Jamie Oliver Returns: It’s Taken Me 20 Years to Make 'Quick & Easy Food'
Jamie Oliver reveals why he's going back to basics, how he's upset vegans and what he really thinks of The Body Coach Joe Wicks...
Bursting onto our screens in 1999 as The Naked Chef, it’s safe to say Jamie Oliver’s career has gone from strength to strength. Almost 20 years – and countless cookbooks, TV shows and a thriving restaurant empire – later, Jamie is, by his own admission, ‘a chef at the top of his game’ and is currently believed to be worth in the region of £240 million.
Jamie’s latest TV offering, however, sees him going back to basics. In Jamie’s Quick & Easy Food (Monday, August 21), starting on Channel 4 this week, the chef uses just five ingredients and some clever tricks and techniques to rustle up mouth-watering dishes in under 30 minutes.
“It’s taken 20 years to make this show,” admits the father-of-five. “It just struck me that having a large amount of ingredients is an incredible barrier to people either cooking, or not. I wanted to get as many people as possible to just have a go!”
Here, Jamie, 42, reveals why less is more when it comes to cooking…
Was it tricky sticking to five ingredients for each recipe featured in the show?
“To begin with it was four, but then I thought if you cook a Jamie Oliver recipe, it’s always got to have a surprise. I wanted to give it that little something extra, so we went with five. It’s still super easy and most people probably have three of the five things in their cupboards already, so they’ve only got two things to buy; that’s how busy people live. It’s obvious really, but I hadn’t ever done it, so I’m glad I’ve done it now.”
What’s your top time-saving tip?
“Well, for my Sizzling Seared Scallops in the first episode, I serve it with mash and tell viewers they can save time by not peeling the potatoes before you mash them. For another recipe, there’s also a speedy cheat for the cleverest home-made bread using just flour… and yoghurt!”
Most will agree you’re the expert at quick and easy cooking. What do you make of Joe Wicks and his 15-minute meals?
“I’m a big fan of Joe. I think he’s probably doing more to get young people going from eating mostly rubbish to putting some decent stuff together. He might not be a chef or even a cook; he’s just a boy who loves food who’s a genius at connecting with people. In almost 20 years of me doing what I’ve been doing, he’s the only one that’s ever come close!”
When you began The Naked Chef, could you have predicted you’d achieve so much?
“Not at all. I came to London to put in five years of hard graft, learn some new skills, make some friends, then I was planning to go back to the country and run a pub. But then the TV and publishing thing kinda got in the way and this cooking job became something more than it was ever supposed to.”
You’ve always been more than ‘just a chef’, with your 2005 campaign to promote healthy school dinners and pushing to put a tax on sugary drinks…
“I was never political, ever! I’m a special needs kid who did badly at school, but the political side of food is interesting and I’m passionate about influencing it. If more than 40,000 children a year are having rotten teeth removed in hospital, only because of sugar, then tax it.
“The reason my School Dinners TV series and campaign worked is because everyone was telling me: ‘Go and sort that out’. So I did. You’ve always got to listen to people – and that’s easier now more than ever with social media.”
You’ve faced a backlash from vegans for promoting ‘higher welfare meat’ and activists have raided your restaurants…
“Oh, they hate me! But vegans generally don’t like people that eat meat. With vegans it’s either on or off whereas I’m all about stepping stones. I’m a major supporter of higher animal welfare, but they’re like: ‘You’re still killing them!’ I’m a chef at the top of my game, so if you want to generate publicity to make a point, you’re going to pick someone like me. I’m passionate about getting the public to eat more veg so, weirdly, I’m their biggest supporter. I just kinda get more grief as well!”
Do you cook with your kids [Poppy, 15, Daisy, 14, Petal, eight, Buddy, six and River, one] at home? Would you like them to follow in your footsteps?
“I try to get them all contributing to the dinner table whether it’s setting it up, clearing it, making a salad dressing or putting bits and pieces together. I do hope they follow in my footsteps, but I don’t know if they will. Buddy says he wants to, but he’s only six – he’s the only one of my kids who’s ever said: ‘I want to be a chef like daddy’.”
Jamie’s Quick & Easy Food starts on Monday, August 21 at 8pm on Channel 4 in the UK. This story originally appeared on What's On TV.