We know Jamie Oliver as the cheeky British chef, celebrated cookbook author and food-education advocate, but did you know he's an avid gardener and he supplies produce to both his and his dad's restaurants in England? On his weekends off, you'll often find him knee-deep in dirt, teaching his kids about the food that makes it to their dinner table. Oliver's new book, Everyday Super Food (HarperCollins, $38), is available in book stores now, and he's planning to open his first restaurant here in Canada this winter. We recently caught up with the busy father to hear his thoughts on healthful eating in a time-crunched world.
Canadian Living: What advice can you give to time-pressed families who want to cook from scratch and eat fresh whole foods?
Jamie Oliver: Share the cooking workload. Give the kids little jobs—maybe shaking a jam jar full of salad dressing or tearing up herbs. The more you involve them in the cooking process, the more likely they are to eat the food you're making. It's also a way to teach them about where their food comes from.
CL: How do you make grocery trips more efficient?
JO: I tend to plan my meals, make a list and stick to it. I think we're often guilty of filling our baskets with food we don't really need, and then, we end up throwing food away, eating too much or eating the wrong types of food. Try to form a relationship with your local grocery clerk, butcher or fishmonger so you can get the best insider tips as to what's in season and what you should be cooking now.
CL: How did you get your kids interested in food and how it's grown?
JO: At our house in Essex, we're lucky enough to have a big vegetable-and-herb garden, so as soon as our children were old enough, we've been talking about what's growing in our backyard, as well as touching, smelling and tasting! Buddy, my youngest [now five], is like a little ninja with the herbs these days. I just send him out for some marjoram and he knows exactly where to go!
CL: How did your garden evolve?
JO: It really started from nothing. When we bought our house about 10 years ago, there was no garden to speak of. Once we'd moved in, I threw a few seeds on the ground to see what would happen, and I was overjoyed when they grew. Before I knew it, I was growing all kinds of fruit and vegetables and writing a book about it [ Jamie at Home]. It gradually got bigger over the years, and now, we supply produce to Fifteen [Oliver's restaurant in London] and my dad's pub.
CL: How do you feel when you see your kids working in the garden?
JO: I have a sense of pride because we've grown that food together, as a family. It's a big part of our lives on weekends and during holidays.
CL: What family values are you hoping to pass on to your kids through this process?
JO: I want them to be able to look after themselves and their families and to understand which foods are nutritious and which ones are best kept as treats. One of the most important things we can do as parents is give our kids the life skills they need to lead happier, healthier lives.
Try out this recipe for Mega Veggie Burgers, Garden Salad and Basil Dressing from Jamie's new book.
This story was originally part of "Jamie Oliver" in the November 2015 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!