By Will Kinder
Before we go any further, let me tell you one thing; Jamie’s feet are too hot. I’m on the set of his latest TV show ‘Money Saving Meals’ for Channel 4, we’re in the giant loft of an old warehouse and it really is rather toasty. It’s a very grey and muggy day in East London. The Food Team are running five ovens and four stoves, there’s a bunch of big studio lights and, oh yes, they can’t open the windows because the traffic is too noisy for the soundman.
There are a couple of massive industrial fans, but Katie the Producer keeps hogging one for her fine homage to the closing scenes of Titanic – she’s all flowing hair and pout. The other fan is keeping the food team cool, but it’s also keeping the stoves cool and now nothing will come to the boil. Of course the fans can’t be on when they’re filming, because, you guessed it, they’re too noisy for the soundman.
Having said all that, you’d have thought everyone would be thoroughly peeved off and grumpy but there’s not a bit of it. The atmosphere on set is one of relaxed busyness. It takes a whole day to shoot what will eventually become a 23 minute show; this might seem excessive but it’s hard to imagine the amount of work that goes into all the parts of the show. Every ingredient must be perfect, every recipe accurate to the letter and every calorie counted. When you’re showing a slow-roasted pork shoulder that takes five hours to cook they can’t just sit around waiting for it, so the Food Team have a number of pre-cooked stunt doubles (they call them swap-ins) standing by. They’ve got spares for all the ingredients in case there’s a re-take or mistake and they’re also one step ahead getting the next recipe ready.
Jamie meanwhile, is doing his best to put them all off by regaling them with a rather ‘colourful’ story about a celebrity we won’t name, which is a shame because it really is a jolly good story. Everyone is munching on ice-lollies that Jamie sent someone out to get and I’m already wondering when some actual filming might take place.
Then suddenly the set switches to filming mode. Cameras get into place, the make up lady with the unenviable task of stopping Jamie looking sweaty sweeps in and Mike the Director calls the room to order. “…and ACTION!” he shouts. Jamie enters holding the hero bird and tells the camera he’s about to cook an amazing roast Turkey. The fact that what he’s holding is a chicken doesn’t seem to phase him. “Let’s go again,” shouts Mike. This time Jamie plays it safe and calls the item of poultry ‘a bird’, but this makes him laugh.
Jamie confesses that even after fifteen years of cooking TV he always has problems with the ‘ins and outs’. “It’s a nightmare,” he says, “sometimes it takes me seven or eight gos!”
During the next take a fleet of wailing police cars goes by, a common occurrence as the studio is clearly based in the crime centre of the UK and so they have to stop and wait for them to pass. Did I mention the set is next door to a railway station? I didn’t? More delays.
Finally everything settles down and we’re literally cooking with gas. Jamie is on firmer ground when he’s got a knife or pan in his hand and we start to fly through the recipe.
Some of the crew have been working with Jamie since his ‘Naked Chef’ days so there’s a family feeling on set. Luke the cameraman is one such person. You know when you see a shot of the food that makes you want to reach into the telly and grab it? That’s Luke, ever-watchful for a glistening tomato or perfectly formed roastie.
And now comes for my starring role. I am to be one of the people sat at the table enjoying the food with Jamie and I’m a bit nervous. It’s all a bit weird; I’m sat opposite Jamie Oliver, who is serving me the pulled pork he’s just cooked.
There are three cameras around us, including one on the ceiling that is moving up and down on some sort of railway track. The Director and Producer are all watching and because they won’t use the sound in the final show, Jamie is making us all laugh with more off-colour stories from the world of showbiz.
The pulled pork, incidentally, is delicious, so my fears of having to pretend to like the food go unrealised. Strangely after a few minutes of eating we all seem to forget the cameras and settle back to enjoy what is the best ever TV crew lunch I’ve ever had.
The afternoon follows much the same rhythm; Jamie is cooking with the leftovers from the pulled pork. More police cars and more trains, the occasional moon walk from Jamie and it’s well into the evening before everything has been filmed.
So after a hot, sweaty, long day I guessed Jamie would be on his way home to put his feet up. Not a bit of it – he’s off to his Union Jack’s restaurant to do a stint on the wood-fired oven. For a man who doesn’t like having hot feet, I muse, was a career in the restaurant business a wise choice?
Watch behind the scenes from Money Saving Meals below!