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Jamie Oliver wrote his first cookbook on the back of ‘cigarette packs and beer mats’

British chef and restaurateur Jamie Oliver has revealed that his first cookbook was comprised of recipes that he had written on the “back of fag packs and beer mats”.

Speaking to Radio Times ahead of the launch The Great Cookbook Challenge With Jamie Oliver, a new TV show set to air on Channel 4 this month, Oliver said that the possibility of writing a book had never crossed his mind because he was “a special needs kid in school”.

The Great Cookbook Challenge will see chefs take part in a host of cooking challenges, testing and working on their recipes, with a cookbook deal up for grabs.

Oliver made his television debut in 1999, with the BBC series The Naked Chef. Alongside the show, he also released a book of the same name, which became a bestseller in the UK.

Recalling its publication, Oliver said BBC producers had initially assumed he did not have a book of recipes ready to publish.

“Oh, it’s a shame. Normally, we do a cookbook with a series,” they had told him.

“I said, ‘I’ve got one. I’ve written down all my recipes for the last five years and they’re in a bin liner’,” Oliver explained.

He recalled having “hundreds” of recipes, most of them written on the back of cigarette packets, beer mats and order checks.

The author credits fellow chefs Marco Pierre White and Delia Smith as his inspiration, telling Radio Times that the first cookbook he received was from Smith.

“She knew there’s a logic between simplicity, accessibility and aspiration. You have to have the balance right,” he said.

Following the success of The Naked Chef, Oliver went on to campaign for better food standards in schools and launched the Food Revolution campaign, which is aiming to cut child obesity in half by 2030.

The Great Cookbook Challenge will air on Channel 4 on Monday, January 3

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