What Jamie Oliver learned from centenarians about superfood

Deutsche Welle
6 Min Read

During a visit to Berlin, Jamie Oliver tells DW how he got inspired for his book by traveling worldwide and cooking with 100-year-old people. They’ve shown him you don’t need to be rich to eat like a king.
DW: How would you describe your tastes as a chef?

Jamie Oliver: I like simple food, I like rustic food. I like food that makes you feel comfortable, food that disarms you or intrigues you. I don’t really like to try to control nature too much. I love to not touch it too much. Probably more effort goes into buying and finding the food than mucking around with it. But I love it.

And I also love the fact that there is Michelin staff doing incredible things and I love the fact that there are street food vendors cooking at the same level as them these days. It’s really exciting – all over the world. It’s just a beautiful industry and it’s changing all the time.

Would you describe what you are doing now as a “mission” and did you have this mission when you started some years ago?

I didn’t ever intend to be on TV, and I was never political. Never! But what happened 17 years ago was not normal. When “The Naked Chef” kicked off, even in Germany, it was crazy. It was like a moment in time with a whole new generation of cooks, you know: Slightly more feminine, slightly more natural, a little bit scruffier, a little bit more of what happens with food at home and less about the restaurant.

But most importantly, I started having conversations with the public all around the world. So, when that happens, it changes you forever. And it makes you appreciate culture. It makes you appreciate good food in every country.

Food is always a wonderful look into what it feels like to be from that country, but it also shows the things that go wrong, when people are getting sick, when type 2 diabetes is one of the worst things – and that’s the case in Germany and in Britain today.

I wrote this book “Everyday Super Food” because people were really confused. You know, people were asking: “What fats are good, what fats are bad?; Is processed food good or bad?; Are carbohydrates bad for you?; Is it gonna make you fat?…”

So I just felt I needed to clean up a lot of that debate and got carried in. And that’s why we’ve spoken to scientists and professors. We’ve been to parts of the world where people live the longest and literally been partying with them. It’s been amazing. These people all had gardens. They don’t have meat often, but it’s quality-made. It’s quite humble food and it’s colorful and delicious.

Now that we can get any food anywhere, you know, it was a real honor to meet a 100-year-old man and ask: “What’s your secret?” and he’s like: “EGGS, Eggs are amazing! Amazing protein. Every morning!” For a 100 years! It gave me inspiration to finish this book.

Is writing about superfood now just jumping onto a band wagon?

Here’s the thing: Superfood has been around for five, even 10 years, but no one communicates food like I do in 110 countries around the world on 220 platforms. My inspiration is driven by the public and my experiences. If I am jumping on a bandwagon, I’m very proud to. Hopefully we can get these values out to millions of people.

If you just take the concept of superfood: What is that? Often superfood is seen as related to just quinoa and chia seeds and goji berries. But a superfood is not one ingredient. No one ingredient has everything.

Actually most of the people living the longest lives just know really good ways of making things delicious and nutritious. They pull down the processed meats and push up the whole wheats and have quality.

Interestingly, I’ve noticed two things: The people who live the longest have never got much money. And the people who have cooked me the best meals of my life have never got much money either. I love the idea that it’s simply about knowledge: That’s the value and the luxury. I really believe that when you know how to cook, whether you’re rich or poor or in the middle in your life, it doesn’t matter, you will feed your kids and your family right, you will have parties and you can eat like a king. And I have seen it.

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