Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has a very simple recipe for success when it comes to entertaining over the festive period: serve up the left-overs with some bread and a load of prosecco and have a party.
Well, it is slightly more sophisticated than that – but that is how it will go in the Oliver household this year.
The 42 year-old was at his Leeds branch of Jamie’s Italian yesterday to meet 25 fans and winners of a Yorkshire Evening Post competition as well as share his top tips for Christmas cooking.
In addition to dishing up a feast of favourites from the Christmas party menu such as turkey ravioli (which he says he can’t do without on Christmas Day), porchetta and tiramisu amongst reams of Italian meats, seafood and vegetables he told the Yorkshire Evening Post that despite Christmas being the busiest time for him, both at work and at home, he ‘bloomin’ loves it’.
He said: “I have always been in the restaurant trade so it is a mixture of emotions. The last month is full of parties and festive cheer but a lot of work at the same time and it is the only time of year when it was family time.
“That is the same for a lot of people. It is a strange time of indulgence and cheer with the family and also reflection. You get older, more philosophical and nostalgiac and the dinner table looks the same year after year but there are people who aren’t with you anymore. I still do a bunch of my nan’s dishes that she used to do.”
He also says that catering for the family at Christmas (of course you are going to go to the relative that is a TV chef) became like a “busman’s holiday” so last year he changed the tradition.
Oliver added: “Normally the day before Christmas Eve I will take over the kids and start preparing Christmas dinner. I always enjoyed it up until about two years ago. We started with 12, then 14, then 16 and as the families that came got bigger, and I have five kids, we got to 26 and it was like running a restaurant. Last year for the first time there were just the seven of us and made the big party Boxing Day. It is an easier gig, I make an Italian mixed roast with enough left overs for a week and add lots of prosecco.”
That is in part what has led to the various festive menus he has lined up for the Park Row restaurant this year so that families, couples and work mates can enjoy a meal together, with three options to suit different budgets, and without the hassle of preparing it.
He said: “It is nice to re-connect with customers, do an intimate event, question and answer and present the things we are thinking about for this year but it is as much for the staff and the team here in Leeds. We have a hundred staff in Leeds and it is the seventh year we have been here and a lot have been here since day one and in this industry that is precious.”