Jamie's Kitchen

A year in the life of Jamie


What a year it's been. Over the past 12 months I've really learnt a lot about myself and have gained so much from new experiences, especially from the birth of my daughter. Poppy has given me a massive wake-up call! Some things never change though - I am still absolutely passionate about food.

Not just eating but the whole cooking thing, hunting down great produce and especially making up recipes. When I've found a new dish or tried out a new technique in cooking, I get the same feeling as when I first learnt how to ride a bike. I may never have been the best bike rider, but I always enjoyed it, even when I fell off or crashed. I want you to have the same attitude towards your cooking.

This year has been really exciting for me, because an idea has finally become a reality. Let me tell you about Jamie's Kitchen. About seven years ago, when I'd just started working at the River Café, I was having a cup of tea with a friend, Kirsty. At the time she was working with problem children - aggressive and bad-tempered, they weren't fitting into their school or home environments very well - and she was explaining to me that the main thing was to inspire and empower them and to give them some hands-on responsibility. She said that cooking classes had been going really well with them, because they could feel, smell and create things and above all it was fun. Plus they could eat what they'd made! Having not been the brightest banana in the bunch myself, I realized that my biggest weapon in life was the determination, enthusiasm, hands-on and 'actions speak louder than words' approach my father taught me, and I wanted to get this across to others, especially those interested in food. Having had five really great years I felt it was about time to give a little back and help inspire others. So that's where Jamie's Kitchen came from.

All my ideas got whittled down to one main one - to train a team of unemployed kids with an interest and passion for food and to open a new first-class restaurant in London to be run by them. The restaurant will be a charity, with all profits used to send the kids on scholarships to work with the best chefs around the world - Britain, Italy, France, Australia, Japan. Just look at the difference that the Roux brothers, Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay have made in such a short period of time. They are all incredible chefs and we should aspire to be as good as they are. Together they have broken the mould for British food and now their protégés are continuing in their footsteps and cooking to a brilliantly high standard.

The aim of this book is the same as my TV programme's. It's not a clinical or overly serious 'learn to cook' book. It's more about giving you an honest and easy approach to cooking from my point of view. With this book, you too can get stuck in along with the kids who are training as chefs. So far they've been brilliant - getting stuck into their training and displaying a real thirst for knowledge. But it hasn't all been plain sailing as they are 15 very different individuals. I'm pleased with how well they've been doing though, and I really hope they enjoy the training and the whole experience. If they can come out the other end as fully trained, passionate chefs, I'll be a happy man.

Recently I've travelled all over the world and have met some great people. I honestly can't tell you what a real sense of happiness and achievement I feel when I get everyone from kids, to OAPs, to students, to builders, to city boys, talking to me about the recipes they've cooked from my books. It's an unbelievable feeling, but the best thing of all for me is when someone says they adapted a recipe as they preferred a nice cod steak to a bit of mullet, or 'I hate pears so I did it with peaches' or 'I turned that ravioli into a tortellini.' For me it doesn't get much better than that, because it makes me feel I've given you guys confidence in your own cooking. Just remember, it's not about being a professional chef, weighed down with facts and figures and techniques.

I'd like you to have a go on your own and think of me as a mate who's on hand to give you a bit of extra guidance. I want to give your cooking a kickstart, so be creative, give it your best shot and, as always, have a laugh.



Links to

Jamie's Kitchen

A year in the life of Jamie

Recipes

Deep-fried Oyster

Roast Chicken

Baileys Banana Bread and Butter pudding

Jamie's Kitchen - click to find out more

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