Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty interview for Friday Night Feast
Friday Night Feast is back, bigger and better than ever. How much fun is the show to film?
Jimmy: Unbelievably so much fun to film. The only time I think I’ve laughed so much is when I was at school, or when I had my school reunion a couple of weeks ago.
Jamie: I’m the same as Jim. I think the whole point of the show is that it’s uplifting, it’s inspiring, it’s interesting, we try and find quirky people and quirky stories, and it’s all about trying to make the weekend a little more exciting. So the whole point of the show is to be happy, and we definitely do our best to keep that energy going throughout the whole hour.
Jimmy: And I think one of the key things is that it’s two friends, it’s a proper friendship, and we’re bound together by our love of food production, farming, cooking, all that sort of thing. You bring that in with sunny Southend Pier, and some amazing guests, it’s just the best fun ever.
The guests are a really important element of the show, aren’t they?
Jimmy: Definitely. I think one of the lovely things this show does is it reveals another side to the guests. If you sit down, one to one, with a guest to chat, you get the same sort of thing you always get. But I think the element of having these guys cooking for the whole café mans that is disarms them, and at the same time totally relaxes them. It brings out a completely different aspect to people’s personalities than you get on the chat shows.
Who have been the guests you guys have enjoyed having on the show in the past?
Jamie: We love all our guests, but I think Jimmy and I tend to resonate with different guests, and there’s not really a reason as to why.
Jimmy: If you think of the guests who really stand out, you’ve got Usain Bolt. He’d just smashed the 100 metres, unbelievable, and here he is, in a tiny café on Southend Pier, sitting down talking about how lazy he is and how much he likes junk food! And then from this series, having on someone like Luke Skywalker [actor Mark Hamill] is pretty remarkable.
Jamie: We have such a variety, that’s what I like – different ages, different backgrounds. We have quite a lot of musicians and actors and sports stars. But food is a good leveller. Of course people like Usain and Luke Skywalker are high moments, but then we had Joanna Lumley on, and she’s brilliant. We had Goldie Hawn on, and then we had her daughter Kate Hudson on. They were on different series, and what was really nice was that Goldie told her daughter to appear on the show, because she’d have a really good time. All of our guests say they have a great time. Maybe they’re really good liars.
Who have been the best and the worst cooks featuring in the forthcoming series?
Jamie: Definitely the worst was Greg Davies. He promised us he would be the worst cook, and he didn’t disappoint.
Jimmy: he was one of the best guests we ever had on the show, though. He was so funny. Obviously he’s a comedian, but also, having been a teacher, he had such a commanding presence in the café. Don’t forget, the people in the café aren’t just the audience, they’re the customers, and it’s a different dynamic. And no matter who we have on, and how experienced they are, and where they’ve performed, every single one of them has to play that café. It’s such a unique environment. There’s something amazing about watching Luke Skywalker sitting at a table having a chat with the customers.
Jamie: Who was the best, Jim? Do you think it was Warwick Davies?
Jimmy: He was brilliant, and Joanna Lumley was brilliant as well. Johnny Vegas was amazing, because he got really into it.
Jamie: Johnny came in saying he was a terrible cook, but left knowing that he was quite a handy cook. That was a nice transformation.
Jimmy: He absolutely smashed it. Liv Tyler was really good as well.
As ever, you’re waging war against bad practice and waste. What sort of campaigns do you have going on this series?
Jamie: We’ve got some really interesting ones this year. We try to show the British public the value of asking for mutton at the butcher. That would make a huge difference to farming, and waste. We have a campaign because a huge percentage of the ducks we sell in Britain have never floated on water.
Jimmy: A lot of the stories we feature are really interesting because they’re so varied. We might do something about waste, then something about social problems, then something to do with the amount of sugar in energy drinks or cereals, then something about farming, like aquaponics, then stuff to do with honey and bees. It’s so varied.
Jamie: We looked at something that produces systematic waste, and that is fish belly. You start to total up the weight of all the bellies trimmed off just because we want our fish to look a certain way, and you start to realise there’s a humungous amount of waste created that could actually go to feeding people. If we do our job properly, hopefully it helps the public be better informed, and hopefully have a more rounded opinion on things.
If each one of you was appointed Minister of Food for the UK with sweeping powers, what would be your first act?
Jimmy: I would instigate a system whereby all schools, where feasible, grew some food. By growing food on school allotments, children learn about health, about the environment, they do aspects of biology, of chemistry, of maths, and it connects them with nature.
Jamie: I would make it easier and cheaper to buy fresh, real food, and make it more awkward and harder and more expensive to buy shit. I would give tax rebates to food companies that reformulate salt, fat and sugar in an intelligent way, and give choice to their consumer. So if you’re a shitty chicken shop, and you offer a salad with your kebab, or you use a less saturated fat for your chicken nuggets, you get a rates rebate. You can take the worst elements and practices away from junk food. Nothing’s going to make uncaring businesses care like a rates rebate.
Jimmy, you’re going to be out coming up with your incredible DIY creations – what can we expect this time?
Jimmy: This year it’s been so much fun, because we’ve actually invited people to write in and ask us to build something for them. So we met this amazing guy who runs a disabled rugby team, and we built them an amazing Korean barbecue. Another build we did was a fantastic smoker for a lifeboat crew who were raising money. We’ve got smokers, barbecues, hog-roasters, you name it, but each one with the idea of giving something back to a deserving individual. I found it a really personal experience, I loved hearing all the stories, and it was so much fun to do.
Have you ever built stuff that simply hasn’t worked?
Jimmy: All the time! But we try and ensure that our builds are pretty simple to do – you don’t need to be a DIY expert to build a lot of this stuff. For example, every Christmas, I smoke my own salmon at home. I get two sides of salmon, I salt it with normal table salt, for around seven hours, I leave it in the fridge overnight, I make a smoker out of a cardboard box, and I smoke it for five hours. It makes a beautiful smoked salmon just out of a cardboard box and my fridge. It’s really simple.
Jamie, have you ever served up a dish in the café that didn’t go as well as you expected?
Jamie: Not that I can think of, not yet. It’s always gone pretty well. The only thing that always upsets me, that doesn’t go quite right, as we’ll pump out all this beautiful food, and we’ll put it out in front of the customers, and they’ll pick up their knife and fork, and then the director will go “Can you just wait while we film these other people?” And then they have to wait while their food gets cold, as a producer or director is focussed on another table a metre away, watching them eat their food and go on about how delicious it is.
Jimmy: But I reckon one of the highlights has got to be me, you and Sarah Millican making sausages in the café. Honestly, it turned pornographic at one point.
Jamie: See, we don’t just feed them, we entertain them as well.
What foods do you not like?
Jimmy: Marzipan is something I’m not overly keen on. I love almonds, I love fruitcake, I love icing, but I’m not a fan of marzipan.
Jamie: For me, I’m pretty into anything cooked right, I’m just not that into reproductive organs. And I’ve had a few…
Jimmy: I’ve had a cock pie, once.
Jamie: Oh my God…
Jimmy: If we were to sit down and go through everything we’ve eaten… I’ve eaten a load of balls, a cock pie. You’ve eaten cod semen.
Jamie: Yep. And lamb’s arsehole.
What is your guilty food pleasure?
Jamie: Mine is whisky, and salt’n’vinegar Hula Hoops.
Jimmy: Mine is whisky and Pringles.
Jamie: Ha! There’s a little pattern emerging here.
What would you choose for your last supper?
Jamie: I can answer this for Jimmy. I reckon he’d pick an incredible Sri Lankan curry, which would just blow his mind.
Jimmy: That’s absolutely true. And I reckon Jamie would go for a simple pasta dish. Nothing ostentatious, just very, very simple.
Jamie: Spaghetti Arabiata. Hot, sweet. Yeah!
Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast starts on Friday 24th November at 8pm on Channel 4.