Jamie Oliver started cooking at his parents' pub, The Cricketers, in Clavering, Essex, at the age of eight. After leaving school he began a career as a chef that took him to the River Café, where he was famously spotted by a television production company.
His television and publishing career began in 1999 with The Naked Chef series. Since then he has set up Fifteen restaurant in London, changed school dinners in the UK and revolutionized home cooking. His charity, The Jamie Oliver Foundation, seeks to improve people's lives through food. It operates the Fifteen restaurants, which train disengaged young people for a career in the catering industry, and the Ministry of Food centres, which provide places for people to learn basic cooking skills. Jamie has also created Home Cooking Skills, a BTEC course for secondary schools, and the Kitchen Garden Project, a new food education programme for primary school children.
His successful businesses include the group of Jamie's Italian and Union Jacks restaurants, and ranges of food and non-food products.
He writes for publications in the UK and around the world, including his own Jamie Magazine. Jamie lives in London and Essex with his wife Jools and their children.
Jamie's books The Naked Chef , The Return of the Naked Chef, Happy Days with the Naked Chef, Jamie’s Kitchen, Jamie’s Dinners, Jamie’s Italy, Cook with Jamie, Jamie at Home, Ministry of Food, Jamie's America, Jamie Does, Jamie's 30-Minute Meals, Jamie's Great Britain and his latest Jamie's 15-Minute meals are all published by Penguin.
We gave you the exclusive opportunity to email Jamie with your questions; here's what he said:
I wonder if you can help, I am a vegetarian and I love cooking in my spare time, but I seem to have a lot of problems finding desserts which a vegetarian can eat! This is because I do not eat eggs. Do you know of any dessert dishes which do not have egg in them that I could try?
Jamie says: Chocolate Pot from Book 2 - it's still good without the eggs.
I have a three year old daughter who hates eating vegetables, any ideas how I can spice up the vegetables and persuade her to eat this type of food?
Jamie says: Kids, including me, are always a pain in the arse. The best thing to do is to get them excited about vegetables, so they want to know what all the fuss is about. Cheesy leeks or cauliflower get kids going, basically anything with cheese and milk. If you want to trick them into eating vegetables then a couple of carrots and a stick of celery in a juicer with orange juice and they'll never know the difference.
Why does curry taste better the day after it is made rather than on the day? What can be done to make it taste just as good on the day?
Jamie says: Thai and South Indian curries actually taste better the same day as they all use fresh ingredients.
You are probably referring to the classic North Indian style curries that we have in England, made by stewing meat for long periods of time to make it tender. By putting this curry in the fridge, the sauce acts like a marinade and the flavour really penetrates the meat much like a steak and kidney pudding or a spaghetti bolognese. Unfortunately there's not much you can do about this - except maybe make it the day before.
If you're cooking veggie food on a budget for around 4 guests and you want something simple but impressive, what menu could you suggest?
Jamie says: Get some zucchini, firm red pepper, aubergine and asparagus. Cut the aubergine and zucchini half cm thick and grill on a griddle pan, grill the pepper until the skin is black and remove the skin, grill both sides of the asparagus for a couple of minutes. Dress with a olive oil, a little red wine vinegar, half a finely chopped clove of garlic and perhaps some roasted cherry tomatoes. This is really nice with some buffalo mozzarella, marinated olives and some bread.
What is your favourite meal?
Jamie says: My mum's Sunday roast with all the trimmings.
What's the most difficult dish you have had to make?
Jamie says: Most dishes can be as simple or as difficult as you want to make them. On the whole Italian and Spanish cooking tends to be quite simple whereas hard core French food can be more tricky when you're trying to push food into moulds and piling things on top of each other.
Dear Jamie, could you please tell me why my fried eggs always stick to the pan?
Jamie says: What you need to do is buy yourself a nice non-stick pan mate. What my mum does which always seems to work is pour a layer of sunflower oil in the pan, crack in the egg and splash the egg with the oil as it cooks. When it's done to your liking remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and pat off the excess oil with kitchen paper. My mum's fried eggs are the best fried eggs I've ever had.
Where do you get your ideas for unusual combinations?
Jamie says: Well it's all been done before, so my cooking is simply about what I personally like. When I use a recipe I think what would I do to make that more to my taste? For instance adding different herbs and flavours. Basically use your common sense and be confident in your cooking.
Do you ever eat in simple fast-food places, such as Little Chef, Poppins, etc, and actually enjoy the food? - Or are you extremely critical??!!!
Jamie says: It's all relative. If I buy a Big Mac for £2.50 and it's hot, I'm a happy boy. If I pay £12 for a main course and it's cooked well, I'm well chuffed, but if I pay £50 and it's average, I'm pissed off. I do eat everything, just like a normal person, I had a Burger King last week.
Are you ever critical when your mother or wife, etc, cook you food? - Or do you just enjoy it because you've had a break from cooking?
Jamie says: It's nice to be cooked for instead of always doing it myself. I sometime suggest stuff to them and they both suggest things to me - it's a giving and receiving thing.
How do you make the 'perfect risotto'? I followed your Naked Chef recipe, and the resulting risotto was very tasty, but very heavy. Any tips?
Jamie says: You need to add more stock or water to make it ooze off the plate, it's difficult to put an amount on it, it's an oozing thing.
What are is your favorite restaurant(s) in central London?
Assagi, Chepstow Place
Passione, 10 Charlotte Street
Loved your last series on TV. I have a couple of general questions:
Do you really do that much cooking at home?
Jamie says: Yes and more!
Who does the washing and clearing up?
Jamie says: Normally me and in return the Mrs. does all the washing and cleaning of the house - sounds fair enough to me
I am about to be stranded by my other half for four weeks. She currently does all the cooking - I do the tidying up! I need some help/ideas on things that are easy and quick to cook. Cheese is a no no! All ideas are welcome!
Jamie says: The whole of idea of the books is that the recipes are really quick and simple, they're not aimed at professional chefs, but at normal people. There are loads of simple, fantastic salads in both books and what could be simpler than a really fantastic roast chicken with all the trimmings? It's all about simple cooking.
Do you know of any shops in London that specialise in pasta (fresh or dried), other than delicatessens, which all too often stock a rather limited range.
Carluccio's , Neal St and more
Terroni & Son, Clerkenwell Road
Luigi's, Fulham Road
Can you let me know what you consider to be a healthy alternative to a kebab at the end of a drunken night out? Obviously, it has to be quick and easy!
Jamie says: My midnight pan-cooked breakfast from Book 2. It's healthier... But let's not ruin a good thing!
What spices do you use the most in your cooking?
Jamie says: Coriander seeds because they're very fragrant and are good with meats.
Apart from olive oil, what other oils should I regularly stock my cupboard with?
Jamie says: Ground nut oil because it's neutral, unflavoured. It can be used at high temperatures and it doesn't smoke. Sesame seed oil is very good for Thai food, but you should only use a little. Both oils will last for about a year in a store cupboard.
What spices go well together with baked fish?
Jamie says: Whatever you do, less is more, fish has a very delicate flavour and you don't want to overpower it. Coriander seeds or fennel seeds are good, but fish is generally better with herbs than spices.
If you had to take a dish to a dinner party, what would you take?
Jamie says: Vodka Watermelon from Book 2. I served it at a party the other night, it's always fun to see a party change dramatically within 10 minutes - you know what I mean?
Have you ever thought, 'I can't be bothered to cook, I'll defrost a frozen meal & have that for my dinner instead'?
Jamie says: Yes, at least every month. Last week it was fish fingers with peas and ovenbaked chips. Lovely.