Controversy adds spice to Jamie Oliver's recipe for good life
No sooner does Jamie Oliver's latest cookbook hit the shops, than the Naked Chef goes and says something which whips up a frenzy.
"Yeah, controversy," he says, laughing. "There's always a bit of that following me."
Despite the furore surrounding his recent comments on low-income families eating junk food and spending their money on huge TVs, and immigrants working harder in his kitchens than young Britons famous chef arrives at his airy North London offices dressed in a blue checked shirt, cotton trousers and open-toed sandals, looking relaxed, having had a family holiday in Cornwall.
"We had sun, the beach, surfing, great Cornish food, the kids seemed really happy. I feel really close to my young ones. My two eldest are turning into ladies which is baffling me.
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"Jools seems really happy, we are getting on really well. We had a good week."
Jamie, 38, and wife Jools, a designer and former model with whom he has four children – Poppy, 11, Daisy Boo, 10, Petal, four, and two-year-old Buddy – have been together 20 years. So what's the secret of their marriage?
"When you're in the public eye, you annoy people if you just say, 'I'm really happy and in love', because everyone wants to go and throw up in a bucket. What I've tried to do over the years is balance it by saying, 'We're just normal, we still argue like normal couples', and this, that and the other.
"Actually, what I never get the chance to say is, I absolutely love and adore her. She can be a pain in the backside but she's pretty amazing and a good person."
He says he doesn't want more children, but Jools definitely does.
He doesn't have time to watch many food shows these days, but is hooked on The Great British Bake Off.
He returned from holiday to a storm over his remarks about modern-day poverty and "wet" work-shy British youths, and says he regrets the comments.
"I guess I should have known better because, more than most people, I pride myself on being involved, getting my hands dirty and seeing both sides of the coin," he says.
"The reaction is really divided. For the people who think I'm being patronising, rude or offensive, of course I apologise. At the same time, I probably said it because of my continued passion that the knowledge of how to cook is without question the biggest luxury now."
His latest cookbook, Save With Jamie, he explains, is in response to the growing frustration of people who feel their supermarket bills have soared, and who want to make their food go further.
"Years ago I had a few chips on my shoulder about certain fast food purveyors, but people like McDonalds are leading the way in mass fast food and buying British and Irish, 100% organic meals and free-range eggs. I never thought I'd be saying that. They are pretty impressive. There are lots of pubs that don't do that.
"I'm not anti-fast food. But when it becomes a solution three or four nights a week, we've got a problem."
For the book, he devised dishes that were either a third or half the price of a takeaway. The result is meals that cost an average £1.32 a portion.
And if people can't afford the cover price of £26, he and his publisher, in partnership with The Reading Agency, have donated a copy of his cookbook to every library in the UK.
Save With Jamie: Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less by Jamie Oliver is published by Michael Joseph, priced £26. His new series, Jamie's Money Saving Meals, is on Channel 4 on Mondays... see our review in the TV supplement.