Famous chef has Oamaruvian roots

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An international celebrity chef’s love of cooking began at a young age while watching his grandparents cook in Oamaru.

Jason Roberts was born in Oamaru and is now a world-famous chef living in New York and Sydney.

He has written several cook books and has had his own television shows.

Mr Roberts said his love of cooking came from his grandparents, who were head caterers at Waitaki Boys’ High School (WBHS) and later Waitaki Girls’ High School (WGHS).

“I have wanted to be a chef ever since I was four.”

Although he left Oamaru when he was three, he often came back as a child for family gatherings at WBHS and WGHS, he said.

He had great memories of watching his grandparents in the school kitchens, Mr Roberts said.

“My grandmother is my angel. Whenever I see a rainbow, I think of her and when I’m in the kitchen, I feel her presence.”

His parents met at the freezing works and had him very young. The relationship lasted about three years and his mother moved with Mr Roberts to Queensland when he was three.

He grew up on a dairy farm and his love of cooking was further developed there, he said.

At age 13, he moved to Auckland where he went to high school, then when he was 17 or 18, he moved to Sydney to start his career.

He often came back to New Zealand but had not been back to Oamaru much, he said.

However, he passed through Oamaru about a month ago when he was a participant in the ANZA Challenge.

The challenge involved two celebrity teams from Australia and New Zealand rowing, running, sailing and cycling their way around New Zealand.

When he first moved to Sydney, he worked at KFC for a month and by age 23, he was the head chef of a restaurant in Sydney, Mr Roberts said.

He was an up-and-coming chef and then ended up securing his own television show.

However, back when he started his career, the industry was not about television, it was about cooking, he said.

His career had involved both television and cooking and while he did not regret this, he was frustrated at how many young people now wanted to get into cooking to have their own show, Mr Roberts said.

“I have a rock star life. It is ridiculous.”

He has travelled around the world five or six times, has had an audience of 160,000 in China selling and signing books and has even spent time on stage with American home-making queen Martha Stewart.

“She’s quite hot for a 72-year-old and I really enjoyed being on stage with her.”

What he would really like to do would be to show young people about the time he had spent in actual kitchens and pass on that knowledge, he said.

He was currently looking at opening two restaurants in America and starting a new cooking show, he said.

He was also riding across America in March, 2015 in support of the organisation No Kid Hungry, which aimed to end child hunger in America.

By RUBY HARFIELD

PHOTO: SUPPLIED