Ode to Jamie

May 21, 2012

If the U.S. has Oprah, then the U.K. has Jamie Oliver.  If you’ve just taken part in Jamie’s Food Revolution on the 19th of May by hosting a healthy dinner party or event or if you are lucky enough to live in England and have had access to TV shows like Jamie’s Dream School, then you’re aware that the scope of Jamie’s mission goes far beyond starring in wholesome cookery shows.  Like the Oprah effect in American society, everything Jamie puts his mark on immediately increases in value and magically seems to have a wholesome, friendly, Jamie-like quality to it (even his 8-inch chefs knife).

A passionate leader like Oprah, Jamie doesn’t just want you to start cooking with confidence, he also wants to change the way schools feed children, moms and dads feed their families, and the way you feed yourself.  He wants to see teachers inspire the most detached and delinquent of students; he wants to share his adventurous world travel experiences with you so you think outside the box.  Jamie doesn’t just have his TV shows, he has 15 cookbooks, a magazine, a few restaurant chains, the Jamie Foundation and has shops in London where you can learn to cook like Jamie and purchase the same kitchen tools he uses – at least on his shows (Recipease).

So is it any wonder that I, a passionate foodie and big dreamer, was immediately drawn to this incredible figure?  Over the past 7 years, I’ve followed as many of his TV programmes as possible of the more than 20 that have graced British television sets, bought several Jamie kitchen appliances and tools (my Jamie tongs are high up there on the list of practicality and usefulness), and indulged in the Jamie magazine on many a painful public transport commute, but it all started with my Jamie at Home cookbook.  A book brilliantly categorized by season that celebrates British cooking and produce in a way so cozy and heartily that just looking through it brightens even the dreariest of rainy British days.  Having tried and tested them all, I can confidently say that the quality throughout all things marked Jamie is consistently high (and no, I don’t work for him!).

When I say that my appreciation for Jamie is huge, it’s a massive understatement.  More than his endearing use of vocabulary like ‘gorgeous’ and ‘whack’ (as in ‘whack in some red chili pepper’ or ‘preheat your oven to full whack’), it’s the way you can tell he has literally poured his heart and soul into all of these projects because he really wants to see change in the nation’s health and eating habits.  He really wants us to ENJOY our lives and food.  And if that’s not what a leader and role model should do, then I might be living in the wrong world.

Knee-deep in Jamie mania, I may reference Mr. Oliver quite frequently throughout my posts.  Don’t get me wrong – this is not an obsession – I don’t abide by or necessarily agree with all that Jamie promotes.  We have a different cooking style (I don’t try to make 3 or even 2-course meals in 30 minutes – too stressful!), we have a different accent (although I credit Jamie for my adoption of the English pronunciation of ‘herb’ with an audible ‘h’ and the use of words like courgette (zucchini), aubergine (eggplant), and coriander (cilantro) – once you’ve lived in England for more than 3 years, you have to switch!), and I generally try to adapt his recipes to make them slightly lighter (especially on the pepper and cream – Jamie loves his pepper).  Jamie is an inspiration to build my own brand, create change in a big way, and to find work I can pour my heart into too.

I was even lucky enough to meet Jamie in person one day.  I nervously walked up to him, introduced myself and shared my appreciation of the quality and quantity of everything he does.  He gave me a firm hand-shake, a good 10 minutes of his time and couldn’t have been kinder.  I told him I was on a similar mission (and in my head I thought, next time we meet, I hope he’ll be honoured to meet me).

And while this post is an ode to Jamie, I should mention (and will elaborate on this further in later posts) the abundance of other inspirational chefs in the UK.  I am a big fan of British television, the talent and content it produces.  In Britain, it’s clearly the chefs that rule the arena of TV celebrity and other names like Gordon Ramsay and Nigella Lawson have already built reputations overseas.  If you’re living in London, I would highly recommend tuning in to anything featuring Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Nigel Slater and Heston Blumenthal to name a very very few.

British cooking shows are a feast for the eyes; they are fun and beautifully shot, and always inspire me to keep exploring my surroundings and use the kitchen as a playground of possibilities.  Choose the cookery shows over ‘diet’ shows, of which there are too many and which grossly miss the point when it comes to highlighting health problems and solutions. But that’s a sad topic for another post.  This week, let’s just celebrate Jamie and be grateful that someone on this all too important mission is getting the attention he deserves!

  • Geoff Cornell

    Loved, loved reading this. Also a fan of Jamie, and went to lunch at his place in Oxford last January. Enjoyed it tremendously!
    I have enjoyed reading your blog, Kate, very much! Keep up the good work.
    Geoff Cornell

    • Thanks Geoff! Great to have your feedback! I should be posting more regularly so hopefully lots more to come! Yes – we love Jamie!

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