Q&A with Jamie Oliver: New York

Jamie Oliver gives us an insight into his experience in New York while shooting his show, Jamie's American Road Trip

Do you think that you would have discovered the places that you did in New York if you hadn’t made this show?

Not really. I’ve always gone to New York for work or holidays and have tended to play it safe and go to the places I’m used to. So this time, I approached things differently and found out that there are authentic halal slaughter houses and illegal Peruvian restaurants literally three kilometres from the nice hotels I had been staying in for the last ten years. You could only find out about these things by speaking to people on the ground really. In a way the whole point about TV, books and journalism is to find really exciting stuff, then tell people about it so they can go and have their own wonderful experiences. I reckon that 85% of what I did in the whole series anyone could do in America for very little money.

Any advice for anyone reading this who would like to find their own hidden “foodie treasures

If you get on the subway in New York, get out of Manhattan and into the areas where a lot of immigrant communities have sprung up you’re going to find some great stuff. As long as you have a smile on your face and use the same common sense you’d use in your own town you will be able to see and experience everything I did, and have a great time doing it.

You travel to New York a great deal – do you think that you will view this city differently after making the show?

Totally! Jorge’s story really touched me. He’s been giving free food to homeless immigrants every night for the last five years. Spending time with him made me question a lot of things in my own life. I will always remember the inspiring food and experiences I had in the immigrant neighbourhoods I visited. Eating at that illegal restaurant was also something I’ll never forget. You go into someone’s home through the back door and suddenly you are sitting in the middle of their living room eating the coolest food with a bunch of people you can’t even understand. The anti-restaurants or supper-club scene was also so cool. The idea of people opening up their homes to feed complete strangers is a bit like posh speed dating, but with really good grub! I will definitely never look at New York in quite the same way.

Have you been inclined to explore different cultures and food in London since making the show?

Since finishing those trips I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked to explore London. But I have definitely tried to go more ‘off the beaten track’ and have seen and tasted some new things as a result. I’ve even met a handful of people that are involved in illegal restaurants and anti-restaurants right here in England. They seem to be becoming quite popular.

My trip to New York really opened my eyes to the benefits of getting out of my comfort zone. Just because a restaurant doesn’t look like the sort of place I’d normally eat at doesn’t mean I can’t learn something from the sort of meats they are cooking or the spices they are using. Ultimately, what I learnt in New York is something you could apply to any country or big city. 

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