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Sauces at Jamie’s Italian are not pukka, say critics

Healthy eating champion Jamie Oliver has been on a mission to get the nation back in the kitchen – whipping up meals from scratch.

However, as an advocate of making the best of locally sourced fresh produce, it seems the celebrity chef has cooked up a bit of a storm in his only restaurant north of the Border.

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It has emerged that Jamie’s Italian in Glasgow’s George Square, one of 15 in an ever-expanding chain, has been supplied with sauces manufactured nearly 400 miles away on an industrial park.

His chefs then reheat batches of the sauces and add the finishing touches at the popular restaurant. Not exactly “pukka”, to use the chef’s catchphrase.

The sauces originate from Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts Ltd, the chef’s event catering firm situated on a distribution park in Bicester, Oxfordshire, some 380 miles from Glasgow.

A spokesman for Jamie Oliver said: “We use a central kitchen for a very small number of base ingredients – not so much sauces as the base of the sauces, to which each restaurant adds fresh ingredients.

“This is simply for consistency across our restaurants and is perfectly normal when you have a chain of restaurants serving the same menu.”

Initially some items served in Glasgow were sourced from further afield, such as scallops from Brixham, Devon, however in the six months since it opened in Glasgow, Jamie’s Italian is now serving up Scottish scallops.

Oliver is not the first celebrity chef to run into controversy over fresh food.

Last year Scots celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay was found to be serving ready-made meals at some of his restaurants. They had been prepared at GR Logistics, the catering arm of his firm Gordon Ramsay Holdings.

Ryan James, chairman of the Glasgow Restaurant Association, said he had his suspicions items were being brought into Jamie’s Italian rather than made on the premises and described it as “cooking by numbers”.

Mr James, of the successful Two Fat Ladies brand, said: “It became clear to me this was the practice because if they had run out of something, why couldn’t they just make it from scratch.

“For me it was quite clear from day one that items were being brought in and, while I don’t think the public are being shortchanged, it isn’t really being made clear to them.

“When you are running a chain, centralisation is a way of ensuring everything is standardised, but it is a bit like cooking by numbers and not exactly cooking bespoke. However, judging by the queues that seem prevalent outside Jamie’s, the public seem fairly happy with what’s going on in the premises.”

Glasgow restaurateur Alan Tomkins, behind city eateries Urban Bar and Brasserie and his latest venture Balthassar in Ingram Street, said: “In my restaurants everything would be cooked to order, however I see no reason for this not to be a successful formula for Jamie as long as his food is cooked, prepared and travelled properly.

“I understand trying to maintain control or consistent standards using a control basis can be quite sensitive, and it perhaps gives him more input – being able to taste his sauces.”

Any customer complaints?

- Christina Campbell, 54, and husband Colin, 62, from Cumbernauld, were tempted to sample Oliver’s Glasgow venue but were disappointed to discover that items had been brought to the premises from 400 miles away.

Mrs Campbell, who suffers from coeliac disease, an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine, said she was disappointed and the restaurant may not be suitable for her.

She said: “I must say I am surprised that everything isn’t made on the premises. I have to watch where I eat and often ask if recipes can be adapted as I have coeliac disease – but if things are brought in half prepared it may not be possible for them to be altered.”

- Tourist Venceslas Seidel, 30, visiting the city from his home in Lille, France, said it was a shock. “When you are paying a certain price for things, you are looking for quality. I don’t think it’s out of the ordinary now though, as a lot of French restaurants are doing this now particularly in the tourist areas.”

His father Dominque, 66, said he was surprised. He said: “I am a big fan of Jamie Oliver and have many of his books as I like what he is trying to do in getting people to cook.

“It’s a shame everything isn’t made in his restaurant but I would still like to try the venue for myself.”

- Mum-of-one Lynsey Robertson, 30, from Milton of Campsie, was making her first visit to Jamie’s Italian yesterday.

“I am a little bit surprised that it’s not all made on the premises. It won’t put me off but I would probably go for something I knew was fresh.”

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