When news dropped that Jamie Oliver was hitting up Hong Kong, our fellow Sassy Mamas in Asia were outside Jamie’s Italian before you could say ‘pasta’. Yes mamas, we have a big crush on the Food Revolution leader and couldn’t wait to catch up with him. Read on to find out what he wants to call his next child (if he has one), his plans to make food education mandatory for children and how he made his first roast chicken dinner when he was just 8 years old!
You and Jools have four children, any more on the way? What would you call the next one?
Our house is carnage with four children already and I’m doing everything I can to not have another one. Jools, my wife, has been in charge of the names so far (Poppy Honey Rosie, Daisy Boo Pamela, Petal Blossom Rainbow and Buddy Bear Maurice) so if we had another boy I’d call him Elvis Oliver… I think everyone would want to be his friend and he’d have no trouble getting a girlfriend with a name like that!
What was the first thing you learned how to cook?
I was about 6 when I first learned how to make eggs. I remember cooking with my dad beside a hot oven and learning how to heat the oil. I tried out boiled, scrambled, poached… you name it! I then moved onto roasts when I was 8 or 9. My dad enjoys seeing people busy, ha! So I was always helping him with the chopping or something or other.
What’s it like travelling with your family and do you have any tips?
Jools is scared of flying so I tend to go solo at the moment. But two of my kids are nearly teenagers and I’m sure they’ll want to come with me soon.
You feel really strongly about food education for little ones, how can mums get involved to help?
You can sign up your little one’s school to Food Revolution Day to take part in the movement. I think that all children should have the fundamental right to be educated about the food they eat every day. We work with schools through our Kitchen Garden Project to teach children about growing and cooking for scratch, our Ministry of Food programme inspires everyone to give cooking a go and our Fifteen Apprentice Programme supports those pursuing a career in the food industry. What I do is so much more than just running restaurants, I really care about helping everyone discover the joy of good food and will do anything I can to make that happen. Get into the kitchen and give it a go!
What do mealtimes look like in your house with the four kids?
We spend a lot of time saying no to processed and sugary food and educating them about nutritional food. Jools has the mum thing figured out down pat, so things are pretty smooth at home. We’re constantly teaching them about healthy, good, local food and encouraging them to explore. We love going to the market and cooking together too and I try to share my love of sustainable produce, fantastic ingredients and tasty food with them.
You use a lot of ingredients from other countries in your cooking, what’s your favourite one?
I’m obsessed with ginger, it just packs such a punch and you can do so much with it! It completely warms up the body and immediately gives a dish a bit of a kick, which is why I love it.
Jamie’s Italian seems to cater perfectly to families, was that the intention?
I wanted to do something Italian, comfortable and affordable. We use high-quality ingredients sourced from all over the world and if you ever want to check where something is from just ask the chef! I have a big family and I know what mums and dads want when they go out for a meal. Saying that it’s also somewhere where friends can go and relax and feel at home. A casual resto with easy food is what Jamie’s Italian does best.
Jamie’s Italian is at Dubai Festival City and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel