Jamie Oliver: "I've never physically written a cookbook"

14 April 2023, 20:01 | Updated: 14 April 2023, 20:04

How Jamie Oliver overcame dyslexia to write a children's book

By Jenny Mensah

The famous TV chef revealed to Chris Moyles how he overcame his dyslexia and fear of words to write a children's book.

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Jamie Oliver spoke to Chris Moyles about his new children's book Billy and the Giant Adventure and revealed how he had to overcome his dyslexia to write it.

The TV chef is famous for releasing several cookbooks, but revealed he'd always dictated his thoughts for the culinary releases rather than writing them himself because words terrify him.

However - after making up bedtime stories for his children and eventually recording them on his phone so he wouldn't forget key details - the restauranteur accidentally stumbled across the framework for his own children's book.

"When I put my kids to bed every night I try and read to them," he told Radio X's Chris Moyles. And when you've got such a lot of kids like I have, you get to a point - 'cause I'm dyslexic - their reading gets better than mine quite early and their patience levels diminish. So they start saying, 'Dad can you not read to me? Can you read me a story from your head?'

"So I had a couple of goes and I've got a vivid imagination anyway, always have had. Just struggle to get it on paper. And then they kept saying, 'Dad, that doesn't make sense because all of the names have changed.' So I started recording them."

Oliver went on to explain how the act of recording his made up tales led him to set himself a 15 minute challenge during lockdown in order to overcome his fear of words and writing.

Jamie Oliver discusses his new children's book with Chris Moyles
Jamie Oliver discusses his new children's book with Chris Moyles. Picture: Radio X

He explained: "So I recorded on my phone a whole bunch of short stories and then in lockdown when I was contemplating many things.... mainly what I was bad at... I decided I would give 15 minutes a day to the thing that frightens me the most, which is words. Black and white. Font."

"People might not know it, but I've never physically written a cookbook," he added. "The first three Naked Chefs were on dictaphones. The old fashioned type. A chapter was a cassette. [...] And then when I started earning a few quid from the books I would always have an editor that I would dictate to and that's how it's been since.

"So 15 minutes a day I dedicated to the book and then kept it very secret til about six, seven, eight months ago, then told my team quite shyly.... I refined it and took it to Puffin [publishers] and they liked it."

Asked if he was proud of his achievement, the Naked Chef replied: "I'm really proud of it. It was a big deal. It's the most nerve-wracking I've ever been about a book."

Jamie Oliver's Billy and the Giant Adventure is available to buy now.

Catch up on the full interview on Global Player


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