My Secret Life: Jamie Oliver, 37, TV chef

'I'm no good at poaching eggs'

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The Independent Online

My parents were… both publicans from Southend-on-Sea.

The household I grew up in… I lived above the pub till I was 14 – The Cricketers in Clavering, Essex.

When I was a child I wanted to be… a carpenter. I liked the idea of different trees doing different things, shaping and joining them to do beautiful things.

If I could change one thing about myself… My hair. It's mental.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at… basket weaving. I'll do it for hours if I find a quiet corner.

You may not know it but I'm no good at… poaching eggs.

At night I dream of… Nothing any more. I haven't dreamt of anything for a long time. I don't know why. About 10 years ago I used to dream of running through fields of herbs naked. But now nothing. I don't know if it's because I'm so tired, or if I've run out of ideas.

I wish I had never worn… no underwear, wearing a woman's outfit, at a cross-dressing birthday party.

What I see when I look in the mirror… Someone getting older and older, with bad hair.

My favourite item of clothing… is an old Paul Smith bomber jacket. It's getting better as it gets older.

I ride… my original scooter that I bought back off eBay a year ago. They were flogging it as bloody 'Jamie Oliver's scooter', so I had to pay the same price that I paid for it brand new – £1,800. With the helmet on nobody recognises me. There's nothing like flying through London at 20mph on a giant hairdryer.

My house is… all based around the kitchen.

A book that changed me… I've never read a book in my life, which I know sounds incredibly ignorant but I'm dyslexic and I get bored easily. The one book I nearly finished was Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. But then the author came to Britain and didn't stop slagging me off for five years. So on principle I threw it on the fire. He's since apologised and we've made up. I should probably read the rest now.

My real-life villain… Michael Gove. He doesn't listen. He apparently believes having standards for kids' food isn't important. Why are we still the most unhealthy country in Europe? We took away the standards. How very dare he.

The last time I cried… One of my students died a year and a bit ago. He went missing for a long time before we knew he had died. It was very, very sad.

What's the point? Get stuck in and have a go.

My life in six words… Happy. Lucky. Grateful. Exciting. Scary. Tasty.

A life in brief

Jamie Oliver was born in Essex in 1975. At 16 he left school to train at Westminster Catering College. He worked for three and a half years at the River Café, before his first TV series, The Naked Chef, aired in 1997. His programmes are now shown in 40 countries. He has opened several restaurants, including the Fifteen group, which recruits disadvantaged young people as chefs, and has been a vocal campaigner for healthy meals in schools. He lives in London and Essex with his wife, Jools, and their four children