Gordon Ramsay is catching heat from his Puerto Rican fans and fellow culinary experts.
The controversy began last week, when the celebrity chef posted an episode of his YouTube series “Scrambled: On the Road.” The video in question featured Ramsay putting his own spin on “pegao,” which he referred to as a “beautiful” Puerto Rican rice dish.
“How do you elevate that? How do you lift that up to the next level?” he asked in the episode before proceeding to create a dish consisting of onions, garlic, seasoned chicken, spicy sausage, a fried egg, and rice. “… The beauty of this dish is that it’s a staple – nothing fancy but the flavor profile is unique.”
Though some viewers expressed frustration over Ramsay’s attempt to “elevate” a foreign dish, most critics were upset that the chef had mislabeled the food. The meal Ramsay had prepared closely resembled “arroz mamposteao,” rather than “pegao,” which turns out isn’t actually a dish.
Twitter users pointed out that “pegao”—a colloquial term that translates to “stuck”—is simply used to describe the thin layer of rice that sticks to the bottom of a pot when making traditional Puerto Rican fare.
“Not a single Puerto Rican on this earth makes that or calls it ‘pegao,’” one user wrote. “Pegao is just the crunchy rice that sticks to the bottom of the rice cooker or the pot when cooking fresh rice. That’s it and every single puertorriqueño will tell you that. This? This is blasphemy.”
“This is what happens when they don’t bother to learn even the basic vocabulary behind the dishes they’re making, let alone the cultural concepts,” another commented. “I wonder if they will ever understand that a culture’s cuisine isn’t just about ‘recipes.’”
Jessica van Dop, a Puerto Rican content creator based in D.C., questioned whether Ramsay or his team even bothered to consult with Puerto Rican chefs prior to filming the episode.
The self-proclaimed “food connoisseur” then posted a link to her video on how to make arroz con gandules, a Puerto Rican dish that consists of rice and pigeon peas: “Bonus: you get pegao by default and you don’t have to break out the cast iron & butter like @GordonRamsay,” she wrote.
Ramsay has yet to address the controversy, but it’s worth noting that the episode’s title has changed in wake of the backlash. It was originally labeled: “Can Gordon Ramsay Elevate a Puerto Rican Rice Dish?,” but now reads: “Can Gordon Ramsay Make a Puerto Rican Crispy Rice Dish?”