Jamie Oliver: Cooking for the family this Christmas

Jamie Oliver loves Christmas and always entertains his growing family. Gemma Dunn meets the celebrity chef.

Holed up in his London office, Oliver - dressed in light blue jeans, a simple navy sweater with a lightening bolt motif and his trademark white trainers - is exactly as any fan of his would hope: warm, brilliantly honest, and entirely true to his much-loved TV persona.

With a near on 20-year career, that takes in endless work on the small-screen, more than 20 books, his own Italian restaurant chain, not to mention often single-handed efforts to revolutionise home cooking and overhaul the nation’s poor diets, there’s plenty to talk about.

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But today the hot topic is Christmas, for which he’s dishing out plenty of tips and tricks in an upcoming Channel 4 special, Jamie’s Ultimate Christmas, plus his first ever festive title, Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook.

And he certainly stands in good stead, giving that he’s played host for much of his family for the past 15 years - a mob that extends far beyond his wife of 16 years, Jools, and their five-strong brood: Poppy Honey Rosie, 14; Daisy Boo Pamela, 13; Petal Blossom Rainbow, seven; Buddy Bear Maurice, six; and newest edition, four-month-old River Rocket.

So what does a typical Christmas - after “a 4am wake-up call from shivering kids”, of course - look like in the Oliver household?

“Weirdly, most of it is surrounded by food, and I’m not sure if that’s because I’m biased,” the chef quips, before revealing his plans to have a quiet family day on December 25, before going big for his guests on Boxing Day, co-organised by Jools.As for keeping up traditions, the Essex-born star, whose fame accelerated after his 1999 series The Naked Chef, confesses: “The night before, we do a cosy night in; we get the kids fed and then me and Jools have a quiet one together. Sitting down next to the fire, having a good whisky and trying to get a chapter of a book in is very rare - it kind of means success!” He also heads down to the local pub to see old school mates.

“I’m quite lucky, I still communicate with about 80 per cent of my school year, which is quite rare. I did terrible at school but it was a happy place and because we’ve all got kids now, we’re quite nostalgic.” On the menu will be turkey, goose, all the trimmings, old school games, and a batch of inappropriate crackers.

Oliver was eight years old when he started helping out in the kitchen of his parents’ pub, The Cricketers, in Clavering, Essex.

He confesses that the teens - the eldest of which, Poppy, cut the umbilical cord when River Rocket was born - almost. And it’s not just his own offspring he cares for.

His generosity has seen him establish the Fifteen charity restaurant, where his teams train disadvantaged young people to work in the hospitality industry; incite a huge change in the school meals system; start up the Ministry of Food campaign, which enables people to learn to cook healthy foods at home; and he’s tirelessly campaigned for the government to introduce a sugar tax that will safeguard our children’s future health.