The word ‘legend’ gets thrown around a lot these days, but when it comes to describing none other than Mr Jamie Oliver, we reckon it fits like a glove. The celebrity chef, cookbook author, dad of five and lover of lemon has been a fixture in our lives – and hearts – for more than 24 years, ever since he first debuted on the hit TV show The Naked Chef. From the get go, Oliver won the world over with his genuine warmth, passion for food and tongue-in-cheek attitude. He was a guy you wanted to be mates with, someone you felt you could trust – and importantly, he taught people around the world that cooking can be a joy (and that it can happen in minutes – just how much time depends on which of his books you’re looking at).
Oliver has written more than 26 award-winning cookbooks, starred in countless TV shows, seen more than 70 restaurants across 22 countries come to life, and had a family with wife Jools. He's also done incredible work around championing healthy eating in schools. His mission of creating a happier, healthier world through the joy of food has been a constant throughout his whole career and he has positively impacted the lives of millions. Impressive stuff.
And the best bit? By all accounts fame hasn’t changed him, and Jamie Oliver still seems like the legend we first saw on our screens back in 1999 (well, perhaps not all of us – I was five at the time).
Excitingly, Oliver is coming to the Sydney Opera House for an Australian-exclusive one-off show this November. It’ll be his first time back under the sails since 2015 – and we can’t wait to have the loveable British chef Down Under (there are also rumours swirling about Oliver being the new judge for the next season of MasterChef Australia).
We caught up with Oliver ahead of his Sydney trip to talk about what he’s planning on doing while he’s here, where he likes to eat around town, and what his dream day in Sydney looks like. Enjoy.
You’ll be in Sydney soon – what are you most looking forward to about your visit?
Visiting Australia feels like a big old hug to me. It’s a home away from home, and I’m really excited to be back and to be sitting down with the incredible Melissa Leong at the Sydney Opera House. It’s such a privilege to be there, what a setting. I’m also really looking forward to sampling as much of the great food Sydney has to offer, too!
Visiting Australia feels like a big old hug to me. It’s a home away from home, and I’m really excited to be back
What can we expect to hear you talk about at your Sydney Opera House show with Melissa Leong?
I’m hoping there will be a lot of good chat about good food and good times, and there’ll be an opportunity for the audience to chip in with some questions, too.
Your latest cookbook 5 Ingredients Mediterranean combines two of your greatest passions: food, and helping people around the world cook tasty and healthy meals in minutes. What excites you about this book?
5 Ingredients Mediterranean is a real celebration of one of the most loved and respected diets in the world – think big-hitting hero flavours, stripped-back methods and clever hacks, all translated through the 5-ingredient lens for easy, everyday cooking. So, if you want to get simple, incredible food on the table without copious amounts of ingredients, long shopping lists or a whole load of washing-up, this is the book for you. I’m really proud of this one – it’s everything people loved about the first 5 Ingredients and more.
It’s been 24 years since The Naked Chef. If you weren’t a chef, what do you think you would be doing?
I’ve always loved woodwork, so I thought at one point I might become a carpenter. I still enjoy whittling wooden sticks, just like my mentor Gennaro.
You’re adored worldwide – is there anything about you that people would be surprised to find out?
I actually left school at 16 with two GCSEs. And so I don’t think people expected me to write cookbooks and I’ve now written a children’s book as well, which I’m so, so proud of! Being dyslexic, I didn’t write Billy and The Giant Adventure in the most conventional way, but it was my way, and I hope it inspires those children who struggle at school to find their own ways of achieving their dreams.
If time/money/space didn't exist, what would your dream day in Sydney look like?
I would love it if Jools was out in Oz with me and we would start the day with a really fantastic Aussie brunch. I went to a lovely spot about half an hour's walk from Bondi Beach once and the scenery was just perfect.
I’ve been lucky enough to work in Sydney on a number of occasions across the past 25 years, and back in the day, me and Ben O’Donoghue used to zip about the city on scooters, checking out all the different neighbourhoods – it’s great fun and allows you to cover so much ground and discover cute little shops, bars and cafés that you can drop into.
Once I was lucky enough to have a barbecue on a boat and we went all the way around the Sydney Opera House and beyond, which was very special indeed. It really gave a sense of the geography of the place, and I’d love to recreate that with Jools.
I’d like to do a bit of shopping, buy some new trainers, then head for a nice cocktail or two and a great dinner. There are so many options to choose from on that front! I’m often busy really late when I visit, and I love that there are still fun places to go – I used to love Golden Century in Chinatown for a 2am dinner, that was one of my favourites. So, as you can see, my perfect Sydney day involves a fair amount of food and liquid refreshment.
Lastly – and perhaps most importantly – where are your favourite places to eat in Sydney?
Thanks for chatting with us, Jamie. We'll see you in November in the House.