10 things Jamie Oliver has learnt from his lifetime career in food

A multi-ethnic same sex couple out for Christmas dinner at a restaurant with their three children. They are wearing casual clothing and some novelty Christmas items while they joyfully eat their dinner by a fireplace.

1. His parents’ high standards in hospitality were not the norm

Jamie’s new restaurant represents an homage to his parent’s pub back in Essex. “I never realised how pioneering they were as a kid,” he says.

Moving to London in his late teens, he started to learn that they were doing something “very special”. “I thought it was normal to have seven chefs working in a pub kitchen. I thought it was normal to bake bread every day, to butcher your own meat and have a pastry section. And of course it’s not.”

2. The uniqueness of pubs to British culture

Living above their family pub as a child and teenager, Jamie went to bed every night with the rumble of a bustling 15o covers a night establishment.

“Pubs are beautiful places, everyone’s welcome. British people might not know if they haven’t travelled a lot but pubs are really globally unique.”

His parents’ pub was the centre of the community, a melting pot of British culture. “The beautiful thing about a pub is that it was old people, young people, poor people, sports people, farmers, everyone.”

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3. People are at the heart of everything

Now, more than ever, Jamie feels that the success of a career in hospitality is about having the right people surrounding him.

“It’s about having a team that really gets the food, gets the energy. What we want to do is just serve people and look after them, love them and make them feel cosy.”

At Catherine Street he wants to give people food “that’s not stretching them too much”. Think Anglo-French with a dash of Italian thrown in, such as homemade tortellini and cappellacci, but also “lots of pie work, lots of pickling and smoking and curing”.

4. Preserving the food for tomorrow today

Keeping sustainability at the heart, Jamie has hired a full-time member of staff to keep abreast of the right food choices for his menu.

“No disrespect to my chef colleagues, but I have someone that works for us saying what is sustainable and what isn’t. I’m told we can’t buy squid and cuttlefish, there’s only a few places you can get it and, you know, they’re on the menus everywhere.

“Even the good people have got to catch up on sustainability. It means that us chefs have to change what we serve. I’m not trying to be holier than thou. It’s just you’re either in or you’re out. I’m not saying we’re perfect, but we definitely try.”

5. The importance of young people in the industry

Jamie’s father, who was the chef at their pub, valued the importance of young people getting involved in the industry.

“Dad used to wake me up in the morning,” he says. “He would tell me to get out of bed because people die in bed. Come on son, let’s have a job.”

So much so that Jamie’s father took on other young people to help out, too.

“I didn’t understand it then, but you’d have dads with a look like mine. Handing these 16-year-old girls and boys over to my dad with a look of desperation, and dad used to put them on the buffet where we would serve customers and in one week, that’s it, confidence up.”

6. Eating a wider diversity of meat and fish

Jamie believes we should refamiliarise ourselves with the culture of eating game again and away from the mass consumption of certain meats and fish.

“Britain consumes two-thirds of the of the world’s cod and haddock. We have five fish that we eat, primarily.

“In Britain you’re only ever 30 minutes from a game dealer. Anything from there can go into restaurants, from deer to woodcock, pigeon, grouse, snipe. Game helps the countryside, it helps the farmers. It’s without question more nutritious. There’s some amazing chefs around the country that celebrate game.”

7. The key to perfect gravy

Jamie’s Christmas dinner is a “supersonic, classic British roast on steroids”. Two weeks before Christmas, he organises his annual “Get ahead gravy day”.

“We get hundreds of thousands of people making their gravy before, and then they put it in the freezer and they use it to make gravy on the big day.

“It sounds weird, but go with it. The best way to make gravy is with gravy. Instead of deglazing with water or stock, we deglaze with wine and gravy.”

Wild mushroom gravy in a white serving jug

8. Leftovers at Christmas

Believing that leftovers at Christmas is “the best problem” to have, Jamie cooks plenty to make sure there’s more than enough for everyone to enjoy across the subsequent days.

“Cooking turkey and goose, and serving it next to each other is genius because they’re so different. I cook the goose so the skin’s really crispy and the meat is just melt in your mouth.”

9. Why Christmas pudding is overrated

After all of the overindulgence during the Christmas Day meal, Christmas pudding is not the first thing Jamie will be reaching for, believing it’s the “most overrated Christmas food”.

Although it won’t go amiss on his Christmas dinner table, albeit in a lighter form.

“I do have a Christmas pudding recipe that I will eat that I do love. I merged it with my nan’s pound pudding recipe and lightened it up a lot.

“I just think it’s too heavy after all that food. I get why people like it, but maybe just a thin sliver with some cheese.”

10. Being grateful

Despite everything going on in the world, Jamie tries to focus on the positive, especially during the festive season.

“It’s very easy to get caught into the news cycle of darkness. I get it, but every day when I go to work, I have to be optimistic and happy and full of energy. Otherwise, everything falls apart. And I try and teach that to my kids. You have to consciously make an effort.

“I think that’s what Christmas is about. Me and Jules take Christmas really seriously, not specifically in a religious sense, but definitely as a time to really focus on gratitude.”

Listen to Jamie Oliver on the BBC Good Food podcast

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