Jamie Oliver Restaurant
Jamie Oliver opens a new restaurant in Norwich
Jamie’s taste for Norfolk
As Jamie Oliver fulfils a dream to open a restaurant in Norwich, he tells Rachel Buller how idyllic childhood holidays on the Norfolk Broads made him determined to return.
Bounding on to our screens 15 years ago with his infectious enthusiasm for food and cheeky manner, Jamie Oliver’s hyperactive and unfussy brand of cookery was something of a revelation.But few could have guessed that the young Essex boy with the gift of the gab would become a globally recognised figure, cooking for world leaders and becoming a regular thorn in the sideof politicians.This month, Jamie Oliver hits Norfolk – with the much anticipated opening of his Jamie’s Italian restaurant in the heart of Norwich, in the former Waterstones bookshop building at the entrance to Royal Arcade.And with fond childhood memories of the county, he reveals he has been waiting for this opportunity for a while.“It’s a beautiful city and I always knew we would open a Jamie’s Italian there. It was really just a question of waiting until the right location became available.”At 37, he has come along way since the early days of the first Naked Chef series.Brought up in the village pub in Clavering that was run by his parents, Jamie was passionate about food from a young age and could always been found hanging around in the kitchen. Afterleaving school he attended Westminster Catering College before heading to France to hone his skills.But it was while working at the River Caf� in London that his career suddenly took off. A chance appearance in a documentary about the acclaimed restaurant catapulted him to fame and led to him being offered his own television show – and The Naked Chef was launched.Countless television shows and bestselling cookery books followed, interspersed with a fair bit of political campaigning, social projects and the hugely successful growth of the corporate side of ‘brand Oliver’.Growing up in Essex, nearby Norfolk was the obvious choice for family holidays.“I spent most of my childhood holidays in Norfolk. Mum and dad used to take us on the Broads pretty much every year, and when I was a teenager I used to be able to take a friend or two with me, which made it more fun.“We also used to stay in chalets at Horning and Wroxham, so I know a bit about the place,” he says.“We used to chug along the Broads in a boat and then stop at various pubs and play rounders. I just loved all of it. Really lovely summer holidays and happy memories.” He might be a little older, but the energetic, boyish gusto and genuine passion for all things foodie appear not to have abated.So it should be no surprise that his earliest memories of those holidays in Norfolk are of food.“One of the things I remember from the holidays was stopping off at farms along the Broads and getting the freshest milk pretty much straight from the cow. It was probably half milk and half cream and it was delicious.“We also used to get really fresh eggs – double-yolkers most of them – and cook them up for breakfast.”Anyone who saw Jamie’s Great Italian Escape show in 2005 will have witnessed his love and passion for the country’s food and this is reflected in the ethos of his restaurants.He admits to being “totally besotted by the love, passion and verve for food, family and life itself” in Italy and he wanted to recreate the simple, fresh, rustic dishes eaten and enjoyed by all Italian families, rich or poor.“I come up with all the dishes on the menu along with Gennaro Contaldo, the Italian stallion, and my mate Jules Hunt, so everything starts with me. “I’m a bit of a geek, so I also have a say in everything from the cutlery and the napkins to the light fittings.“What can people expect? Great food, great service and great value. Basically, you can get a �40 meal for �20. And we’re using the highest quality ingredients.”A key theme of much of Jamie’s campaigning work has been changing people’s attitudes to food, to persuade families to cook more at home and to eat together around a table where possible.This issue continues to irk him and it is one of the reasons why his Italian restaurants are aimed at families.“One of the things which amazed and shocked me when I filmed the Ministry of Food series was that so many families didn’t even have a table to eat at.“For me, the family table is a place for everyone to gather and talk about what’s going on. It’s a social centre as well as a food centre. It’s absolutely vital to a happy family home.”He admits to being a workaholic, and his wife Jools – mother of their four children Poppy, Daisy, Petal and Buddy – recently admitted they struggled to find time together due to his manic work schedule.So is there any time off planned? Well not for the moment at least.“I’ve just finished work on a new series for Channel 4 called Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals, which will be on TV in October I think,” he says.“I started to look back on 30 Minute Meals and realised that although people loved that book and that series and those recipes, they were quite big meals, maybe for a Friday or a Saturday.“So I wanted to strip it back to one, delicious, super fast dish that would be perfect for any day of the week. I hope they’ll love it.”