5 minutes with . . . Jamie Oliver
PUBLISHED: 14:05 23 September 2013 | UPDATED: 15:40 23 September 2013
Gina Long talks to the celebrity chef and entrepreneur about holidays in Suffolk, cooking with kids and ... carpentry
Tell me about your relationship with Suffolk?
I’ve spent many happy holidays in Suffolk over the years. Mum and dad have a holiday home there, and Jools and I still go back now with our own kids. My right-hand girl, Louise, has a house in the same village, and introduced me to the gang at Orford Primary School five years ago when we launched the Kitchen Garden Project. They were willing to take the plunge and give it a go. Their head teacher Stephen, Kate and all the team have been really open to helping out and trialling lots of materials. We’re now piloting the project around the UK, but Orford will always have a special place in my heart.
Suffolk is where the roots of the project really lie. I’ve managed to get down and visit the team and the kids there first hand and they’ve been amazing. It’s so inspiring to see how their cooking and growing reinforces what they’re learning in their core subjects. Because Orford took the leap of faith with us, the project is now something the foundation can help get out into schools up and down the country. This is about setting kids up early with vital skills that will last them a lifetime.
If you didn’t do what you do now, what other job appeals?
One day I will be a carpenter. I like carpentry and the amazing things you can make, and can see myself going that way.
You are so incredibly successful – what motivates you to get out of the bed in the morning?
Ultimately I love what I do and I get excited all the time about new projects and opportunities. I have a great team of inspiring people around me, and I feel a responsibility to them that certainly gives me a kick up the arse to get out of bed each day! I also still have two kids under the age of five, so early mornings are a given! Seriously though, having Jools and all the kids at home is a great support, and I have to get up early to see them before work in the morning.
What, if any, posters did you have on your bedroom wall as a child?
Star Wars and Gremlins. When I was little the local video shop used to give away posters so I got a lot from there when the window displays changed. The Stone Roses too.
What’s your favourite food?
I get asked this one a lot, and I have to say it’s hard to answer. It tends to change with what’s been inspiring me lately, places I’ve visited or people I’ve met. But generally, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see some lemon and chilli in my favourites, and my mum’s roast chicken is always up there at the top. For me, it’s all about embracing what’s seasonal and at its best, and cooking simple, delicious dishes that really celebrate those ingredients.
What food do you hate?
I’m pretty open-minded to be honest. There’s not much I won’t try. I’m not great with really dodgy things like testicles and more unusual cuts, but I give everything a go at least once.
Describe yourself in three words.
Chef, Dad, Geek.
What one thing are you most proud of?
Apart from my beautiful family of course, I think I’d have to say Fifteen. I risked a lot when we set it up, and it was always going to be a gamble, but more than a decade later we’re still going strong. We’ve just had a total refurbishment and shaken up the menu with a new head chef, the lovely Jon Rotherham, who’s an old friend from Essex. I couldn’t be more excited about where it’s headed as a restaurant. What’s incredible though, is that we’ve managed to keep the apprentice progamme going alongside the running of the restaurant, and every year we’ve taken on a group of new apprentices and trained them for careers in the industry. Ninety per cent of our graduates regard their time at Fifteen as a positive, life-changing experience, and that’s what it’s all about. Here’s to the next ten years!
Where’s your favourite place in the world?
It would have to be my garden in Essex – hanging out there with Jools and the kids, lazy days, outdoor meals, growing and cooking together.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I used to like drinking the juice out of cans of tinned peaches.