Happy Days with The Naked Chef

Interview with my Mum

Sally Oliver, better known as Jamie’s mum, dishes up the detail on Jamie’s formative years, including his childhood love of liver sausage, smoked salmon and trout - no fish fingers for this young chef!

Penguin: Has Jamie always been interested in cooking?
Sally Oliver: Jamie was always interested in cooking, even from an early age. We have always had a public house with a restaurant, Jamie grew up in that environment and like any child watching their father and mother, he wanted to join in with the food preparation and cooking. We had chefs working in the kitchen who gave easy jobs to him and I think it made him feel really grown up - he thought he was 'one of the boys'. He grew up aware that it was normal to see men cooking, perhaps unlike other children of his age. The chefs always used to joke and have a laugh with him and I know he really enjoyed it. He also knew that once service began everyone would buckle down and get on with the job, so he learnt the rules of a commercial kitchen from a very early age.
Penguin: What are your favourite memories of cooking with Jamie as a child?
Sally Oliver: We used to stand him on a chair so that he could reach the work surface and obviously he used to get into a real mess - he still uses his hands for everything when he's cooking!
Penguin: In Happy Days Jamie has devoted a whole chapter to getting kids cooking. Do you think it's important for kids to get involved in 'proper' cooking and to cook as a family?
Sally Oliver: I think it's very important that children learn about what they are eating and of different ways to cook it. There is no doubt that good nutrition is vital for good health and where better to learn it than from your parents, who really care about what you eat. Just as importantly, our children in turn have to educate their own children.

Even though it has become a bit of a cliché, I do believe that it is very important for families to eat together and actually talk to each other. I remember that Jamie used to love us all sitting round the table having our meals together, with him and his sister, Anna-Marie both knowing that they were going to have our undivided attention.
Penguin: How involved are you in Jamie's books - does he ask you for advice or ideas?
Sally Oliver: We are both very interested in Jamie's books, it is extremely exciting to see his ideas and recipes appear on the pages of a book. He has always had very strong ideas and opinions on how he wants his books to be, it's very important to him. He knows just the kind of recipes that he wants to put in them but is also deeply involved in the appearance of the book. I believe that the reason he wanted Penguin to publish his books was because he felt that they were forward thinking, in tune with his own vision and actually listened to him.
Penguin: Jamie's dedicated some of the recipes in his books to various people who have inspired him. Are there any recipes in Happy Days inspired by you?
Sally Oliver: I'm not so sure, but it would be lovely to think so - I suppose I'd like to think that perhaps the roasts were inspired by the Sunday roasts that we always used to have with visiting aunts, uncles, cousins and a grandparent or two thrown in! I know he always used to really enjoy those long, noisy dinners round the table. I always did a big pudding and I know he likes the sort of rustic, stodgy, and easy to make puddings, served with loads of custard, which I made in my limited capacity as an unprofessional cook.
Penguin: What was Jamie's favourite meal as a child?
Sally Oliver: I remember that Jamie was quite an easy child to feed, he always wanted to try different things, especially anything unusual that he had seen prepared in the kitchen. I suppose that by living in a pub, he was in a very fortunate position of being able to try the more unusual and expensive things that I certainly didn't see in my post-war childhood.

He loved smoked salmon with loads of lemon juice - I believe he still does. I remember that at an early age he used to love a whole trout for his tea with salad and was never fazed by the bones, having watched the chefs filleting fish, he soon got the idea. He used to like egg and bacon for his breakfast and really loved porridge, on which he used to draw a cross shape with his spoon and put the milk and sugar or syrup into the cross - a strange custom that he learnt from his Grandad - very odd! Another favourite, believe it or not, was liver sausage, which he loved in his school lunch sandwich - I bet he doesn't eat that now!

Links to

Happy Days with The Naked Chef

Tour snaps

Interview with Jools

Interview with Jamie's Mum


Scrummy Warm Rocket Salad

Seared Salmon with Radicchio, Pancetta, Pinenuts and Balsamic Vinegar

Fruit Cobbler

Happy Days with The Naked Chef - click to find out more

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