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Sunday, 20 August, 2000, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
NHS wants Naked Chef
Jamie Oliver
Jamie Oliver: Hospitals could serve up "pukka grub"
Naked Chef Jamie Oliver is wanted by the government to improve the standard of hospital food.

The Department of Health is looking to recruit top chefs to an NHS taskforce as part of its plan to have tastier menus for hospital patients by 2001.

Jamie Oliver, who made his name on the BBC2 cookery programme The Naked Chef, is at the top of the wanted list.

We will be aiming to make hospital food much more palatable

Department of Health spokeswoman
It would mean patients would be able to look forward to Oliver's brand of "pukka" food which include such delights as thick-cut bacon sandwiches.

Other Oliver dishes that could feature on hospital menus are baked pork chops with herb potatoes, parsnips and minted bread sauce, mushroom risotto with garlic thyme and parsley and steamed chocolate pudding.

"We hope he will be one of the people we negotiate with because he is obviously one of the country's leading chefs," a Department of Health spokeswoman said.

She admitted that poor standards of hospital food delayed patients' convalescence as they are put off eating, and caused millions of pounds of wastage as meals are left untouched.

"When people are recovering it is very important they eat, so we will be aiming to make hospital food much more palatable," the spokeswoman said.

Traditional hospital food
Oliver will be asked to improve on current menus
Around 300 million hospital meals are produced each year at a cost of 500m.

If appointed, Oliver's creations would be expected to feed more than 1,000 people - about 10 times as many as in a normal West End restaurant - for less than a tenth of the price, at around 1.66 a head.

Oliver was unavailable for comment because of a busy filming schedule.

The government has set aside 10m to deliver its planned improvements to NHS food over the next 10 years.

Oliver, who was spotted aged 21 in the kitchen of London's fashionable River Cafe, has enjoyed two highly successful cookery series on BBC2.

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