Speculation is gathering pace that famed British chef Jamie Oliver could be the next big headliner for the Gourmet Escape — though no one is able to confirm it yet.
Oliver jetted into Perth late last month for a promotional engagement and Margaret River-based international hospitality photographer John Rice was on hand to hear Oliver talk up his ambitions around the Margaret River region.
Rice was chosen because of his past work with the British celeb, and travelled to the city to snap Oliver at his Perth restaurant Jamie’s Italian.
“His team wanted a photographer to capture the fun and excitement from the day as he met the staff and then wined and dined a select lucky group of people,” Rice said.
“It was quite surreal watching someone you have seen over the years on television, jump out of his car and walk into the restaurant to be greeted by masses of excited staff.
“As you would expect he was lovely, fun and easy to work with and it was such an enjoyable job.”
At the media appearance, Oliver said he wanted to bring his family back for a holiday and said he was also keen to get to the Margaret River Gourmet Escape food festival. But he didn’t give any further clue whether IMG Culinary had contacted him.
IMG managing director Hannah Pike said headliners would be announced mid-year, and despite the allure of Oliver’s star power, the prognosis for 2019 wasn’t good.
“It would be amazing to have Jamie come to Gourmet Escape sometime in the future and he’s certainly been on our radar,” she said.
“Like with all talent of his calibre though, there’s a large number of things that need to fall into place to make it happen, and he has just visited Australia.”
Oliver has made a name for himself in the UK weighing in on public health issues, as well as bringing affordable cuisine to the masses.
At the media appearance, he said he loved WA.
“I am actually looking to do the summer holiday with the kids,” he said.
“My older kids are obsessed by coming out here.
“My intention is to spend a whole six-week summer holiday in Australia, get to Perth … do the whole thing.”
Asked if he would consider attending the Gourmet Escape, Oliver said: “Let’s do it; give me the details.”
Oliver visited Margaret River for the first time in 2001.
This year’s festival will start in Perth and have events in the Swan Valley before the final weekend, held in Margaret River.
Some of Rice’s photos were shared on Oliver’s Instagram page @jamiesitalianau.