I’m not an avid cooking show watcher. This is partially because we don’t have The Food Network and most cable cooking show hosts are terrible/like to state the obvious (no way, you’re going to make a “no-bake cake” without putting it in the oven?! What sorcery is this?!). Also, there are very few chefs who I look up to. I watch Lidia because a) her food looks delicious and b) she amuses me in her grandmotherly-like way. But my favourite – in fact, the household favourite – is Jamie Oliver.
My sisters have been JO fans for years – since his “Naked Chef” days, which I don’t really remember – and we have a couple of his cookbooks. Then, in the last couple of years, he came back with “15 Minute Meals” and Ro and I become obsessed (we watch it every Saturday morning). Generally, if I’m looking up a recipe, I look up at his website before I check for something simpler (I would have tried making his brownies, but melting chocolate chunks seemed a lot more complicated than opening the thing of cocoa powder that was sitting in the cupboard). We’ve been to a couple of his restaurants in London (Union Jacks in Covent Garden, and Fifteen), and they were amazing.
This rambling is just to say that last Tuesday, I got to spend a day with Jamie Oliver. Well, technically with his food stylist, but also Jamie himself.
To make a long story short: I (conveniently) intern at the publishing company that just put out Jamie’s latest cookbook, “Comfort Food“; I mentioned that I’m a big Jamie fan to his publicist, and then the next thing I knew, that same publicist (Rob) was telling me that Jamie’s team needed an assistant for his Canadian publicity and would I be interested in helping out?
I don’t think I need to tell you how fast I said yes.
Here are some things that I learned during my day with Jamie (and his food stylist, Christina):
1) Creme fraiche in Canada is not the same consistency as creme fraiche in Britain so sometimes you need to add yogurt and/or cream cheese into it to make it look good for TV.
2a) American ovens won’t always bake buns to golden-y perfection at the same temperature as British ovens.
2b) This means that you might have to re-jig the shooting schedule to give your finished product more time to, well, finish.
3) Washing dishes is a boring but necessary task, and will sometimes lead to you meeting one of your heroes while wearing a soap-sudsy apron with your hair sticking up everywhere and your glasses fogging up because you’ve been elbow-deep in hot water for fifteen minutes.
4) A “hero” is also a term for “the finished product that looks good enough to show on TV, compared to those other ones that are still baking in the oven because of the aforementioned temperature discrepancy”.
5) Electric mixers, while often hailed as being time-savers, don’t always break the butter down into the flour properly so you’re better off just using your hands (plus it’s more fun that way).
6) No matter how many times he goes over the recipe in the kitchen, it’s still possible for the chef to accidentally call star anise “five-spice” while on set. And he’ll probably make fun of himself for doing it too.
7) Audiences + freshly made food + a chef handing out plates = chaos. And also a lot of waste, which is totally rude, considering how many other people in the audience didn’t get a sample.
8) If you stick a bunch of women in the same room as Jamie Oliver, a lot of giggling and hair-flipping will ensue. Outside of the room, there will be a lot of whispers of “he’s so good-looking/charming/sweet/wonderful,” etc, until you want to bark “keep it in your pants, he’s married,” but secretly, you’re proud because they’re just staring at him through a window and you’ve actually had a conversation with him.
9) Sticky toffee pudding looks, smells, and tastes delicious, but is a pain in the butt to clean up after, especially if you’re running late for another event and it’s going to take you ten minutes to grab a cab.
10) Despite what critics and “haters” may think of him, Jamie Oliver if one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. What you see on TV is exactly what you get in real life.
By the way, this experience would not have been possible if it wasn’t for Rob Firing – check out his new book, “The Everyday Squash Cook“, squashed full of recipes that are perfect for fall!