Jamie Oliver: ‘Jools and I have strug­gled at times’

Jamie Oliver opens up on the tough­est year of his life – and how his fam­ily have helped him through those chal­lenges

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Contents -

‘I’ve got enough light in my life to bal­ance the not-so-nice dark­ness’

By his own ad­mis­sion, Jamie Oliver has had a tough year. Al­though his

5 In­gre­di­ents book was the UK’s best-sell­ing cook­book of 2017 and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing TV show sold to more than

120 coun­tries, the celebrity chef’s magic touch has fal­tered a bit when it comes to his restau­rants. A slump in the high street has af­fected his Jamie’s Ital­ian chain of eater­ies, forc­ing him to close 12 of the 37.

So it’s a slightly wea­rier Jamie we meet at his trendy open-plan of­fices in north Lon­don. He ad­mits he’s been work­ing evenings and week­ends since the res­tau­rant group got into trou­ble last Oc­to­ber, but he still man­ages to be the funny, up­beat celebrity chef we know of old.

He’s de­ter­mined that Jamie’s Ital­ian will flour­ish again, as he

cel­e­brates 10 years since the first one opened.

‘I’m very proud of hav­ing sur­vived 10 years,’ says Jamie, 43, set­tling onto a sofa. ‘Res­tau­rant years are like dog years, so 10 years is a very long time. It’s been a dark time, but I’ve got enough light in my life to bal­ance the not-so-nice dark­ness.’

The light in Jamie’s life to which he refers, and which light­ens his load after a long day spent crunch­ing num­bers in the office, is fam­ily.

‘I go home and see my kids, and that al­ways cheers me up,’ he says, re­fer­ring to his five chil­dren with wife Jools – Daisy, 16, Poppy, 15, Petal, nine, Buddy, eight, and 22-mon­thold River. Home is a big, pe­riod house with a large gar­den in High­gate, north Lon­don.

‘The idea is just to be there and play with them,’ con­tin­ues Jamie. ‘With the teenagers, I just keep telling them I love them. With Buddy and Petal, I spend lots of time bounc­ing on tram­po­lines and try­ing not to get shot by Nerf guns – they think it’s funny to try to get me in the nether re­gions!

‘To go back home to a 2-year-old baby ask­ing for an ap­ple is just ut­terly sweet. It works, it helps.

‘I’m fairly tough when it comes to busi­ness and get­ting knocked back, but when it gets to me, kids are an amaz­ing rem­edy.’

Jamie adds that his wife of nearly 18 years has been ‘mas­sively help­ful’ through­out the re­cent tur­moil in his res­tau­rant busi­ness, pro­vid­ing sta­bil­ity, kind words and per­sonal space when needed.

‘If I had a magic wand I couldn’t have in­vented a more sup­port­ive and kind wife,’ says Jamie. ‘I’ve never been hap­pier.’

Jamie’s house is a junk-food-free zone, of course. Jools, 43, tends to cook for the chil­dren, then he cooks for Jools in the evenings and for the whole fam­ily at week­ends. But Jamie says he wouldn’t tell off the older kids for vis­it­ing burger joints with their mates.

‘If they’re eat­ing good stuff at home the ma­jor­ity of the time, that’s what mat­ters,’ shrugs Jamie. ‘I think Jools would be more both­ered than me, to be hon­est.’

But deal­ing with teens has been a bit of a chal­lenge for them both, ad­mits Jamie with a laugh.

‘Jools and I have strug­gled at times,’ he says. ‘You have to re-tune from hav­ing a child to a young wo­man. Whether we’re pulling back or tight­en­ing up. That’s in our gift and we’re al­ways fi­ness­ing that, es­pe­cially with so­cial me­dia. We’re the first gen­er­a­tion of par­ents hav­ing to feel our way through that. If we have too many blips at home, I’ll take their phone away for a day.’

Jamie ex­plains that he’s also suf­fered per­sonal heart­break – ill­ness and death among fam­ily mem­bers and in his cir­cle of friends – de­tails of which he doesn’t want to share. ‘I’ve had a hand­ful of peo­ple I grew up with and fam­ily get­ting un­well or dy­ing and it’s just been rough,’ he sighs. ‘You know what they say: when it rains, it pours.’

But even go­ing through a dif­fi­cult time with his res­tau­rant busi­ness hasn’t pre­vented the in­de­fati­ga­ble Jamie from launch­ing a new cam­paign against junk food. Called #AdE­nough, it’s a bid to get the govern­ment to ban junk-food ad­verts be­fore the 9pm wa­ter­shed on TV. The cur­rent 6pm ban doesn’t go far enough, he says, when mil­lions of young­sters are watching shows like Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent and The X Fac­tor after that time.

‘We’ve had amaz­ing sup­port from peo­ple like Amanda Holden, Bear Grylls and Richard Bran­son,’ Jamie says en­thu­si­as­ti­cally.

He’s also proud that Jamie’s Ital­ian serves only sus­tain­able fish and higher wel­fare meat and pays staff higher than the min­i­mum wage.

‘Ten years ago, we stormed in and had an un­be­liev­able re­sponse and queues,’ says Jamie. ‘For the last five years, the mar­ket has just be­come re­ally com­pet­i­tive and the en­vi­ron­ment has changed. There’s tough com­pe­ti­tion. With op­ti­mism and en­thu­si­asm and with all the right things in place, I’m try­ing to save the busi­ness, which is about 2,000 jobs.'

Through it all, de­spite the dif­fi­cult times at work, Jamie says he doesn’t lose sight of what re­ally mat­ters. ‘I’ve got great kids, and Jools has helped a thou­sand per cent,’ he smiles. ‘That’s what it’s all about when this stuff hap­pens.’

The new sum­mer menu is avail­able at Jamie’s Ital­ian restau­rants now. See jamieo­liver.com/ital­ian

Au­gust 2016: the fam­ily greets baby River Jools is Jamie’s main­stay in tough times The young chef in 1999

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.