Jamie Oliver tells New Zealand 'You need a Kiwi version of me' as he launches latest cook book

Jamie Oliver and wife, Jools, from the book Super Food Family Classics. Photo / Paul Stuart
Jamie Oliver and wife, Jools, from the book Super Food Family Classics. Photo / Paul Stuart

Jamie Oliver has released a new book - a challenge to Kiwis.

The British celebrity chef and restaurateur known for his simple fare cooking empire, fighting for better food in British schools and his anti-obesity campaigns, has launched his latest book, Super Food Family Classics.

Healthy meal recipes run side-by-side with nutritional information, such as the number of fruit and vege portions in each dish, and a bumper back-section includes tips on tackling fussy eaters, budgeting and maintaining good gut health.

It's been a busy year for 41-year-old Oliver. He and his wife, Jools, welcomed their fifth child In August, a son they named River Rocket.

The laidback personality spoke exclusively to the Herald on Sunday this week, sharing his thoughts on the Kiwi food industry, the early days in his breakout persona of The Naked Chef, and the battle to improve diets around the world.

New Zealand had a lot to be proud of in its own food industry, but it was important to keep the foot on the pedal when it came to healthy eating, Oliver said.

The country needed its own Jamie Oliver to take on rising obesity and campaign for healthy eating, he said.

"Not being funny, but that's why you need a Kiwi version of me. Not that I'm saying I'm superman but CEOs and Governments are short term. They normally all change in four years. All of them.

"What really matters in food education, the food system and productivity is long term."

It was the "challenge of the planet" to get people eating more veges - and that could happen by finding ways to celebrate them.

"The challenge of the planet is to get people to eat more vegetables and as boring as that might sound, the most exciting food cultures in the world are all big on veg, whether it's pickles or salsas or sauces."

The most powerful thing is to learn to cook from fresh, Oliver said.

"If you can cook, you will save money. If you can cook, you will pass something on to the next generation. And it's fun."

That was what drew him in as a boy.

"In the early days, aged eight, really, it was fun. It was a little bit like making Lego. It was physical, there was a lot of banter and it was interesting. But really the reason I did it was for pocket money. Because I wanted to buy some Puma Dallas and some shell suits.

" [Later] I loved every minute of it. I think it's about everyone wanting to be good at something. I don't think it matters what it is. I just think it's quite nice to have a thing. It's pretty basic positive reinforcement. So I stuck to cooking."

Even he was surprised by his breakout, when his BBC show The Naked Chef debuted in 1999 and his cookbook of the same name became a #1 bestseller in the United Kingdom.

"The Naked Chef was completely nuts. It went to 80 countries really quickly. I remember it really clearly ... journalists used me to slag off the others because they were a bit worthy and fuddy duddy and not quite representing the youngsters and definitely not the women.

"But from my point of view, The Naked Chef was just me, my home, my music, my food, my friends."

- NZ Herald

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