Restau­rant DAY”


Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Joe Hildebrand - Words by VICTORIA HANNAFORD

It’s not so much that Jamie Oliver doesn’t suf­fer fools, it’s just that he’s come up with very ef­fec­tive strate­gies for deal­ing with them – es­pe­cially at Christ­mas. “You need to re­view who’s com­ing for the oc­ca­sion,” is his ad­vice. “Sketch out any sort of li­a­bil­i­ties; there’s al­ways one.”

Oliver re­veals that it’s he, rather than wife Jools, who’s in charge of the fes­tive meal, which usu­ally in­volves an in­flux of fam­ily and friends to his house. The chef ad­mits that with a long guest list and an ever-ex­pand­ing brood – he and Jools wel­comed their fifth child, son River Rocket, into the fam­ily this year – he doesn’t do all of the cook­ing.

“I del­e­gate a few bits and pieces at Christ­mas,” he says, but adds that there are al­ways those who can’t be as­signed com­pli­cated culi­nary tasks.

“Nor­mally most peo­ple have one slightly gompy brother com­ing. I look at who’s com­ing and think, ‘Right, they can’t cook, their com­mon sense is low, so I’m go­ing to give them a spe­cific brand of whiskey and port and get them to buy that. How can they get that wrong?’

“Andy the Gas­man is my ver­sion of that,” he says of a child­hood friend, who’s still in Oliver’s in­ner circle. “You know, ab­so­lutely can’t be trusted for any­thing other than fol­low­ing a text.”

Speak­ing to Stel­lar on the phone from his home in the UK, it’s a rare day off for the culi­nary jug­ger­naut. Al­though tech­ni­cally not on the clock, he’s still busy run­ning his global empire from the house he shares with his large fam­ily.

“I’m at home to­day; it doesn’t hap­pen of­ten,” he says. “The kids are on hol­i­days, so I’ll be do­ing a bit of work from home.”

The chef and best­selling au­thor – he’s sold more than 37 mil­lion books world­wide – has re­cently pub­lished Jamie Oliver’s Christ­mas Cook­book, which, while of­fer­ing his take on sea­sonal clas­sics, also primes read­ers to embrace the pos­si­bil­ity of a fes­tive calamity.

In the ded­i­ca­tion he pays trib­ute to his late nan and re­counts the Christ­mas meal when her pa­per crown caught on fire as she was reach­ing for some stuff­ing, set­ting her hair alight be­fore the flames were even­tu­ally ex­tin­guished by Oliver’s fa­ther.

“When you think about your most vivid food mem­ory, it’s pretty much got to be Christ­mas. When my poor nan be­came a hu­man can­dle and got all roughed up by my dad to put her out, for a five-year-old boy, that was quite trau­matic,” he says with a laugh.

wished he hadn’t made the com­ments, Oliver may have had a point. His net worth is es­ti­mated to be more than $400 mil­lion, while Ram­say’s is thought to be closer to $200 mil­lion. While nei­ther chef is in dan­ger of cry­ing poor, it’s easy to see why Oliver called out the root of their ri­valry as envy.

And be­hind Oliver’s laid-back ban­ter, it’s clear a sharp business acu­men has helped build that lu­cra­tive empire which takes in revenue from books, a mag­a­zine, the pro­duc­tion com­pany that cre­ates his TV shows, smart­phone apps and restau­rants around the world, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia.

If you were in any doubt about how he runs his global business, the fate of Jamie’s Ital­ian restau­rants here is quite il­lus­tra­tive. When it was an­nounced in June this year that the hos­pi­tal­ity com­pany that owned the lo­cal fran­chise rights, Key­stone Group, had been placed into re­ceiver­ship, Oliver was re­ported to be fu­ri­ous. He was said to be par­tic­u­larly in­censed that the six Aus­tralian ea­ter­ies un­der his name – which were still very pop­u­lar with din­ers, had al­ways turned a profit and were some of his best per­form­ing restau­rants world­wide – were part of the Key­stone col­lapse and would be put on the mar­ket by the re­ceivers. Oliver clearly didn’t en­joy his name be­ing as­so­ci­ated with Key­stone’s fail­ure.

News came early in Novem­ber that the Jamie Oliver Group had been nom­i­nated the pre­ferred bid­der and would be buy­ing back the lo­cal fran­chise for Jamie’s Ital­ian restau­rants, in a move that en­sured Oliver could keep a closer eye on his restau­rants’ oper­a­tions in Aus­tralia. Lo­cal staff are also said to be de­lighted with the sale, as it means their new boss is one of the most well-known chefs in the world. A state­ment an­nounc­ing the pur­chase re­it­er­ated that Key­stone go­ing into re­ceiver­ship “was in no way a re­flec­tion on the per­for­mance or success” of Oliver’s restau­rants.

But no mat­ter how much fame and pros­per­ity Oliver has achieved in his 17-year ca­reer, his fam­ily pro­vide the ul­ti­mate re­al­ity check – par­tic­u­larly at Christ­mas.

“I con­stantly tell my kids that I’m cool, and they look at me as if they’ve smelt some­thing re­ally bad and they just don’t buy it in the slight­est. Like ev­ery other dad on the planet, I have the same is­sues with try­ing to just let them know that I’m funny, I’m cool; I haven’t been able to le­git­i­mately land any of that yet,” he says.

And while his fam­ily’s fes­tive rit­u­als in­clude Oliver hav­ing a nap in the af­ter­noon, for the chef the best part of the day nat­u­rally comes back to their yule­tide lunch.

“I think it’s re­ally nice if every­one does a lit­tle bit, then every­one’s re­ally proud of the whole thing. Ob­vi­ously back at the ranch, I’m hold­ing the whole thing to­gether with the meat, ve­g­ies, pota­toes, gravy and all that malarkey. Be­fore you worry about ev­ery­thing, you get your meat, pota­toes and gravy down. If they’re gor­geous, then ev­ery­thing else is just prop­ping it up, re­ally. And Jools does the ta­ble and makes it all look pretty.

“The per­fect Christ­mas is that bal­ance be­tween enough stuff that you’re re­ally com­fort­able with, but then a few sur­prises. Every­one’s got their rhythm and their pat­tern; when the time comes we all sit in the same place. Why? I don’t know, we never agreed to it. There are these other lit­tle things; I nor­mally end up in front of the fire asleep, gen­er­ally with Only Fools And Horses in the back­ground. That seems to hap­pen ev­ery year, some­how. But these days I get wo­ken up by Buddy jump­ing from a great height onto me, which is not agree­able. It’s a new tra­di­tion, and it’s only hap­pened for the past two or three years. All I’m gonna say is what goes around, comes around.”

Jamie Oliver’s Christ­mas

CHEF SPE­CIAL (clock­wise from left) Jamie Oliver trim­ming the tree with son Buddy; en­joy­ing the sea­son’s gifts; at work in front of the cam­era; with wife Jools and their

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