Jamie Oliver requires little introduction. The renowned chef has opened numerous restaurants and inspired budding cooks worldwide via his many cookbooks and iconic television shows like The Naked Chef. Now, Oliver has a new accolade.

With the publication of Billy and the Giant Adventure (Tundra), he becomes a children’s book author. In the inventive and inspiring story, a group of friends enter a portal to another world and meet a menagerie of creatures throughout their journey. Oliver chatted with PW about the inspiration behind Billy and the Giant Adventure, the role that food plays in the story, and his personal challenges growing up with dyslexia.

What made you decide to write a children’s book?

Billy and the Giant Adventure came about when [my children] Petal and Buddy would ask me to come up with bedtime stories for them from my head. I could never quite remember where I left off the night before (children have excellent memories – adults, not so much!), so I used to record them on a dictaphone – and so the storyline for Billy was dreamt up. Billy & The Giant Adventure is my first children’s book, and – I have to say – it’s possibly the book I’m most proud of.

What can you share about Billy and the Giant Adventure? What themes does the book explore?

It’s all about four friends – Billy, Anna, Jimmy, and Andy – who discover a doorway into a magical world and go on a journey they’ll never forget. They come across sprites, boonas (grumpier, stinkier trolls), giants, all sorts, and it takes all of their courage and imagination to find their own way through – something Billy calls the Billy-Boy Way. It’s a story about friendship, food – but not as you know it – and what really matters in life.

How has your experience with dyslexia influenced your storytelling in Billy and the Giant Adventure?

Being dyslexic, I’ve had to come up with my own way of writing, which possibly isn’t the most conventional, but – with the help of my brilliant team at Puffin – it’s worked. I’ve never had a problem with ideas or bringing things to life – it’s just been getting it down onto paper that’s a challenge. So, when it came to creating the book, knowing how difficult it can be to read, I – alongside my publisher – carefully chose the font to make sure the text was as clear as possible, and that the illustrations were beautiful and eye-catching to keep children’s attention. Then, to help those who love stories but find reading difficult, I worked really hard to create an incredible audiobook that’s as fun, silly, and engaging as possible. It’s a great listen – I’m super proud of that too, to be honest.

In what ways did you integrate your passion for food and cooking into your storytelling?

I couldn’t have written a book without food, it’s part of who I am! In the book, food creates special moments with the friends, just as it does in real life. It has the power to bring people together. It also saves Billy in a fight with the boonas, but you’ll have to read the book to find out more about that! I’ve also written up the recipes and filmed them, so you can recreate the Billy magic at home.

What do you hope young readers take away from reading Billy and the Giant Adventure?

Firstly, I just hope that readers enjoy the book and get lost in the adventure. I hope the message comes across that everyone is perfect just the way you are! Also, that we each have a responsibility to look after the world – and that you’re never too young to play your part.