Jamie Oliver - Jamie's Kingston

With the launch of his new Italian restaurant in Kingston, Jamie Oliver is as busy as ever and yet still finding time to get involved with this year's Comic Relief. MATTHEW WILLIAMS puts the celebrity chef under the spotlight

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2009With the launch of his new Italian restaurant in Kingston, Jamie Oliver is as busy as ever and yet still finding time to get involved with this year's Comic Relief. MATTHEW WILLIAMS puts the celebrity chef under the spotlight

Find out what Surrey Life made of Jamie's Italian in Kingston, here

What made you choose Kingston for your new Italian restaurant? It's a beautiful little venue, very close to the Rose Theatre, and Kingston is a great town - on the river, loads of lovely people... It's the perfect place for a Jamie's Italian. Potential diners aren't able to book a table, right? What is it about the restaurant that makes the queueing worthwhile? I think you'd have to ask the customers, but we've tried to make sure the food is absolutely delicious but affordable, the service is second to none and the whole experience is something that you want to do again and again - and because it's not expensive, you can. Have you had a chance to take a tour of Kingston's sights yet? Not as yet, but I've seen the Rose and it looks like a beautiful theatre. Other than Top Gear, when you had a little fun in their 'reasonably priced car' at Dunsfold, is this your first experience of Surrey or are you a regular visitor? I don't get there too often I'm afraid; I'm an Essex boy, after all. So what craziness can we expect from you at this year's Comic Relief? Bathing in foodstuffs; a duet with Gordon Ramsay, perhaps? No, I'm not one for bathing in food. And, although a duet with Gordon would be interesting, it's not on the cards. But I have done another brilliant little book, with the money going to Comic Relief, and there are some great recipes in there. Do you have a favourite memory from previous Comic Reliefs, whether watching or participating? I always love the French and Saunders sketches when they're on Comic Relief so I hope those guys do another one this year, even though they're supposed to have stopped working together. Your restaurant Fifteen was a massive innovation when it launched in 2002. Is giving opportunities to disadvantaged youngsters, by training them in the kitchen, an idea you are continuing to expand on? Yes, we've got a great team in place there and I'm hoping we can set up another two Fifteens over the next two years - one in the UK and one abroad. Inspired by the wartime Ministry of Food, which helped people to make the most of their rations, you launched a project of the same name. What are you hoping to achieve with it? I'm trying to help solve the obesity problem, which we have and which is getting worse. To me, it's not so much that people don't have the time or the money to eat well - we proved that in Rotherham; Tash ended up saving money by ditching the takeaways - it's that they don't have the information. So the manifesto I put together aims to make sure that information gets to anyone who wants it. The Ministry of Food Centre in Rotherham was the starting point for the campaign - a place where people can learn to cook and eat healthily on a budget. Are there any plans for a Surrey-based food centre? As far as I know there are no plans but if you want one, just talk to Surrey County Council. Ask them what their policy is for tackling obesity in the county and see if there's money in the existing budget for a Ministry of Food Centre like the one in Rotherham. You've tackled school dinners and chicken farming conditions; what's next? Have you got any new cookery show formats in the pipeline? I've just finished a show about the British pig farming industry, which is in crisis so the programme is very supportive of our pig farmers. And, I'm doing a series in America at the moment. It's basically me travelling around finding out about all the local cuisines. It's fascinating. You've got a famously prodigious work rate; how do you find enough hours in the day? I work hard during the week but I keep weekends for the family and we also get seven weeks holiday a year to recharge. There seem to be male celebrity chefs everywhere. Why do you think so few women hit the same culinary heights? I've no idea. The best chefs are all women - Rose Gray, Ruth Rogers, Alice Waters, Stephanie Alexander. Maybe the men are just louder. Do you still find cooking as enjoyable as you did when you first came on the scene as The Naked Chef? What do you do to relax away from the kitchen? Yes, I still love cooking as much as I ever did; absolutely. What do I do to relax? The same as anyone really - play with the kids, watch movies with my wife. Normal stuff. And, finally, with Valentine's Day just around the corner, will you be cooking and what would be your perfect meal? I probably will be cooking but I haven't thought about it yet. It's a Saturday this year, I think, so we should be at the Essex house. I'll probably just see what's still growing in the winter vegetable garden and make something with whatever's to hand.

You can find Jamie's Italian at 19-23 High Street, Kingston. Tel: 0208 912 0110. Discover what Surrey Life made of the restaurant here.

Comic Relief Jamie's Red Nose Recipes is available from Sainsbury's, www.rednoseday.com and all good bookshops, priced at 3 with 2.50 going to Comic Relief (the remaining 50p goes towards the cost of producing and distributing the book). Jamie donated his time and recipes to Comic Relief for free. Comic Relief is on Friday March 13.

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