THIS was one dinner party you didn’t want to miss.
A top-secret ‘cookathon’ for 500 local villagers, served up by none other than Jamie Oliver himself.
The culmination of a three-day jaunt to the Serrania de Ronda – where the TV chef has been making a programme on Spanish food – Oliver took on one of the biggest cooking challenges of his career.
In searing 35 degree heat, the chef’s mission: to cook a paella for 500 hungry villagers.
Taking orders from local cook Salvador Garcia Dominguez, Oliver cooked up a storn and was even there at midnight to serve up his dish.
According to Garcia, Jamie was a good learner. “He worked hard and learned fast,” he said.
In good humour, Oliver later told the Olive Press: “It took almost four hours to cook and just five minutes to eat and not a word of thanks in sight.
“It was a bit like being stuck in the middle of a dole queue!” he quipped.
The mammoth dish, cooked up in Benaojan, near Ronda, was one of numerous recipes the Naked Chef learnt, during his stay in the area.
The Olive Press can reveal that he has had a busy schedule; learning how to make cakes, gazpacho and Spanish omelette. He also learnt how to cut the famous jamon iberica.
“In searing 35 degree heat, the chef’s mission: to cook a paella for 500 hungry villagers”.
The chef– who has three daughters Poppy Honey, 7, Daisy Boo, 6, and Petal Blossom Rainbow, three months, with wife Jules – explained: “It’s been really hectic and I’ve hardly had a moment to relax,” he revealed.
On one afternoon, he learnt to make local pastries, known as borrachuelos, at the house of Dolores Sierra, 75, in Benaojan.
Said Sierra: “My kitchen is tiny and I don’t speak English, but we got on very well and he seemed to like my cakes.”
Mayor of Benaojan Soraya Garcia Mesa, 35, explained: “Jamie has had a lot of fun here and tried loads of things. We’ve had a lot of fun. He loves the Ronda area and said he will come back.
“There is no doubt this is amazing promotion for the Serrania de Ronda.”
Previously, in Ronda, Jamie had learnt how to cut ham in the shop La Casa de Jamon, and took the requisite trip around the famous bull ring, before going on a typical tapas crawl.
Provisionally entitled Jamie in Andalucia his trip was organised with the help of Charlotte Wilmot at Ronda town hall as well as Andy Chapell and wife Pauline Elkin from Hotel Molino del Santo in Benaojan.
Chapell explained: “Jamie had wanted the team to stay with us, but in the end we didn’t have enough rooms, so they had to stay elsewhere. But luckily we were able to help out with the programme in other ways.”
Oliver eventually ended up staying at a private villa attached to local hotel Fuente de la Higuera, in Arriate. Known as the Rise Resort, the stunning seven bedroom lodge costs from 893 euros a night.
During a busy schedule, the Olive Press was able to recommend a number of good local restaurants.
In the end, the chef took his team to try the cuisine of Elias Vega, at Casa Maria in Ronda.
Spending over an hour at the highly-rated eaterie, they tried eight dishes and spent over 600 euros. Owner Vega, said: “I watch Jamie Oliver’s programmes on television, so it was great that he came to eat in our restaurant.
“They tasted a full range of dishes and tried two of my finest wines. They seemed to have a good time.”
All in all, the chef had a great three days in the mountains before heading down to the coast to spend a day in Estepona. But before leaving he revealed how impressed he had been with the quality of food and know how. “The Spanish boys really know how to do it, with so many good restaurants, but I’m here learning about authentic grass-roots cooking.
“It’s been great fun, if very hot and exhausting. It’s very much like Italy here with its primary ingredients, particularly when the vegetables are in season.
“I have been amazed at how many people have seen my shows over here. I thought I would get left alone. How wrong could I be?”