Q&A: three minutes with Naked Chef Jamie Oliver

Q&A: three minutes with Naked Chef Jamie Oliver

Caper crusader: Jamie Oliver speaks at Roy Thomson Hall on Sunday

Jamie Oliver will send foodophiles into full swoon this Sunday, when he appears Roy Thomson Hall to speak about his new cookbook, Jamie’s Food Revolution, and his first U.S. TV show, Jamie’s American Road Trip. In the latter, the spritely chef attempts to charm Fast Food Nation into eating fresh, seasonal foods. These projects have been keeping him busy lately; so busy, in fact, that when we caught up with him during his first visit to Canada, we had time for only three questions. But it’s hard to be annoyed when the answers, however brief, are delivered with that musical cockney twinge (see glossary below).

DAILY DISH: If you could offer only one piece of advice to people who want to eat healthier, what would it be?
JAMIE OLIVER: Cook from fresh. Take-away [1] food is for treats, not every day. Ready meals [2]—don’t bother. Think about what you want to cook for the week—try to combine a few things so that you can save money by not throwing stuff away because you’ve bought too much. I’ve started having a couple of vegetarian days every week, and I’ve found that helps us get through our weekly shop with less waste.

DD: You don’t exactly scrimp on butter, bacon and pasta in your recipes. What’s your take on dieting? One of your goals in the U.S. is to bring the obesity rate down. How can you do that without putting everyone on a strict diet?
JO: You’re right, I don’t have a problem with butter, bacon or pasta. They are brilliant ingredients separately, or together. The key is to eat them in moderation. Personally, if I eat heavier food for lunch, I try to have a salad or something light for supper. My goal in the new show is to give as many people as I can enough good knowledge about food and cooking that they are able to turn fresh food into something delicious. Once you know the basics, the rest is common sense.

DD: A lot of research has linked poverty to obesity, but one of the points you make in your new cookbook is that healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive. The price of a Big Mac Meal in Canada is $6.99. If you only had that much to make a healthy homemade dinner for yourself, what would you  make?
JO: I could certainly make a tomato spaghetti for a family of four for less than that, and it would be quick and much more delicious. I’m a big believer in the store cupboard [3], which is why I’ve included a list of ingredients I see as essentials at the beginning of the book. If you can stock up on those things, you’ll be 75 per cent of the way toward a tasty meal. Spices, dried goods and tins of things [4] will be right there, and you’ll only need to spend a few bucks on vegetables that are in season and maybe some meat. It’s all about knowing how to get the most out of the things you buy.

Jamie’s Food Revolution, Nov. 22. $49.50–$99.50. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St., 416-872-4255, roythomson.com.

[1] Take-out food

[2] Prepared food from the grocery store or boutique grab-and-go shops

[3] The pantry

[4] Canned goods