The time I met Jamie Oliver (and a Comfort Food giveaway!)

Jamie Oliver in Toronto on eatlivetravelwrite.comPeople who know me in real-life might say I always have a LOT to say. So there are a very few occasions that have left me speechless – and actually thinking about it, I can only think of a handful. Like, you know, the time I met Jamie Oliver.

Jamie was in Toronto recently to launch the Sobeys Inc. Better Food Fund which is the next step in Sobeys’ better food journey that kicked off last fall with a partnership with Jamie himself. The Better Food Fund supports access to, and the advancement of, better food through donations and partnerships with national and regional charities.  The Fund has three distinct areas of focus: food access through the support of food banks and breakfast programs; research on food-related health issues; and food literacy through nutrition education and cooking skills programs in schools and communities.   To launch the Fund, Sobeys and Free the Children have partnered to co-develop Home Cook Heroes, an empowering program that provides students aged 12 to 17 with nutritional literacy, food awareness and basic cooking skills. Cooking skills are life skills and they teach people how to be self-reliant, independent and instill a natural sense of wellbeing. Combined with nutritional literacy, cooking skills empower people to take control of their health.

Naturally I am thrilled about this partnership, as, in my work as a Food Revolution Ambassador for Toronto, I try to show people the importance of cooking real food and teaching kids to cook real food. If only this was a mandatory part of the curriculum…. But this initiative is definitely a step in the right direction.  As Jamie says, “Knowing how to cook fresh food from scratch is an essential life skill – once you know that, you’re set up for life,”

Jamie Oliver cooking in Toronto on eatlivetravelwrite.comJamie was also in town to host a cooking class for some winners of a Sobeys #BetterFoodForAll contest – to enter you had to tweet/ Instagram a photo of a “better food side dish” or a “better food lunchbox” (which I did, many times – alas, winners were chosen randomly and my name was not one of them!).  Thanks to the kind folks at High Road (who I have worked with on a number of campaigns and who do much of the PR work for Sobeys/ Food Revolution Day) though, I was invited to go and watch the winners learn from Jamie (and maybe even steal a minute or so of Jamie’s time for an autograph!).

The 90 minutes went by in a flash. Jamie demo-ed his recipe – Irresistible Pork Buns – and then the contest winners got cooking.  During the demo part of the event, what struck me is just how real Jamie is. He’s exactly like you hope he would be. Funny, charming, and a whiz in the kitchen. He made those pork buns look like a breeze to whip up (all while enjoying a nice glass of wine!). He looks like he is genuinely having fun in the kitchen. And he makes you excited to cook too.

Jamie Oliver makes irresistible pork buns on eatlivetravelwrite.comI think at the heart of what Jamie is doing, these three things are key – keeping it real in the kitchen (by cooking and eating real food and also by realising that not everything will turn out perfectly – that’s real life!), making sure you have fun and getting excited about food. It’s what I try to do every Monday and Wednesday after school with my boys’ cooking clubs, Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. And I know I’m getting there. Because regularly I hear stories from the boys about what they cook at home, emails from the parents telling me how their sons have inspired them to get in the kitchen and have a go too, photos of what they have made etc… And then last weekend in the middle of our Thanksgiving dinner, I received a lovely photo of one of the boy’s pumpkin pies with this note from him mum:

Before we met you, we would have bought a pie. Those days are long gone.

This. This is what makes it all worthwhile.

So you’d think I would have a lot to say to Jamie.  I’ve been cooking with my students from Jamie’s recipes for nearly five years now, I have heard him speak each time he comes to Toronto (in fact, one of those talks was the inspiration behind my original boys’ cooking club, Les Petits Chefs) and so I figured I had so many things to tell him. So many stories to recount. So much to tell him about the boys’ favourite recipes of his. Oh and and how I signed up to be a Food Revolution Ambassador at the very beginning when there was barely a program to speak of.  Oh and yes, how I now write for JamieOliver.Com. You know, I had a ton of things I could have talked about.

In the end, as I shook his hand, my mind went blank for about 15 seconds. The longest 15 seconds of my life. Yes, Mardi Michels was actually speechless.  And finally I came out with “I’m a Food Revolution Ambassador from way back at the beginning.” I told him about how his talk in 2009 inspired me to start my boys’ cooking club and become a Food Revolution Ambassador. And basically I thanked him. Because the work I do with the boys each week feels to me like the most important thing I do and I don’t know if I’d be doing this without someone like Jamie around – tirelessly promoting food education. And Jamie, for his part, he listened, actually listened even though there was a giant queue of people who wanted to talk to him and a plane to catch. And he thanked me. Jamie Oliver thanked me. Because even though sometimes it feels like a drop in the ocean, my work with the boys is important too. And Jamie seems genuinely grateful. He seems kind of in awe at the reach of the Ambassadors (over 1300 of us now across the globe) and so very proud of all the work we are doing.

This. This is what makes it all worthwhile.

Jamie Oliver and Mardi Michels on yes, for those of you wondering, I told as many people in Jamie’s entourage as I could that there’s a certain science lab that doubles as a kitchen where boys gather twice a week to cook amazing food using basic equipment on crappy hotplates. I think Jamie would have a lot of fun cooking in there, don’t you? Next time….)

Jamie was also kinda sorta in town to promote his latest book Jamie’s Comfort Food – which, according to Jamie contains his “most scrumptious, gratifying, new and exciting recipes in the wonderful world that is comfort food.”  It’s a book full of “simple delightful, guilty pleasures we all love” celebrating “nostalgic memories, traditions and childhood favourites […] good mood food that will put a massive smile on your face.”

Food like the Insanity Burger:

Kids making Jamie Oliver Insanity Burger on eatlivetravelwrite.comThe Petits Chefs made this a couple of weeks ago and one of them made these for their family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Rock on!

And Hummingbird Cake:

Jamie Oliver hummingbird cake from Comfort Food on eatlivetravelwrite.comKids make Jamie Oliver Hummingbird Cupcakes on eatlivetravelwrite.comThe Petits Chefs made cupcakes but I made the full cake for our Thanksgiving dinner. Oh my. So good.

Jamie Oliver hummingbird cake Comfort Food on eatlivetravelwrite.comThis is most definitely not food for every day – Jamie calls it “food I cook and eat when I want to celebrate, when I’m excited, when I need a little pick me up or I feel under the weather or, frankly, when I want to be a bit naughty and indulgent.”  Yay for all things in moderation (and in fact, read about the place of Comfort Food in a healthy diet over on Jamie Oliver.Com).

There are a lot of my favourite comfort food classics in there – Shepherd’s Pie, Beans on Toast, Sausage Rolls, Meatballs, Fish and Chips, Chips, Burgers, Bacon Sandwich, Quesadillas, Ramen, Huevos Rancheros, Pierogis, Pho, Chicken Soup, Pasta, Osso Bucco, Toasted Cheese Sandwich, Pizza, Mac n Cheese, Garlic Bread, Chicken Pie, Eggs Benedict, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Profiteroles, Apple Pie, Bread Pudding, Molten Chocolate Cake… (you get the idea…).

In short it’s a fab book for the coming cooler weather and I can’t wait to get (more) stuck in!


Giveaway: Two copies of Jamie’s Comfort Food (worldwide!)

Comfort-Food-Cover-Canada-1That’s right, thanks to Harper Collins Canada, I have two copies of Jamie’s Comfort Food to give away – one to a Canadian address and one to a reader anywhere in the world!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post telling me what you’d say if you met Jamie Oliver!

For a bonus entry, tweet the following message: Win a copy of Jamie Oliver’s #ComfortFood from @HarperCollinsCa + @eatlivtravwrite ! Details:

then come back to leave me a comment on this post telling me you did.

Eligibility and contest rules

  • Open to to readers anywhere. One winner will be chosen from Canada and one from anywhere in the world.
  • No purchase of any product necessary for entry.
  • Winner will be chosen using from all qualified entries on Wednesday October 22nd 2014 after 6pm EST.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on Thursday October 23rd 2014.


Disclosure: I was a guest of Sobeys/ High Road at the Jamie Oliver event. I bought my own copy of Comfort Food, however Harper Collins Canada is providing two copies for giveaway purposes and shipping to one Canadian address. I was not asked to, nor further compensated for writing this post. I just really believe in what Jamie does.

Congrats to Della who won my Seven Letters from Paris giveaway.  Check your email!

59 thoughts on “The time I met Jamie Oliver (and a Comfort Food giveaway!)”

  1. I already have a copy of this book & have been enjoying reading through it.

    I am excited for you that you finally were able to get a meet up w/ Mr. Oliver. He SO needs to do a Petit Chefs class…

  2. I fear that I would be starstruck and just stand rooted to the spot , grinning inanely. If I was able to gather my wits, I would be full of questions …. so many, but perhaps the first would be ‘ how do you manage to do so much?’, followed by ‘would you please cook with Les Petit Chefs?’ and then, and then, and then…..

    Thanks to Mardi and HarperCollins. 🙂 Would be great to add this book to the collection.

  3. Oh Mardi, I love the picture of you and Jamie Oliver. I’m so happy for you that you were finally able to meet him and have a little chat with him. Loved reading this post, you could feel how excited you were!
    I hope the next time Jamie Oliver is back in Toronto that he has time to do a cooking class with LPC. Can you imagine how happy that would make the boys, they would be so proud of you for bringing Mr. Oliver to their class and Mr. Oliver would be so proud of the work you are doing with them.
    BTW, I’d be tongue-tied if I met you in person so you can imagine how I’d just look like a total idiot meeting Jamie Oliver 🙂

  4. Of course, one of the other (of the three times) Mardi was speechless was when she met Mr. Neil in Morocco. But that’s another story…. 😉

    Am sure he was impressed. And you got the money shot!

  5. I have recently been watching Jamie’s two shows on TV and become a big fan. As soon as it is over I google the recipes that interest me.
    Yesterday it was his chicken Kiev!

  6. To be honest, I would probably just gush and tell him I’ve watched his shows since the Naked Chef was on Food Network (when Food Network was still good and had cooking shows).

  7. My family always say “Mom, You talk to everyone!”. But I would totally be without words if I meet Jamie Oliver!
    Loved reading this story…..

  8. I would probably say that his new show Comfort Food is the best he has done yet! (and that’s really the best show @FoodChannel)

  9. Mardi, your post is fantastic! It must have been so surreal meeting Jamie himself. You’ve been forever championing his messages and recipes and the man himself was right there talking and cooking with you! A true dream come true! Keep up the great work Mardi… it gives ambassadors like me more motivation to try and do more with my family and the community! Cheers!

  10. I’ve been a big fan of Jamie’s since “The Naked Chef” show on the Food Network. In fact, here at home, we still talk about serving food “Jamie Oliver style”, just bring the dinner out to the table on the sheet pan; no need for fancy serving dishes. I also appreciate the fact that he even started Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, teaching kids and families and schools how to cook affordable, healthy food. Jamie’s been a successful restaurant and TV chef for many years; he could easily have rested on his laurels. But no — he brought his wife and kids across the pond several times in order to do this important work. I would love to meet Jamie.

  11. I would love to think that I’d say something intelligent, but I think I would end up gushing and telling him how much I love his shows and cookbooks. Great post Mardi! You must have been so excited to meet him.

  12. Your meeting Jamie and your blog piece is inspirational — to cook whole food and spread the word to others, especially the boys you work with. You will change their life.
    If I were to meet Jamie, I would tell him that it is so great to see how he enjoys cooking for others and with others. He is a role model for sure. I would also tell him that I can’t wait to get into my kitchen to more of his recipes.

  13. I would probably tell him that the Naked Chef was one of the first cooking shows I ever watched back when it was on TVO and was one of the reasons I am not afraid to cook/experiment now.

  14. I would be speechless too! But then I’d tell Jamie that it was him that inspired me to start cooking and I have cooked every single recipe in the Naked Chef and many many recipes from all his other books!
    Great work Mardi!

  15. I’d probably be star struck too. I’d probably tell him he inspired me to go back to school for Nutrition Education after watching Food Revolution. That he and Michele Obama and my inspiration for changing the food system. And that I remember him cooking a rabbit on his country kitchen cooking show here in the U.S. And that I love him!

  16. If I could manage to uncross my eyes n stop my knees knocking I think I would discuss Jamie’s Ministry of Food Ipswich and ask him when he will be bringing his mobile kitchen to Mount Isa!!!

    Secretly I would like to ask him if he has ever worked with Stephanie Alexander and how awesome it would be if Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden Foundation for schools and Jamie’s Food Revolution could combine and create a complete from garden to plate curriculum 🙂

  17. I would say ” Wotcha How is it in dear old Blighty Jamie? I was a Brit 7 years ago and would love to hear his very southern English accent in reply.

  18. I would probably mumble something non-sensical if I met Jamie Oliver!
    Like, um, what’s your favourite food, or something dumb like that.

  19. I would love to hear about how he grew up – I would ask him if his mom was his inspiration for cooking or who got him started in it.

  20. I just read your blog for the first time and just tweeted re: the cookbook contest (@KirikaBussell). Thanks for doing this giveaway.
    If I met Jamie Oliver, or if I met YOU for that matter, to be perfectly honest I’d probably tear up a little bit before I could get words out. Then I’d explain that I wasn’t taught how to cook, except how to make English muffin “pizzas” in grade 8, and for years I felt too intimidated to learn. Cooking was for home-makers and Martha Stewart. But now, many years and many recipes later, I have confidence that I know what I’m doing and meals don’t need to look like they belong on a magazine cover to be good. I’d add how since I don’t own a TV that I catch his cooking shows on the TV at the gym and it reminds me why I spend time their – especially if I want to indulge in Comfort Food. I’d probably make a faux pas by saying that I still remember him in his early NC days, sliding down a bannister and talking about “bashing potatoes”. Then, I’d state the obvious, that he has made eating good food accessible and enjoyable and improved quality of life for a new generation. I’d ask what he has planned next then stop talking and listen!

  21. Lucky you !!!

    I wouldn’t ask him anything but I would tell him that his book Jamie at Home is the best cookbook ever. We have done about 20-30 of the recipes and they all turned out more than great. I want more cookbooks like that !!

  22. I would tell him that we have had many an amazing meal courtesy of his wonderful recipes!
    Lovely giveaway – thank you 🙂

  23. I would love to say that I would say something witty, or fascinating, but the truth is I would probably be so star struck that i would talk in complete and total gibberish as my face turned bright red. I’m totally infatuated with anything Jamie Oliver, and I LOVE his cooking shows and recipes, and everything he stands for! He’s just awesome. Thank you for the chance!!

  24. I would most definitely thank Jamie Oliver for all his work for food education, as well as looking forward to cooking from his book, and not just from random recipes of his that I find on the internet ,

  25. I would say marry me , and right after that I would faint lol. I love Jamie!

    I actually would ask him his tips on plating. He always plates such rustic beauty and I love that.

    Thank you.


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