Jamie Oliver: The Naked Chef is Back
Jamie Oliver: The Naked Chef is Back
Jamie Oliver on his return to the London restaurant scene and why local sourcing is key…
It has been over 20 years since top chef Jamie Oliver arrived on our TV screens. The ‘naked chef’ – a reference to his simple pared-back approach to cooking – started out at the legendary restaurant The River Café. Since then, he has written countless recipe books, champions healthy eating for kids (with the target of halving childhood obesity by 2030) and encouraged disadvantaged youngsters to take up a career in catering.
His restaurant empire has grown to include 70 restaurants in 23 countries, but his UK chain Jamie’s Italian closed four years ago, as did Barbecoa and Fifteen, which he says was without doubt one of the hardest times of his life. But he’s back – this time with a central London spot in Covent Garden called Jamie Oliver Catherine St.
He’s thrilled to be returning. He tells us: “It means the world to me. Growing up, my home was a pub and restaurant – I spent my weekends and my holidays working in the kitchen, learning from my dad. I’m proud of where I’ve come from and it’s important to me to have a culinary home here in the UK.”
He adds: “I’m excited about all of it – I’m excited about our suppliers, our produce, about the incredible team of people we’re building, from management to front-of house to the kitchen and everything else around that.”
His team includes Chris Shaill as head chef, who worked alongside Jamie at Barbecoa, and Emma Jackson as pastry chef, previously of Soho Farmhouse and Petersham Nurseries.
“I’ve waited to find the right location, and the right team – many of whom have worked with me over the years and have returned specifically for this venture – so that we are in the best possible position to create something that we’re all super proud of.”
Well-sourced food is a big part of its ethos, and the menu is designed to reflect Jamie’s culinary roots, right from his mum and dad’s pub in Essex to the River Café to Fifteen.
Dishes include devilled eggs with sustainable Exmoor caviar, a seafood cocktail comprised of native lobster, crab and Morecambe Bay shrimps and venison from Royal Windsor Park fallow deer, braised for a ragu.
So, what’s Jamie’s favourite dishes on the menu? “Ah, the impossible question! I do have one that holds a special place in my heart which is Trevor’s Chicken. Named after my old man, it’s a real hark back to my days in the Cricketer with my parents, and dad showing me how to cook good, honest food with the best produce you can get. It’s stuffed chicken breast with wild mushrooms, buttery puff pastry and the loveliest, creamy mustard and shallot sauce. I just know it’s going to go down a treat and the chicken we are using is from Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, who believe in slow growing produce and just do brilliant things, so we know that we are using the best.”
His suppliers also include Cobble Lane Cured (British charcuterie, based in Islington) and Flourish Produce. So, how did he go about sourcing the best of local produce? “I am really fortunate that I have so many brilliant suppliers and providers surrounding my local area, so I got a lot of inspiration from there. Hill St Chocolate is the most delectable little chocolate shop in Saffron Walden, my village, and Neal’s Yard have been around for years in the spaces I have been working with – and I just love what they do, so that was a no brainer. Then my team and I just opened the floor to find some of the best movers and shakers in each industry, doing sustainability and seasonal sourcing right. That is where we came across Flourish, HG Walters down in West London…we just found the magic mix.”