We speak to the British celebrity chef about life ten years ago, and what the next decade may hold for the future of food

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Jamie Oliver needs little introduction, being a fixture on the global culinary scene for the best part of 20 years, but here’s a little taster: the 39-year-old chef first appeared on British TV back in 1997, and since then has spawned an international empire and countless campaigns orbiting the food issues of our time.

Hong Kong has seen little of Oliver beyond the screen however, as he was most notably absent during the launch of his first restaurant in the city last summer. Not this time. The Brit was well and truly present during a whirlwind stopover in Hong Kong to announce the news of his second Jamie’s Italian, to be unveiled at Harbour City later this year.

This time, it struck us how the focus of his words moved beyond that of the usual fluff surrounding a restaurant opening – Oliver spoke candidly about his work with Food Revolution, his campaign to get people eating more healthily, and his continued efforts to lobby governments around the world to give children access to food education.

 



It’s been ten years since [the TV series] Jamie’s School Dinners. Ten years ago, in Britain, there were about six million kids going to school for 190 days of the year from the age of four until they turn 18.

It was a bad time. Half of the kids’ nutrition was supplied by the government, but the food was all processed, and really bad quality.

The good news is, we made 500 million pounds over six years to invest in the food system that hadn’t been invested in for over 40 years.

Ten years ago, the English cared more for their dogs than their kids. If I wanted to produce food for schools, for children, there were no standards. If I wanted to produce dog food, the legal paperwork we had to go through was ridiculous.

Sometimes, I feel like people think that children are only born to eat nuggets and burgers. Like they’re programmed to. But they’re not.

I work in countries of famine, but I also work in countries where they eat too much. And it’s a very uncomfortable position to be in. How do I justify it, or how can I have the conversation with you about two such disparately awful things?

Last year was the first time in world history where more people died of eating too much of the wrong stuff, than having too little. This is the kind of big moment in history that we don’t have enough people talking about.

In ten years, there will be an amplified version of what we have now. I think more research will be out on the prevalence of specific diet-related diseases.

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In many countries, we’re eating way too much meat. In ten years, it’s going to be about getting on a more plant-focused diet, and also eating more quality meat less often.

Nearly everything that I put up on my Instagram is vegetarian. Not because I am – I love meat – but I just think that the public want more ways to love vegetables.

Food education everywhere is critical. We’re not asking for anything controversial. All we’re asking for is that our children know how to grow a seed, look after it, cook it, eat it, and through that they learn science, geography, math, art. It’s a beautiful way to do it. 

 

Food Revolution Day this year will take place on May 15, 2015. 


10/10 is a new HongKongTatler.com series pondering the past and future of those who have shaped society today.

 

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