INTERVIEW:Jamie Oliver, the chef who has become a global brand, talks to MARIE-CLAIRE DIGBYabout his young family, why he doesn’t want to work with his wife, what makes him ‘a bit of a geek’, and why he’s excited to be opening in Dublin
IF YOU WANT the inside track on the private life of Jamie Oliver, campaigning chef, restaurateur, TV presenter and author, forget trawling through the tabloids and peering at Hello! magazine. Just sign in to the Instagram app and you’ll have access to the family’s photo album. It’s all there: birthday parties, bathtime fun, back-to-school portraits, Petal’s first night in a real bed, Buddy having a go in Mum’s high heels.
Oliver and Jools, his wife of 12 years, are both enthusiastic photographers and share family snaps with their followers on the photo-sharing social networking site. It’s an epic show-and-tell, eagerly watched by almost 650,000 followers.
Earlier this year, Jools Oliver posted a photo of a school essay written by one of her daughters: “At first my mum refused to go out with him, but then my dad wished on a star and she said yes! Here’s a funny story of my mum and dad when they were going out. My dad was appearing on TV for cooking. He hired mum to be his editor, but fired her after a week because she spent all her time reading Vogue and not working!”
“That’s Poppy, that was hilarious, and it’s pretty much completely true,” Jamie Oliver says with a touch of parental pride, sipping fresh mint tea while speaking to The Irish Times during his visit to Dublin to launch Taste of Dublin and to drum up publicity for his first Irish restaurant, Jamie’s Italian.
The couple’s pictorial candour is surprising, given that official press shots of the family are rare. “Whenever I put anything on Twitpic, it just ends up in all the papers, even if it’s a crap picture, but with Instagram, they don’t. I think it’s a legal thing, thank the Lord,” says Oliver, who is responsible, by his own estimation, for about three-quarters of the social media commentary that goes out under his name.
The Olivers have four children: two-year-old Buddy Bear Maurice and sisters Poppy Honey Rosie, Daisy Boo Pamela and Petal Blossom Rainbow. So how does TV’s original cheeky chappie find having another man about the house? “It’s heavenly.” What’s different this time around? “Everything,” he says emphatically.
“He’s so adorable. I hope he stays the same, he’s just a sweet boy. His nature’s lovely and he really loves me and we get on just great without having to try. And the three sisters love him to bits as well. But the difference between boys and girls, I can’t get over it, it’s light years apart. Boys are kind of simpler than girls, in a polite way. He doesn’t cause me much grief. He cries only when he’s hungry, ironically,” Oliver says.
The family live between London and Essex, though there’s no doubting where Oliver’s heart lies. “I don’t feel like I live in London, I feel like I sleep there. I live in Essex, really.” He has cut back on the amount of travelling he does, to spend more time with his family, but still carries a heavy workload, saying he leaves in the dark and comes home in the dark.
There was a time when Oliver’s extended family played walk-on parts in his burgeoning TV and writing career, but that’s changed now. “I don’t really involve them that much, I did a bit in the old days, but not now. They get involved at Christmas,” he says. With fame and financial security – this year’s Sunday Times Rich List values him at £150 million (€186 million) – has come the option of being able to keep his family under wraps, those Instagrams notwithstanding.