Jamie Oliver: Controversy's always following me

Jamie Oliver's latest book is in response to the growing frustration of people who feel their supermarket bills have soared, and who want to make their food go further.Photo / Creative Commons
Jamie Oliver's latest book is in response to the growing frustration of people who feel their supermarket bills have soared, and who want to make their food go further.Photo / Creative Commons

No sooner does Jamie Oliver's latest cookbook hit the shops, than the Naked Chef goes and says something which whips up a frenzy.

"Yeah, controversy," he says, laughing. "There's always a bit of that following me."

The most recent furore surrounds his recent comments on low-income families eating junk food and spending their money on huge TVs, and immigrants working harder in his kitchens than young Britons.

The country's most famous chef arrives at his airy North London offices dressed in a blue checked shirt, cotton trousers and open-toed sandals, looking tanned and relaxed, having just returned from a family holiday in Cornwall.

"We had sun, the beach, surfing, great Cornish food, the kids seemed really happy," Oliver says. "I feel really close to my young ones. My two eldest are turning into ladies which is baffling me and taking me on some different journeys.

"Jools seems really happy, we are getting on really well. We had a good week."

Oliver, 38, and wife Jools, a designer and former model with whom he has four children - Poppy, 11, Daisy Boo, 10, Petal, four, and two-year-old Buddy - have been together 20 years. So what's the secret of their marriage?

"When you're in the public eye, you annoy people if you just say, 'I'm really happy and in love', because everyone wants to go and throw up in a bucket. What I've tried to do over the years is balance it by saying, 'We're just normal, we still argue like normal couples', and this, that and the other.

"Actually, what I never get the chance to say is, I absolutely love and adore her. She can be a pain in the backside but she's pretty amazing and a good person."

He returned from holiday to a storm over his remarks about modern-day poverty and "wet" work-shy British youths, and says he regrets the comments although priorities of how you feed yourself and your children is a massive subject.

"The reaction is really divided," Oliver says.

"For the people who think I'm being patronising, rude or offensive, of course I apologise. At the same time, I probably said it because of my continued passion that the knowledge of how to cook is without question the biggest luxury now."

His latest cookbook, Save With Jamie, he explains, is in response to the growing frustration of people who feel their supermarket bills have soared, and who want to make their food go further.

"People just wanted affordable, tasty food. They were caught between, 'Do I go out for a takeaway or do I save money?"'

Oliver and his family don't really do takeaways.

"Years ago I had a few chips on my shoulder about certain fast food purveyors but people like McDonalds are leading the way in mass fast food and buying British and Irish, 100 per cent organic meals and free-range eggs."

For the book, he wanted to devise dishes that were either a third or half the price of a takeaway. The result is meals that cost an average $2 a portion.

If people can't afford the cover price, he and his publisher, in partnership with The Reading Agency, have donated a copy of his new cookbook to every library in the UK.

There's something genuine about Oliver's passion and down-to-earth attitude, which has helped make him the most successful chef in the country.

How can British youths learn a better work ethic?

"To be honest, I think mums and dads have got to kick them.

"As a regular parent, I'm really worried about having even my own kids wrapped in cotton wool."

* Save With Jamie: Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less by Jamie Oliver is published by Penguin, rrp $65.

- PAA

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 19 Apr 2014 02:44:13 Processing Time: 457ms