What gets Jamie Oliver really fired up…

'Diet-related disease is the biggest killer in the UK,' said Jamie Oliver

'Diet-related disease is the biggest killer in the UK,' said Jamie Oliver

We were supposed to talk about ovens. Jamie Oliver’s new wood-fired baby, to be precise: the Dome 60.

And it’s a beauty, no doubt about that.

‘A wood-fired oven for the home,’ says Oliver, ‘which arrives already built. You can start cooking within the hour. At £1,100, it’s a luxury, sure. But people don’t blink when buying a plasma telly or home cinema for the same price.’

He pauses, lost in oak-scented awe.

‘This is for life, and you can cook pizza, meat, fish, bread, veg, whatever you want in dry heat, all with that lovely wood-oven flavour. You haven’t tasted a roast potato until you’ve tried one cooked in here.’

But as ever with Jamie Oliver, there are other things to discuss. Like the Government’s recent obesity strategy, which boiled down to ‘eat less and move more’.

Get him on the subject and his voice lowers to an angry growl.

‘It’s a piece of c**p, it really is,’ he spits. ‘Not relevant or impressive or pioneering. Just regurgitated, patronising rubbish.’

He has a point. ‘Diet-related disease is the biggest killer in the UK,’ he says.

'Whatever you think of Mr Blair, he put nutritional standards into schools,' said Jamie Oliver

'Whatever you think of Mr Blair, he put nutritional standards into schools... I think Mr Cameron speaks sense on many things... But I've given up'

‘But because it doesn’t shoot anyone, or abduct them, or isn’t a “cool” way to die, it’s not treated with the urgency that’s needed.

'I mean, we’re spending £10 million a day on obesity. And that figure is set to double over the next 20 to 25 years. And we can’t bloody afford it!’

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A few years back, many would have dismissed Oliver’s views as the irrelevant rantings of a TV cook.

‘What does he know?’ they’d have sneered. ‘He’s just doing it for free publicity.’

But Oliver has proved his mettle, and earned our respect. These things bother him. Deeply. Always have. And he’s one of the few figures powerful enough to make a difference.

His school-dinners campaign was born of a belief that he could make things better. And politicians fell over themselves to get involved.

‘Whatever you think of Mr Blair, he put nutritional standards into schools.

'We all hate bureaucracy and red tape, but when it comes to the health of a nation, and the biggest killer of all, we’ve got to have nutritional standards in our schools.’

So what would he suggest the Government does?

If MPs impose extra rules and regulations, they’re seen as interfering control freaks. And if they champion responsibility for one’s own actions, they’re accused of sitting back while Britain balloons.

‘There’s no easy answer, I know that. And much of this is down to people and personal choice. It’s up to you what you shove in your gob. But the problem goes deeper than that.

'I think Mr Cameron speaks sense on many things. And I really like Mr Gove. But I’ve given up, to be honest. They’re not doing anything worth cheering about. Mum and Dad are both working, taxes are up, the recession is hitting hard.

'Doing the right thing in food is compromised. That’s why eating properly at school, learning about food and cooking, is so important, regardless of sex or class or age.’

Because this is no mere showboating, or a campaign to sell ovens or books or pans.

Oliver doesn’t need the money or attention – or the hassle. He does this because he believes everyone – the Government, parents, all of us – is underestimating the brute power of this ever-swelling storm.

Eating well and sensibly is no longer a luxury. Now more than ever, it’s a matter of life and death.


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