Do your kids like broccoli?
Kinder No? Jamie Oliver explains the ways you can keep your kids eating healthy food, the changes in our current food culture and what he thinks his legacy will be.
How did you become a chef? What was your first memory of cooking?
I grew up around food, and as soon as I could help out in the kitchen of my parents’ pub, my dad put me straight to work. He never believed in “pocket money” – I had to earn it. So I was peeling veg by the age of about six or seven, and helping to cook not long after. And to this day,
I’m very grateful for what I learnt from my dad and from working in the family business. It always amazes me just how many clever kids leave school without the knowledge to set up a bank account or cook a simple dinner – basic life skills, cooking being the most important, that we need to make sure our future generations are equipped with.
How do you keep your kids eating healthy food?
We’ve never preached to the kids, but we have always involved them in food and cooking, so from an early age they’ve been open to loads of different flavours – they’re generally not fussy eaters as a result. Because we love to cook we buy ingredients, and they’re exposed to that, and it means they’re only eating real food. We still batch cook and use the freezer for convenience, but its convenience on our terms not somebody else’s.
What is the best way, according to you, to make kids follow good food habits?
There are loads of ways but, as I say, involving kids in cooking early is a really safe place to start. Just be sensible and have them doing things that aren’t dangerous, such as tearing up herbs, mixing, weighing out ingredients, washing salad leaves and so on. The more that kids are involved, the more likely they are to eat the finished dish – that sense of ownership is really empowering, they love it.
You’ve been a huge advocate for healthy eating. Tell us a bit more about this philosophy – and also why you think it’s become such an important part of modern life?
OK, well everyone now knows that we have a global problem when it comes to obesity and diet-related disease. Us, and our governments, can’t afford the related costs, and the things I’m talking about aren’t acute problems, they affect everything around us – health systems, productivity, culture, our happiness. Almost every country in the world has a problem in this area, but very few countries are tackling it holistically as an environmental issue – this is why food education is key.
I want to ensure that all children have decent food education so that they understand what’s good for their bodies and what isn’t.
One of the ways I’ve been trying to help is by inspiring people to cook using fresh ingredients, and also for the last few books I’ve been putting nutritional information smack bang on each recipe page so that people can make informed decisions. I’m a great believer that if you give people clear, useful information so they’re empowered to make a choice, more often than not they’ll make the right one.
Knowledge is power, and if you give people the knowledge to be able to feed themselves and their families well, that can only be a good thing. The Food Revolution, which started out as Food Revolution Day, is now an ongoing movement to urge governments, businesses and communities around the world to inspire people to eat more healthily.
Healthy eating has become part of a global modern mindset. What other changes to food culture do you want to advocate?
Ideally, I want to ensure that all children have decent food education so that they understand what’s good for their bodies and what isn’t. I think sweets and cakes are a joy as a treat, which is how many of us enjoyed them as kids, but junk food has become too commonplace these days.
Also, soda and sugary drinks are not hydration and we urgently need to change that mindset. We’ve got the added problem of sugar being hidden in foods where people don’t expect it to be, and that’s causing real issues. We live in an environment that’s very pro-ill health and things have got to change.
What do you think your legacy will be?
I hope people will remember me as someone who made a positive difference to a lot of people’s lives through food.