Dale Lyster wines and dines with Jamie Oliver at his Christmas Italian masterclass in York
As a man who owns every Jamie Oliver cookbook, has purchased half a dozen of his magazines, regularly watches his TV shows and loves to try out his recipes, (apart from the ones that claim to be 30 Minute Meals but take far too long for any student,) it’s fair to say that I am quite the fan of Jamie Oliver. So, when I found myself severely jet-lagged and tagged in a post about a competition to not only meet, but have dinner and a cookery class with The Naked Chef, I quickly put together a pathetic email about how I’m his biggest fan, or perhaps his biggest based in York. The day before his arrival in York I woke to a pleasant email stating that myself and a plus one were on the guestlist to have an evening with Jamie, consisting of a talk on Christmas food, followed by a masterclass on some rather delicious squash and apricot tortellini. It’s fair to say that in that moment I felt halfway between Charlie in the Chocolate Factory and Roger Federer after a game on Wimbledon turf.
Practically running from my seminar with glee, I arrived at Jamie’s Italian with 15 minutes to spare to be greeted with a glass of Christmas prosecco and the presence of fellow food enthusiasts. After befriending chefs and journalists, I was approached by a waiter with a board of canapes in one hand, prosecco in the other and a great grin. On a 180-degree turn I was to realise this waiter was actually Jamie himself. While trying to remain calm and enjoy the vol-au-vent canapes I somewhat shouted at Jamie that I was his biggest fan, to which he said that he would be happy to talk food once he’d finished presenting myself and fellow guests with a taste of his new Christmas menu.
He began the talk with a comedic anecdote of his Grandmother accidentally lighting her hair-sprayed head on fire one Christmas with a lit Christmas pudding, which later made him reflect upon the significance of food in the festive season. After tasting flavours I was not previously aware of, Jamie put his hand on my shoulder and we discussed our shared love for food. He was just as friendly as he appears to be on TV, treating everyone with the same level of value and respect. I told him how much I valued the hope we both shared of spreading the knowledge of cookery universally and how student budgeting can force a great deal of creativity from a cook. He seemed rather pleased that his passion and knowledge was shared across generations and different backgrounds, which led him to continue to talk of the universality of food, and how we can learn a great deal from one another.
After great amounts of eating, a free signed cookbook and a chat with The Naked Chef himself, Jamie Oliver proved himself not only to be a great cook with incredible ideas well communicated, but also a bold human being that treats others with gratitude and respect.