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Interview: Jamie Oliver | Jamie's Kitchen

THE BOOK Jamie's Kitchen by Jamie Oliver (Hyperion), $39.95, 333 pages, color photos.

THE GIST Instantly accessible, high-flavor dishes based on Oliver's Jamie's Kitchen TV series and organized by cooking technique.

THE IDEAL READER The unfussy cook who's charmed by Oliver's jaunty style.

THE EXTRAS Step-by-step how-to photos.

BACKGROUND Born in Clavering, Essex, England; lives in London.

EDUCATION Attended Westminster Catering College.

EXPERIENCE Oliver was working at London's River Cafe when he was discovered by the BBC. He was then given his own cooking show, The Naked Chef, by Optimum Television. He is currently chef and owner of Fifteen restaurant, in East London, where each year 15 disadvantaged youths train to become chefs.

HOW HE FELL IN LOVE WITH COOKING"I grew up in my parents' pub, The Cricketers, in Clavering. The focus there was on organic local ingredients. I never sat still and was always looking for pocket money, so my dad put me to work podding peas and washing up. When I was eight I started cooking."

PREVIOUS BOOKS The Naked Chef, Happy Days with the Naked Chef and The Naked Chef Takes Off. "I call Jamie's Kitchen 'Book Four' because there are so many different names for it in the 35 different countries where it's published."

WHY HE WROTE JAMIE'S KITCHEN "In my other books, I just share my favorite recipes. Book Four is all about techniques: chopping, sautéeing and a bunch of others. So far, I am most proud of this book, because it really teaches cooking."

MENTOR "My mate Gennaro Contaldo, who runs the genius restaurant Passione here in London. He taught me to make bread and pasta and helps my students and takes me to Italy to show me things. We've gone on trips where he's made me pull the car over to grab some wild fennel growing by the side of the road."

MOST INSPIRING MOMENT "About a year ago, I was filming in London outside a chocolate shop, and there on the street was a homeless guy eating a bag of Poilâne bread, which is made in Paris and is, like, the most expensive bread in the world. I asked him how he'd gotten the bread, and he told me that he'd used his begging money to buy it. It was amazing. That day changed my whole year. I wrote a story about it."

FAVORITE HOME-COOKING TECHNIQUE Roasting. "I like to cook the meat, vegetables and potatoes in one pan. You just put it in the oven--it cooks, and you know it's just getting better and better. Then you can go to the pub for a few pints with your mates. Finally, you put the pan right on the table. It's no work at all."

HOME-COOKING TECHNIQUE THAT REQUIRES THE MOST PATIENCE Bread baking. "It's a science, and learning about it can be an absolute bore. My book makes the process really fun and easy."

ULTIMATE COMFORT FOOD A bacon sarnie (sandwich).

ULTIMATE DISCOMFORT FOOD Cods' ballocks (testes). "I ate them once in Japan--never again."

INGREDIENT OBSESSION "I am a chile freak. I keep creating more and more spiced-up dishes just so I can experiment with them."

MUSIC HE LIKES TO LISTEN TO WHILE COOKING Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The White Stripes. "All my old stuff, mainly."

FAVORITE U.K. RESTAURANTS "In London, they're St. John, Passione and River Cafe. Also, near Cambridge, there's a restaurant called the Fat Duck that just got its third Michelin star. The chef, Heston Blumenthal, does these combinations like egg-and-bacon ice cream that actually work."

FAVORITE U.S. RESTAURANTS "Anything that Alice Waters does, or Mario Batali. And Jean-Georges Vongerichten's restaurants are always pretty special. Nobu Matsuhisa is really good; I've been to a few of his places, and they're so consistent."

FOOD TREND "I think people in the States are going to see more North African food and Asian street food, like the spicy stuff that Jean-Georges Vongerichten is doing at Spice Market, his new restaurant in New York City. Soon you're going to see that type of cuisine here, there and everywhere."

COOKBOOK TREND Collections of chefs' home recipes. "People want to know what kind of burger Charlie Trotter makes for his dinner and what type of pasta Mario Batali cooks at home. In the early nineties, chefs were doing loads of pretentious cookbooks, but people don't really want that now."

COOKING TIP "Before you start, be sure to get your pans really hot."

DINNER-PARTY STRATEGIES "Make a list of everything you need to do. Get rid of the keys, the cookie jars, all the sweet, lovely family clutter, and put it in a cabinet so you have room to lay out your plates."

Published December 2004
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