The day Jamie Oliver visited Noarlunga

Pop stars causing pandemonium in shopping malls? That’s so 90s. It’s all about celebrity chefs now.

Pop stars causing pandemonium in shopping malls? That’s so 90s. It’s all about celebrity chefs now. If chefs are the new rock stars, it made sense an enthusiastic crowd welcomed Jamie Oliver to Noarlunga’s shopping centre, Colonnades, on Wednesday, March 25. Arguably the world’s most recognisable cooking identity visited his Noarlunga-based Ministry of Food pop-up and was greeted by a roar, as a score of raised iPhones and Galaxys captured the moment, along with a bunch of opened 30 Minute Meal cookbooks to get Oliver’s prized signature. The horde in front of the pop-up [a decent-sized space and kitchen] made it obvious that word had got out about the Naked Chef’s surprise visit. Before making his way to Noarlunga, Oliver visited the Adelaide branch of his enormously successful Jamie’s Italian chain and stopped for lunch in one of the south’s most iconic food spots, Fino, which the author of some 20 books – and former drummer of Scarlet Division – Tweeted approvingly about. Oliver stepped into the pop-up to a host of sponsors, supporters, some media, and a select group of local Ministry of Food participants. From the moment he entered, you could tell why Oliver’s career in the spotlight has lasted more than 15 years and reached such a global audience. He bounced around like a kid in a candy store (sorry, farmers’ market), greeted everyone in sight and posed for endless photos. Everyone in the room had a smile on their dial. Even the most cynical of observers could not help but be captivated by the forever-cheery Brit’s presence. Though he might not be the world’s greatest chef, he is arguably the world’s most popular. Say what you will about Jamie’s Italian, his spruiking for supermarkets and his brand, one thing he has to be admired for is his dedication to making people eat healthier, by pushing fresh, simple and healthy food – and not fad diets. He has done this through shows such as Jamie’s School Dinners and his Ministry of Food (MoF) campaign and MoF centres in the UK and Australia. There are currently three MoF centres in Australia as well as two mobile kitchens, and since December, Noarlunga’s MoF, which won a national competition to host the pop-up last year. jamie-oliver-4 Jamie Oliver at Noarlunga’s Ministry of Food pop-up After many selfies, Oliver was handed the mic, and gave an enthusiastic speech about the pop-up. “I’m really, really, completely proud to be here,” he said before getting serious to talk about Ministry of Food’s mission. “In Australia and Britain, and many countries around the world, the biggest killer in our communities, to the people we love and care for, is diet-related disease. It kills more people than anything else now. And it’s a big deal. And because it is so slow, and because it is so gradual, no government has taken it seriously. No government has attacked it aggressively, strategically and ambushed it. It really upsets me that we’re handing over a world – to the kids – that’s not in a great place right now. Oliver emphasised the point that MoF is about “local people helping fix local people”. “From my point of view, Aussie is in a really good place. Government has contributed [to Ministry of Food], business has contributed, local neighbourhoods have contributed … This is the spirit guys. This is how we fix stuff.” Noarlunga’s pop-up won a national competition over hundreds of other towns and centres last year to host the latest MoF outlet, which runs five-week classes to teach people the basics in how to cook healthy and fresh food. “You did a brilliant pitch. We took one for the shortlist from each state in Australia, it was really, really hard [to choose a winner] because the truth is: we should have done every single one, and we weren’t flexible enough to do that.” What made Noarlunga stand out? Oliver told reporters that it was a series of children’s drawings of food on plates that pulled his heartstrings. “It was the kids that got to me,” Oliver said before explaining that the pictures told a story that the children didn’t want the food they were currently being served. “You look at the plates, it was all the same old golden, crispy, reheated rubbish. What we do here is get local people to inspire local people how to cook from fresh, and to be clever, and to be mindful of budget, and to understand the basics of nutrition. As you might have heard from our independent research from Deakin and Melbourne University, we’ve proved that our intervention makes a change six months after they leave the course. They’re still eating more fruit and veg, they’re sitting around the table more often, and it’s doing the hardest thing in the world, which is making change.” With classes booked out three months in advance for Noarlunga’s MoF, it looks like the fresh food change is working in Adelaide’s south. Photos: Jonathan van der Knaap

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