Jamie Oliver

Chef Jamie Oliver is a man after our own hearts at Woman’s Weekly, thanks to his mis­sion to stop food waste and change peo­ple’s eat­ing habits

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Thanks to his many restau­rants, TV shows and cook­books that fly off the shelves, Jamie Oliver is a rich man. But when the su­per-chef is mak­ing meals for his wife, Jools, and their five chil­dren, he be­haves more like a cook on a bud­get. He uses up ev­ery bit of food and then starts get­ting cre­ative with the left­overs.

‘I just hate b **** y waste,’ says Jamie in his typ­i­cally forth­right way, when we meet to chat about his latest book and TV show about quick and easy five-in­gre­di­ent meals.

Friendly and chatty, Jamie tells funny sto­ries about his life at home and feed­ing his kids. He also brings us up to date on his school din­ners cam­paign and is full of ideas about how to avoid throw­ing out food.

‘Wast­ing food just makes me feel bad and wrong – about 40% of the food peo­ple buy is wasted,’ says Jamie, 42. ‘I think left­overs are a cook’s big­gest gift, be­cause they give you a head start on your next meal.’

Jamie rat­tles off ex­am­ples of how he uses left­overs at home. For ex­am­ple, he’ll boil up a whole bag of new pota­toes even if he only needs a small por­tion. ‘Then I’ll have new pota­toes in the fridge wait­ing, and I can fry them up and have them hot, or dress them and have them cold.’ If he makes bread on a Satur­day, he’ll make ex­tra dough to freeze for pizza bases.

‘In­stead of cook­ing for that meal only, al­ways cook for an­other,’ he says, warm­ing to his theme. ‘And make your freezer your best friend. If I make a stew, I wouldn’t make it for four, but for eight or 10 and put the rest in a Zi­ploc bag, la­bel it with a Sharpie and stick it in the freezer. Lay it flat to freeze, then line all the bags up like a Pen­guin Books li­brary of ready meals, sauces and sides. Ev­ery­thing can be frozen!’

At his North Lon­don home, Jamie’s pride and joy is his chest freezer (‘I know that sounds geeky, but it’s true,’ he says), which helps him and Jools save time when feed­ing their chil­dren – Poppy, 15, Daisy, 14, Petal, eight, Buddy, seven, and one-year-old River.

‘Jools uses it to feed the baby,’ he ex­plains. ‘I make food for

him with no salt and freeze it in ice-cube trays – some of it chunky, some of it smooth – and she can whip out a smor­gas­board of flavours and tex­tures when she needs to.

‘Ba­si­cally, my ad­vice is: “Ev­ery time you cook, make it count.” And that way you’ll also have less food waste.’

No­body knows that bet­ter than Jamie, who is as busy as ever, with his busi­ness em­pire on one hand and hec­tic home life on the other. Meal­time for a large fam­ily can be ‘colour­ful and a bit on the edge,’ chuck­les Jamie, ex­plain­ing that the wide range of ages be­tween his kids means they of­ten want dif­fer­ent meals and some­times refuse to eat a par­tic­u­lar dish.

‘Usu­ally some­body’s cry­ing, or tells me they don’t like some­thing they’ve spent the last month eat­ing,’ he sighs. Of­ten he won’t re­lent when they are be­ing dif­fi­cult, but he ad­mits for an easy life he’ll some­times grab some­thing from the freezer to tempt a re­luc­tant eater. ‘You need dif­fer­ent ideas and strate­gies,’ he says. ‘Anar­chy could be 30 sec­onds away.’

Of course, Jamie’s kids eat very healthily, and he has been vo­cal for more than a decade about feed­ing the na­tion’s chil­dren well, too. After launch­ing his school din­ners cam­paign in 2005, Jamie was thrilled when David Cameron’s gov­ern­ment in­sti­tuted free school meals for all in­fant pupils in 2014 – and was fu­ri­ous when the Con­ser­va­tive man­i­festo an­nounced plans to scrap the plan and re­place it with free break­fasts for chil­dren up to the age of 11 in­stead. How­ever, the party re­versed this de­ci­sion after the elec­tion.

Jamie, who sees it as a tem­po­rary vic­tory, has some choice words about the cur­rent gov­ern­ment’s pos­si­ble lack of com­mit­ment to the lunch plan. ‘Who­ever is run­ning the coun­try is en­trusted with child health,’ he says. ‘I know they’ve got a lot to worry about, but if you get child health right, you can get ev­ery­thing else right – the dis­eases that cost the NHS so much money, like di­a­betes and obe­sity, start in child­hood. I’ll keep bleat­ing on about it.’ We ex­pect noth­ing less.

Cer­tainly the recipes in Jamie’s new book, 5 In­gre­di­ents: Quick & Easy Food, are de­li­cious-look­ing meals to tempt even the most re­luc­tant cook. ‘Em­bar­rass­ingly, it’s taken me 20 years to write this book – I should have done it ages ago!’ he says with a laugh. ‘What could be sim­pler? It’s calm, con­fi­dence-boost­ing and straight­for­ward. Don’t have a take­away – cook in­stead. You prob­a­bly have a lot of the in­gre­di­ents at home al­ready.’

In per­son, Jamie is easy to like – thought­ful, funny and a bun­dle of en­ergy. On top of that, his cam­paigns to get us all cook­ing from scratch and im­prove chil­dren’s health have made him a na­tional trea­sure. He was awarded an MBE in 2003 for ser­vices to hos­pi­tal­ity and it seems nat­u­ral (to us) that a knight­hood will fol­low.

‘Only if I de­serve one,’ Jamie replies. ‘I got an MBE too early – I don’t know if I de­served it, al­though I’m not knock­ing them for giv­ing it to me. I’ve done so much more since then. Maybe see what I man­age in the next 10 years.’ Sir Jamie Oliver? We can def­i­nitely see it.

Jamie’s Quick & Easy Food is on Mon­days at 8pm on Chan­nel 4.

5 In­gre­di­ents by Jamie Oliver (£26, Michael Joseph/Pen­guin) is out now

‘I got an MBE too early. I’ve done much more since then’

Jamie and Jools have been mar­ried for 17 years

Jamie has cam­paigned for schools to pro­vide health­ier meals since 2005

Jamie and Jools oliver with their chil­dren (from left) Daisy, Petal, river, Buddy and Poppy

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