Jamie Oliver was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth — but with a wooden spoon in his hand.
The TV chef’s parents owned a pub in Essex north east of London, and Oliver helped his parents in the kitchen of The Cricketers from a very early age.
“My mum and dad would never give me a thing, they would make me earn it,” says Oliver. “I worked a lot, and I enjoyed it.”
Oliver will be serving up a full menu of television programs on the Food Network in the months ahead. The network is premiering his new four-part special, Jamie’s Ministry of Food, starting next Thursday, along with two one-hour specials, Eat To Save Your Life and Jamie’s Fowl Dinners later this summer.
It seems to be “classic Oliver” to have more than one thing on the go. Those who say that men cannot multi-task have not met the chef.
He has had a few years to practise, though. Since he was “discovered” at 21 when the BBC did a program on Italian food, which was filmed in the restaurant where Oliver was a sous chef, the now 33-year-old chef has lived life in the fast lane.
He has had more than 10 TV programs, published more than 10 cookbooks, turned semi-criminal youngsters into star chefs at his 15 restaurants and made the British government invest millions of pounds in the improvement of the unhealthy food served in the country’s schools.
He has also cooked for U.S. President Barack Obama, amongst others, and had three daughters — the newest one earlier this year.
“Sometimes I pinch myself and think, ‘F— me, I just cooked for 20 world leaders’ or ‘I just had the third kid — is that me?’ But I’ve always felt ready,” he says. “At 21, when I did The Naked Chef, I never said I was the best chef in the world, but there were some things that I was bloody good at and I felt completely confident sharing that.”
Oliver has no plans whatsoever to slow down even though there is — in his own words — a piece of paper telling him what he will be doing every single day, every hour for the next 18 months.
“I could retire, but why would I? I feel young and I still have a lot of dreams,” he says. “I don’t think me sitting down will help me fulfill them. Being commercial but having a heart is the Holy Grail. I think our generation and those who are younger like to feel like we’re part of something that makes a difference, adds value, makes the world a better place.”
If you watch
• Jamie’s Ministry of Food: After campaigning for better food in British schools, Oliver tackles the growing obesity crisis. Using the post-Second World War British “Ministry of Food” as his inspiration, he aims to get household’s cooking fresh food every day. The four-part series begins airing June 4, at 9 p.m. ET on the Food Network
• Oliver’s documentary Eat To Save Your Life airs July 9, while Jamie’s Fowl Dinners airs on July 5.
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