On Friday 17th May, whilst walking up Westmorland Place to check out Jamie Oliver’s newly refurbished restaurant, I found myself in the heart of Food Revolution Day and surrounded by television cameras which were all pointing to none other than Jamie himself.
‘Is that Jamie Oliver?’ I asked a professional looking hack with a long lens. ‘Don’t you know what he looks like?’ he spat back. ‘Well, you know, I’ve never seen him in the flesh.’ I waffled. ‘Ee’s just a geezer,’ said the photographer. Evidently it was time to keep quiet and take some photos of Jamie talking to a blond journalist about the campaign.
Now in its second year, Food Revolution Day is being celebrated around the world in 62 countries. This year’s theme is Cook It. Share it. Live It. In Jamie’s words ‘It’s all about getting people reconnected with food, where it comes from and how it affects our bodies. I want people to get street-wise about food.’
And what better place to do it than in the street. Up and down both sides of the picture-perfect cobbled alley, food experts were teaching people how to cook on griddles, make smoothies and engage in other essential cooking skills while the smell of freshly cooked street food wafted about.
Along the long tables there was even some street-food being eaten, despite the cold weather, and under a little canopy two classes of children from the local school were about to enjoy some especially decent looking grub.
Taking the theme all the way, Jamie has restyled his nearby restaurant, Fifteen, so-called because it gives fifteen young people the chance to train as chefs every year. He has done away with many traditional restaurant habits, such as the idea of ordering a starter, and a main course. Now there is just food for sharing, in the tapas style.
The Italian theme has been replaced by an emphasis on seasonal British produce, and the Revolutionary Dish of the Day, cured mackerel and tomatoes, sounded very tempting.
The revolutionary point about the mackerel is that it is a much neglected, delicious fish which is plentiful in British waters, unlike the increasingly rare and overfished cod. The mackerel had been cured and then cooked very briefly on a griddle.
‘Is this fish raw?’ I asked the fresh-faced Abi on his first day as a fully fledged waiter. ‘It has been cured and lightly griddled, just enough so that the skin is free of bacteria and crispy’. Raw in other words. But raw mackerel is surprisingly good, it turns out. Especially when served with rye bread, yoghurt and tomatoes.
In the spirit of sharing, the recipe is also being distributed and we will be publishing it as soon as we can get hold of some mackerel to test it out in The Sunny Times kitchen!