Viola Davis has a theory about her current Hollywood success and why she finds herself playing a string of roles that exude stoic strength in The Help, Doubt, Prisoners, How to Get Away with Murder, Fences and Widows.
This effusive British TV cook with an assortment of books and restaurants to his name has a real passion for food – and more importantly, how it’s consumed.
Who else has heralded a campaign to revolutionise children’s school meals? Or has gone up against the carbonated drinks market with such vigour? And who else has reinvented the concept and education behind home cooking?
He says the world now has more overweight than underweight people and it begins with the children. Both kids and their parents therefore, need to be educated.
Jamie explains: “I’ve always said food treads a very fine line between pleasure and pain. It’s almost like a cruel trick that will draw you in before having its wicked way. We’ve got to handle how we treat it.”
“Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time slathering over the gorgeousness of food and I used to approach it with reckless abandon. As time went on, I realised that I can’t really do that in the way I may have done before and there is a responsibility behind putting food on people’s plates,” Oliver says.
Even if such a statement doesn’t paint him as a picture of perfection and measured magnificence, what makes the 44-year-old Brit even more endearing is his approach to failure. It’s a principle he has had to tackle head-on over the past year as huge swatches of his restaurant empire went up in the fires of competition.
His 25 restaurants in the UK appeared to be simmering nicely in cooking up a pension pot that would secure the futures of his children. And yet, the turnaround from successful restaurateur to someone who had tens of millions wiped off his personal fortune when his chains went into administration has been torturous.
What is remarkable about Jamie is that his mission statement for business remains unaffected. He still wants to bring good cuisine to the masses, entertain and lay a health marker on almost everything he does.
“Wealth is lovely but more important than that is giving our children the right and desire to thrive in the sense of food, health, nutrition and wellbeing”
“The business side is one thing; yet, when you put it all in the context of health, you have to ask yourself what’s actually more important. Yes, wealth is lovely but more important than that is giving our children the right and desire to thrive in the sense of food, health, nutrition and wellbeing,” he asserts.
With millions of children (even in the under five age bracket) being obese, Oliver’s renewed aim is to bring people together to discuss the issues at hand and then approach those who have the power around the world with solutions based on a six point plan. It’s a plan that focusses on the principles of education, nutrition, sustainability, ethical buying and perhaps most crucially, the art – the essential life skill of cooking.
Jamie says: “My dream is to see everyone cooking good food from scratch and learning new ways to be creative in the kitchen. Yet, the truth is that we’re still a long way from this becoming a reality. As a nation, we’ve reached a point where the lack of food knowledge and cooking skills is having a really negative impact on our health and life expectancy.”
“To cut a long story short, for the first time in history, younger generations are expected to live shorter lives than their parents because of poor diets and a lack of food skills,” Oliver points out.
Then there is the Sugar Smart initiative through which Jamie wants to reduce sugar consumption across all age groups. He says sugar is “such an innocent molecule; and yet, its power and how it affects public health is extraordinary.”
The chef has campaigned for a sugar tax and goes deeper into the wider healthcare issues such as rising dental decay. He notes that tooth extractions in children are at their highest levels ever in some parts of the world.
Clearly, children mean a lot to him. His wife Jools and he have five kids of their own – viz. Buddy, Poppy, Petal, Daisy and River. “I spend a lot of time in very frilly, very pink outfits; and I’m told where to move and what to say,” he says, laughingly adding: “I’m hoping now that Bud’s getting older, the testosterone will kick in and I’ll get to be a soldier or a knight – man stuff.”
Wherever he next takes his whirlwind, it’s clear there’s plenty more to come. What Jamie Oliver provides is a vital accessible voice that calls for ‘food for thought’ – and the world is slowly but surely sitting up and listening.