You know I love to cook AND eat… as well as source and drink awesome coffee, so I was super happy when I was asked to work on Jamie Oliver’s new international book launch, "Quick and Easy Food – 5 ingredients".
Jamie has been an international sensation for two decades – even in little old New Zealand (which is where I’m from) people LOVE Jamie. I know he seems down to earth and has that 'gezzer' vibe going on, but really, what is so great about him? That’s what I wanted to find out … I was also excited to show Jamie, how good my collab-coffee is!
The concept of this book, only uses 5 ingredients per recipe, which is so convenient. Recipes with a lot of ingredients can seem daunting, and can take quite a lot of organisation. I would say at least 2 or 3 of the ingredients in each recipe will probably be in your cupboard or pantry already - and there's plenty that even I can eat being low-carb, low sugar most of the time.
Like all of us who've been using his recipes for years, I wanted mostly to see the man in action! After arriving early to set up, the beautiful Paper Mill Studio and Jamie’s team were there to greet me. The vibe was really friendly, buoyant and relaxed. I have a feeling they’ve done this sort of thing before, many times before, but despite this, there is a genuine fresh buzz in the air, as if it's the first time.
Jamie nonchalantly strolls right in on time, wearing a trucker cap and an open flannel shirt. I didn’t even notice him standing directly in front of me until he blurts: “You’re a New Zealander aren't you”. It was more of a statement, than a question. I looked up and was kind of taken back, surprised. How could he tell? Last time I checked, I looked Chinese, and I hadn’t even spoken yet, so how could he know? Celebrity super-power? Maybe he knows who ‘The Girl in the Café’ is!?? Sadly, not (well, not yet anyway) – but he continued to say how Kiwi’s are known for their good coffee. I proudly accepted the compliment on behalf of my whole country, and explained how NZ was quick to adopt and create a unique, strong café and coffee culture because when a country is young they are almost forced to be innovative and pioneering, over a country that already has a strong heritage or industry, like Italy's coffee culture, for example.
But the man needed his coffee and asked for the strongest thing I had. So naturally I made him an espresso with my Burundi collab-coffee (roasted by The Roastery Department) followed by a flatwhite chaser.
On this morning he was particularly tired “for some reason” – and almost apologetic saying he’s not normally ‘like this’ and that he usually goes to the gym early and feels pretty pumped for the day, but for some reason today, he’s really tired. All these thoughts run through my head like maybe he’s just quite a busy guy with five kids, a new recipe book out (his 20th in fact!), a new TV show, and oh, changing how the entire world relates to food… Who was I to judge? I mean braiding my hair that morning was exhausting enough! I kept him plied with coffee for the rest of the day and he started calling me the 'Doctor' which I thought was pretty funny... but maybe he just couldn't remember my name - there was a lot going on!
The room was in a state of calm activity. His team working away, diligently and almost musically. It was such a lovely atmosphere to be in, one of the nicest I've experienced in a long time. While the press started arriving, Jamie goes upstairs to get ready and comes down around 9am to a full room. While he introduces his new book and talks nostalgically about his humble beginnings, you get a real sense that he knows how lucky he is and also how much power he wields. As I listen on, he starts to talk about the new TV show (here) with great passion. But it’s not just about the food. He talks about how advanced it is visually and how different it is from when he first started making TV shows. Now he's using ultra high-spec lenses to get right up close into the food (because he wants you to really taste it with your eyes), through the colour grades he’s used, and the specific song rights he's paid through the nose for - he wanted to bring back Soul2Soul's "Back to life" because, it "feels so good". I realise, how many hat’s this man actually wears and how creative he really is! Feeling inspired and maybe even a little emotional, it’s not often you meet someone who is actually doing something meaningful that they're truly passionate about on a MASSIVE scale. It’s not only about being good at something, it’s about having a purpose behind the work. Yet somehow, the simplicity of this book and his recipes now seem ironically, yet beautifully complex.
Everyday I still feel like I'm hustling, working 24/7, building and hoping to grow personally and professionally, so just by knowing that big things can happen to regular people is a huge motivator - for us all, which I think is a big part of Jamie's charm and what makes him so relatable. Hopefully one day I'll have my own unique TV show (see my first self-produced webseries here) and I'll be able to have such a significant impact on the world. Being here shows that it doesn’t happen without focus, really hard work and an amazing team that fully supports him. I can literally see it in front of me.
After he’s charmed and wowed the press, he goes into the kitchen and makes a dish from his book Quick and Easy Food, 5 Ingredients. He says it’s the fastest book he’s ever written. After 20 books, you’d think it’d be a synch. But he says, "It was a challenge to keep it simple – it’s a book simple enough for kids and teens but a challenge for top chefs and cooks to simplify, and not be tempted to over indulge". I agreed with this concept, because in almost all industries, fashion, coffee, medicine, architecture… there is a ‘phase’ or tendency once you get to an experienced/expert level to over complicate at some point and often it’s the simplicity of the “Less is more” philosophy that really does win over.
Seeing him in action, was great. Flipping the pasta, bish-bash-boshing his way around the kitchen, producing picture perfect plates did not disappoint.
Hours after this demonstration, each of the press wait patiently, drinking my coffee and eating a feast his team have prepared from his book, while one by one they interview him. 2pm rolls around and he’s ready to be judged by a new flock of foreign press all over again, with the same earnestness, vigour and tenacity. The judgment must be a tough thing at times, as not everyone loves him and I’m sure he knows it. But it’s a case of what is the big vision and the legacy he will leave this world – and it’s a shame if some people don’t understand it.
About a week after the launch I met an old customer who was an inspired fan of Jamie! He never used to cook, but now has all of his recipe books and the kitchen is now a source of creativity and fun for him. I call this the Jamie effect.
For me, the most tasty dish of the day was his watermelon, radish and feta salad. It was incredible and quite a stand out for many there that day – such a balance of sweet and savoury - my mouth is watering as I remember this. I’ve since used the book many times, even just for dinner inspiration.
Though Jamie Oliver is accustomed to a gruelling workload he was incredible to watch, and his stamina and attitude was a clear example of a professional with clear goals and values in tact. I look forward to working together again soon...
PS: I highly recommend this book. Get it.