British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is opening a brand-new, Italian-themed restaurant in the Hungarian capital Budapest this year. Over the 41-year-old restauranteur, television chef and media personality has fought a string of battles to reinvent school canteens and introduce a sugar tax on fizzy drinks. In the meanwhile, he has been edging towards a healthy lifestyle himself, shedding 12 kilos of weight, reducing his consumption of meat and trying to take at least six hours of sleep each days.
Speaking to the Hungarian news website Index.hu in a recent interview in “Fifteen”, one of his London restaurants, Jamie also revealed that the establishment provides scholarships to 15 disprivileged youths, including one who has since become a Michelin starred chef.
In the interview, he reveals that he has never been to Hungary yet despite living together with Hungarians – his housekeeper and her wife – for several years. The pair are both fans of Budapest and old-fashioned Hungarian fare, Jamie says, adding that he employs many Hungarians in his eateries and pledging a visit once his new Budapest restaurant has opened and things have settled down.
He also spoke of his love of working with Hungarians, whom he describes as hard-working and intelligent, and argued that Jamie’s Italian will be successful in the country because of the simple but tasty, affectionately prepared dishes served in the restaurants, which he describes as the distinctive message of his restaurants. Jamie mentioned that when he opened his first restaurant in England with a staff of foodie fanatics, he had no clue that one day, branches of his restaurant business will open up in foreign countries. Then, he found that more and more people, each with different concepts and ideas, joined in – and today, he has eateries operated by enthusiastic staff all around the globe.
The food Jamie’s Italian will serve is not the kind that will change your life forever, he concedes, but points out that the dishes are very “democratic” because they are available to all, hinting at his regulars who are able to drop by each week without having to rob a bank.
Despite all dishes being prepared according to Jamie Oliver recipes and strict rules, several local specialities are also featured to bring in flexibility. The chain attempts to show an uniform image worldwide and change as few things as possible from country to country, but he acknowledges that this isn’t always possible completely.
Speaking of his fight to reinvent school dinners and bring in healthy food to canteens, he revealed that his quest has yielded many successes and results in England, and despite the fact that things are still far from perfect, there has been great progress in this area. Ten years ago, there were no regulations on food served in English restaurants; this wasn’t the case with dog food, meaning that – at least in theory – people were more concerned with the health of their dogs than their children. Since then, a billion pounds have been spent on the school catering system, and solid regulations and rules have been introduced. The government is now spending far more money on providing food to each child while many more local produce is used to avoid waste. 40 per cent of schools in England are still struggling, however.
He also voiced his support for Britain’s plan to introduce the “sugar tax” on unhealthy food and beverages and praised its Hungarian equivalent – dubbed the “crisp tax”, arguing that the government has to make it easier for kids to access healthier foods and make it a bit more difficult to access “shit”. Hungary has at least recognised the problem and the good example will inevitably attract followers, he says. He also highlighted Hungary’s “very special” position of having an abundance of natural, GMO-free, unpolluted land area.
Commenting on Hungarian dishes, Jamie says that he has loads of Hungarian cookbooks and he enjoys looking at their pictures despite not understanding the text and claims to have a full understanding of Hungarian cuisine, just as one understands a foreign language. He gets the grasp of the whole philosophy behind it and can’t wait to take a try at some authentic, traditional Hungarian fare.
Jamie Oliver made the announcement that he is opening his new Italian-themed franchise restaurant in Budapest in early 2016 in the former premises of the Hadik restaurant in the Castle District.
Hungary will become the third European country after Turkey and Russia in which the 40-year-old television favourite will open up his chain of Italian eateries, which will be introduced to the Hungarian market by local restauranteur Zoltán Roy Zsidai, owner of the Budapest haunts Spíler and ÉS.
Jamie’s Italian restaurants’ interiors are designed by the franchise chain’s own architects and ingredients are also highly regulated. For example, all must be completely GMO free, a requirement that – thanks to the country’s constitutional ban on genetically modified organisms – is easily met in Hungary.
And now, watch Jamie prepare his recipe of Hungarian goulash, flaked fish and rice:
photos: János Bődey/index.hu