to be ‘dirty’ is indulgent street food; food that comforts you as in going out for a ‘dirty burger.’ … It has never occurred to me to connect the words ‘dirty’ and Asian in the manner that I am accused of, that has never been my intention. I am truly sorry if this has caused any offence,” she added. 


A post shared by Chef Philli Armitage-Mattin (@chefphilli)


'Take no notice and crack on'

Despite the widespread criticisms, the chef has received much support from within the industry. 

"Take no notice and crack on," one comment by chef Alan Paton reads, with chef Sat Bains encouraging her to "Stay Strong."

Aktar Islam tweeted: "I think it's a terrible shame that a talented and passionate chef has to resort to having to explain herself and apologise for something that she had no intention of causing offence. She's only cooking and celebrating food she loves and certainly not looking to offend anyone."

'I am a 28-year old chef trying to work in what is a very tough industry'

Despite support from within the industry, the backlash has been huge, as campaigners around the globe called out the 28-year old, Gordon Ramsay Group-trained chef for perpeturating stereotypes about Asian cuisine and considering it a monolithic entity.

One comment on the post read: “Even if you didn’t intend the word ‘dirty’ to mean ‘unclean,’ you have failed to acknowledge or apologize for the harm that this kind of language causes to Asian populations. Especially during a time when racism towards Chinese people is rampant." 

Another post by author and antiracism campaigner Clarence Kwan said: “In a year where Chinese and East Asian communities have essentially been blamed for the pandemic and chastised as ‘dirty,’ this type of narrative is completely unacceptable."

Over the weekend, disparaging comments continued to trickle through.

One user said: "I hope this isn’t your take on an apology? This is the most passive aggressive, defensive statement. Why can’t you acknowledge that you’ve upset the Asian community? You have no issue appreciating our food but you can’t appreciate the people? Please take some time to reflect, and as many people have pointed out - really focus on the voices defending you VS the voices you’re ignoring/silencing and gaslighting."

Another comment reads: "This is a really disappointing attempt at an “apology”. Stop deleting comments, turn off the defence mode and do better please. The majority of the people defending you are not from the demographic you’ve offended - please take this into consideration."

Philli replied to comments calling her out for deleting replies and freezing comments on her social accounts last week, explaining that she didn't do so in order to 'silence' comments and asking that feedback be shared with her "in a constructive way."

She continued: "I am also learning and am trying to navigate an unfamiliar setting having never had a television / media profile before." 

Chef Philli and the MasterChef: The Professionals team are preparing a statement to issue to the press, and we will update this piece as and when they do. In the meantime, let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th December 2020

Chefs defend MasterChef: The Professionals 2020 contestant Philli Armitage-Mattin, targeted by antiracism campaigners