Jamie Oliver gives us an insight into his experience in Georgia while shooting his show, Jamie's American Road Trip.
Had you heard much about Georgia before you went there?
I'd heard of Georgia's fantastic music scene and a few more general bits and bobs but I really didn't know much about their food culture.
Going there was my opportunity to learn as much as I could about the history of the brilliant style of American cooking called 'soul food', and the incredible strength of the black community behind it. I felt the timing was quite exciting as we got there just after President Obama had been elected so there was a lot of positivity and excitement in the air.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to cook with proper soul food cooks at a restaurant in Savannah called Mom & Nikki's. It's owned by a lovely African-American family and there were three generations working at the restaurant. Some of the family could remember back to the days of segregation and being treated in a way we couldn't possibly imagine today. But despite that, they were warm, with such kind hearts and a sort of philosophical approach to the past.
I have to say that seeing all the white people queuing for food in their restaurant, and the fact that Obama just come into power really made me feel like things had come full circle and huge progress had been made. From the food I tasted to the stories I heard, it was all really very inspiring.
Watching you have afternoon tea with the ladies in Savannah afternoon tea there seemed to be a great deal of community spirit in Georgia. Would you agree?
Yes, the ladies I met definitely had a lot of community spirit too. They were loads of fun, their houses were beautiful and their cakes were out of this world. There was a part of me that thought I'd be spending the afternoon with a load of posh birds who make lots of money but it turned out they were all working-class girls from pretty tough backgrounds who had worked really hard and done well for themselves. That just made me love them even more!
The food they served at the tea was brilliant. There seemed to be just enough of an English and French influence to make all of the food dead classy. I noticed that several of their cakes were actually very English but had gone through a bit of a Southern transformation, which is never a bad thing. It was a really fun and interesting afternoon.
The town of Savannah is one of the most beautiful ‘must see’ towns I've ever visited. If you are in Georgia on a road trip I'd say Savannah and Atlanta are two places you have to visit to get the proper Georgia experience.
Have you ever seen meat barbecued like it was at Neal’s BBQ before?
I’d never seen meat cooked exactly that way before, but I thought the pit masters were amazing. The care and attention they put into that barbecue came from a really artisanal, foodie place. Everything they were doing was up there with some of the best stuff I've seen in Spain and Italy. Just goes to show that there are some real gems out there in America.