Jamie Oliver’s name is synonymous with culinary delights. However, for a while now, his food philosophy, which focuses on eating fresh produce and having better food habits, has also been making news. As the celebrity chef-restaurateur launches two restaurants — Jamie’s Italian and Jamie’s Pizzeria — in Delhi, we speak to him over email about foraying into Mumbai’s F&B market, his love for Indian cuisine, how he deals with criticism, and more.
Why did you decide to launch your restaurants in India?
I am absolutely fascinated by India. For a while, I have been desperate to open a restaurant here. But it’s really been about finding the right partner and locations.
Do you plan to open a restaurant in Mumbai too?
I would love to. One step at a time though. At the moment, I’m focusing on the two Delhi restaurants.
Watch Jamie Oliver cook Butter Chicken here
How familiar are you with Indian cuisine?
I’m a huge fan of Indian cooking and flavours. I’m interested in the spices, and the different layers of flavours that a clever use of spices can achieve. I like to do a lot of Indian cooking at home, and it’s nice to see that my kids are starting to understand the flavours.
You have been voicing your opinion about the need for better food education for some time now. How important, do you think, is it in the current scheme of things?
It is crucial and non-negotiable. The world is in the midst of a global obesity epidemic, which isn’t slowing down. More people are now dying from obesity and diet-related diseases, than from malnutrition. I firmly believe that the only way of turning the situation around is by educating children about what they should be putting into their bodies from an early age, and equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to feed themselves and their future families properly.
You are called the “chef with a social conscience”. How important is it for you to support these socially-relevant issues?
I think I’ve become a voice of public opinion. I’m in an incredibly fortunate position these days, because when I take an issue to the UK government, they do listen and ask questions. On the other hand, when I shout about something, the public tends to get behind me.
What is the toughest part about being a chef?
Kitchen hours are very tough. I stepped out of the traditional kitchen role a few years ago. Nonetheless, up until this year, I was still only sleeping three hours a night. I think you become conditioned to it.
Many people have appreciated your talent. But you’ve had your share of criticism as well. Does that affect you?
It used to, but I’ve learnt not to take criticism to heart any more. When you take up a role like I have — speaking out about issues, and campaigning — people will have different opinions; it’s natural. I’m never going to be able to please everyone.
We have read that several kids write to you, saying that they are inspired by the way you have dealt with your dyslexia. How do you feel?
Dyslexia is a real pain, but it shouldn’t stop you from doing what you want to do. Don’t let it beat you.