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Jamie drops in on Ipswich

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver visited Ipswich yesterday, home to his Australian Ministry of Food, to offer up some healthy cooking tips.

PT1M23S http://www.goodfood.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-1uaod 620 349

WHEN whitegood sellers The Good Guys rang to ask Jamie Oliver if he would establish an arm of his Ministry of Food education service in Australia, the chef did not believe the situation being described.

They sent obesity statistics. A branch was quickly established in Ipswich, Queensland, with more to come.

''I have to be honest, I've worked here for 12 years and I've only ever seen wonderful, delicious, fantastic parts of Australia,'' Oliver said last night just before the opening of another of his ventures, an Italian restaurant on Pitt Street.

On a mission ... Jamie Oliver.
On a mission ... Jamie Oliver. Photo: David Luftus

''It weren't on my radar that Australia had [obesity] issues. Some of these areas have 'good' statistics; up there with the most unhealthy areas in the world.''

Oliver looks like a schoolboy in a man's body. He has a jocular physicality and when he gets on to a topic that excites him, he cannot stop talking.

A thousand families have already been taught to cook at his Ipswich ministry, although it has been open for less than a year. The community is engaged, he says. Nutrition standards are being raised.

''It's about skin on skin. It's about having relationships and actually taking a vulnerable mum that's nervous to cook and doesn't want to waste money buying some weird ingredients called onions and cabbage and raw chicken - [and ] actually getting them comfortable and teaching them how to make a brilliant curry that's full of vegies and full of good stuff.

''Or make a beautiful pasta; bake 10 times better than the shit they reheat in the microwave. Really, what we try and do is get them to do better versions of the stuff they're spending loads of money buying and reheating.''

Oliver's Sydney restaurant, Jamie's Italian, was buzzing before its opening last night. Chefs were shaving prosciutto and poking at roast vegetables.

Matt Preston was walking around in a half-tied cravat, a reminder that Oliver is also shooting an episode of MasterChef while he is here.

Another restaurant is on the cards for Melbourne, Oliver said, but there were no concrete plans as yet.

''We'd like to open another one but there's no rush. I think we're really looking for a particular location. We haven't found one. There's nothing on the horizon at the moment.''

The food ministries are a different proposition. There are two in the US and seven in England. Oliver says it is possible that more ministries will be established in Australia than either of those two countries.

''Oz is a really important country for me because they sort of accepted me even before my own country. They've been really loyal and lovely, only ever lovely, to me for 14 years. Possibly even longer.''