The birth of Christ aside, it’s an exciting time of year for eager food fans who await their favourite celeb chefâs Christmas release. But one man has climbed to the very top of the fir tree and sits there like a golden-haired angel, Essex-sent and determined to raise the standard of our weeknight nosh: HRH Jamie Oliver.
Last year Oliver shifted over a million copies of his festive release, ’30 Minute Meals’ and it went on to become the fastest selling non-fiction work in UK history. ‘Jamieâs Great Britain’, a follow-up to the current TV series of the same name, is hotly tipped to be this yearâs Christmas bestseller, despite a relatively slow start. The book has already moved up 15 places from last weekâs position in the UKâs official book chart and there may well be a copy somewhere under your tree come Christmas Day.
Jamieâs book sales have even outstripped the first lady of British cookery, Delia Smith, for goodness sake. So what is it about this cocky cockney that gets us so ruddy excited?
Simple but scrumptious
Whatever you say about his frenetic presenting style or âmockneyâ? accent, it is difficult to deny that his food is outstandingly delicious and nigh on fool-proof. The UK is rapidly developing into a nation of food fanatics and it has been the Naked Chefâs accessible cooking style which has allowed so many of us to get in on the fun.
A three course Thai banquet in 30 minutes? Yes please.
Jamieâs app was one of the first to hit the market and has been a huge factor in getting Jamieâs top tips into the home. But despite begin hugely successful, it is unlikely to outstrip sales of his book next month. You canât wrap an app for one thing. And who honestly wants their iPad perched precariously next to a bowl of pre-blitzed soup? What’s more, most people who take their home-cooking seriously enjoy making notes in their favourite recipe and treat a well-worn gravy-stained tome as a badge of honour.
Tom Weldon of Oliverâs publishing house, Penguin, knows he is on to a good thing with the splatter-proof, curl-up-with-a-cuppa-cookbook: âItâs absolutely perfect for this moment. People are time-rushed and in this recession want to cook more at home.â? Previous TV chef favourites may have tried to make things âeasyâ? but Jamie consistently produces innovative but wholesome grub in a format that critics have hailed as a “visual conversation” with readers.
The same cannot be said for Delia who missed the foodie mark massively when she began making Shepherdâs Pie with frozen mash, pre-chopped veg and tinned mince. It might be âeasy as pieâ? but it looks vile.
Mad About The Boy
Cynicism, debt, joblessness and credit-crunch misery are all high on the agenda here in 2011. Is it outrageous to suggest that we have warmed to Oliver because he makes our miserable, cash-strapped lives warm and fuzzy for an hour? If buying his book makes us feel closer to some kind of culinary nirvana where we spend our weekend cultivating herbs instead of taking out the bins and getting drunk, publishers can name their price.
The manâs unbridled enthusiasm may be a source of irritation for the likes of Charlie Brooker who describes him as âa drunk who’s just kicked his own teeth out and thinks it’s hilariousâ?, but for most of us it is endearing and infectious. Who else sings their own recipe just for japes? Love it or hate it, heâs one of a kind..
“There are really four or five cookbook writers who dominate the market and they’re the ones we know by their first names. But I think accessibility is really the key to Jamie’s success,” says Bookseller magazineâs Tom Tivnan and he’s right. Hugh? Posh boy. Nigella? Ridiculous. Gordon? Foul-mouthed. Delia? Pah, its 2011! Heston? Yeah right. Jamieâs no-frills approach has got dads into the kitchen burning bruschetta every night of the week. And why donât we mind being told what to do by Jamie? Because he is just like us. He doesn’t have any Michelin stars, he gets his hands dirty and he probably licks the spoon as well.
All of these âfirst-nameâ? chefs have books out this Christmas but with Hugh focusing on the worst part of the Christmas dinner (veg) and Heston advocating turkey soaked in brine for 15 hours, the accessibility factor again becomes an issue. A medieval Italian recipe for Kingâs venison â now that sounds like something that we could all have a go at..
Christmas is stressful enough and life is just too short. Jamie remains the King of Kings as we move into the festive season and has a long and delicious reign ahead.