Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver gives a live cooking demonstration during his visit to Ipswich on Saturday.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver gives a live cooking demonstration during his visit to Ipswich on Saturday. Sarah Harvey

Jamie Oliver spreads the word

JAMIE Oliver charmed hundreds of fans when he visited his Ministry of Food's Ipswich campus for the first time on Saturday.

He arrived in Ipswich about 1pm to applause and cheers of support from admirers.

About 600 people had tickets to view Jamie's visit in d'Arcy Doyle Place, and hundreds of others watched from the civic centre through a video link.

CBD roads were closed for the event, and traffic backed up over the David Trumpy Bridge.

Right from the start, Jamie had his audience well on side.

"I've just spent 23 hours on a plane and there's not a beer on the table. I thought this was Australia," he joked.

He spoke seriously of his dedication to the community's health before starting his class.

"The Ministry is here so the community can help itself, with beautiful cooking and fresh food," Jamie said.

"To put it in a bit of perspective, we've got seven centres like this in England and we've got two in America and we've got trucks, and the Good Guys came to me to get this happening.

"Behind me is the Ministry of Food, and the idea really, guys, is, in towns with really bad health statistics around the world... it's really about having choice.

"Now that can be having a choice of food or of knowing how to cook."

Jamie held a cooking class for 20 people, including Premier Anna Bligh, rugby union identity Peter FitzSimons and Mayor Paul Pisasale.

Fans looked on as the Naked Chef, assisted by ambassadors Ben O'Donoghue and Junior Masterchef's Anna Gare, helped the team cook chicken fajitas. Later, Cr Pisasale presented the VIP visitor with "a knife and fork to the city".

"What I love is his passion," Cr Pisasale said.

"We're the only community in Australia who has had this experience.

"It's everything I expected it to be. It's about making Ipswich a healthier place and it's something that's important to me," he said.

"He's right up there with the Dalai Lama as one of the top people I've met."

Jamie congratulated Ipswich on its support of the Ministry and thanked his volunteers.

"I know it's just food and we love food, Aussies love food, but keeping food skills alive in schools and in the community absolutely is paramount to you, your culture and your family," he said.

"All the warnings are out there if you don't keep it alive, so, you know, the mayor, Anna Bligh, the Good Guys and everyone in the community are doing the right thing here in Ipswich - or should I say the 'Swich - and I hate to be American, but I think you should all give yourselves a round of applause."

It began to rain as he invited fans to come up for "a chat".

The majority of the crowd braved the wet weather for their chance to meet Jamie, but the opportunity was cut short after about half an hour by the celebrity chef's minders.

Saturday's visit to Ipswich opened Jamie Oliver's four-day tour of Australia.

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