A one-man revolution

Don’t let his cheeky grin and laid-back persona fool you – Jamie Oliver is taking over the world. He’s won awards, ruffled the feathers of ministers in Parliament, cooked lunch for Tony Blair, met Bill Clinton and earned enough money to be named on the Sunday Times Rich List.

Not bad for a cheeky Essex chef who left school at 16 with no qualifications. Although Jamie Oliver modestly attributes his success to “being really lucky”, it’s clear that it’s down to pure hard work and determination.

Don’t stop him now

The ‘pukka’ star first bounded on to our TV screens in 1998 with The Naked Chef, but, not content with a cookery show, the 35-year-old embarked on a campaign to make a difference to our eating habits.

Through Jamie’s Kitchen – the second series of which was based in Australia – he trained disadvantaged youngsters and gave them jobs in his London restaurant Fifteen. Next, he turned his attention to the dire standards of children’s food with his Jamie’s School Dinners series. Since then, there’s barely been a year that he’s not on our TVs.

His series Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution – where he travelled across the United States teaching people to eat well (a tough challenge) – has just finished, but Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals, where he shows us how to cook quick but healthy meals, is on ourscreens now.

To top it all off, he’s just announced his Ministry Of Food campaign will open a healthy eating centre in Melbourne.

With all this going on, there doesn’t seem to be much time for anything else. But, in between the TV shows and the travel, Jamie married childhood sweetheart, former model Juliette ‘Jools’ Norton in 2000 and announced the birth of their fourth child – and first son – in September.And last month he opened a restaurant, called Barbecoa. So, where does he find time?

Your passion to make a difference is unquestionable. What drives you?
I’ve been really lucky because the food industry has been good to me and the public have been very supportive.

I’d like to be able to give something back and try to make food better for everyone; whether through fighting for better school meals, extending the amazingly successful Ministry Of Food centres or putting better quality on the shelves.

What’s the worst diet you’ve ever come across?
Some of the guys in Rotherham, Yorkshire, were living off takeaway food: kebabs, chips and burgers.  While some in Huntington, West Virginia, were just eating crisps and burgers every day.

Are Americans or the British harder to convince to be healthy?
People are better informed about food issues in the UK. It’s something we’ve been thinking and talking about for years.

Why do you think it’s important to change the way people eat?
We all have to eat. And what we choose to eat has an impact on our health, our happiness and the quality of our, and our children’s, lives.

Now, I’m all for treats, and if you look through my books, you’ll see that I’m not advocating beansprouts and salads every day, but I do think we should use fresh ingredients because it’s simple and food tastes better.

You’re a campaigning chef – are you unhappy with just a cookery show?
I love the cookery shows. Something like 30-Minute Meals is such a joy to do compared with Food Revolution because it’s just me in a kitchen doing something I love.

But I feel as though I’ve a duty to make the campaign programmes so that there’s someone to flag up these problems and try to find solutions. 

What’s your new restaurant like?
Barbecoa is different because it’s a partnership with a great chef called Adam Perry Lang. He’s travelled the world getting some incredible equipment so we can cook using wood and fire with tandoors, a Texan smoker, Robata grills… it’s just going to be the most amazing place to eat.  We’ve got views of St Paul’s Cathedral too.

You’ve got a new son and three daughters (see below). Do they ever eat junk food?
They don’t really.  Simply because it’s easier and quicker for me to make something tastier for them at home. The kids probably will when they’re older but right now they’re not interested.

You have already achieved so much – what’s next on your list?
I’m doing a Christmas show – something a bit different this year, so keep an eye out for that.

Win a £100 lunch at Jamie’s Fifteen

TNT has teamed up with Jamie Oliver to give one lucky reader the chance to win a meal for two at his restaurant, Fifteen.

The winner and a guest will be treated to a top-class lunchtime meal worth £100 in the Dining Room of the establishment at 15 Westland Place, London, N1 7LP (see fifteen.net)

For your chance to win: send an email to grabs@tntmagazine.com with “Jamie” in the subject line by noon on Friday, November 19, 2010.