AN Essex TV chef has spoken about how he has been “able to use dyslexia as a positive” as he released his first children’s book.

Jamie Oliver has lived with dyslexia all his life, unable to recognise words on the page and having trouble focusing but, importantly, finding ways to get around the problem.

So, it’s unsurprising he was nervous about how his debut children’s novel, Billy and The Giant Adventure, would be received at its first signing event.

“I was really nervous no one would turn up, but I had the best day”, said Janie after the event, on the way back home to Finchingfield.

“It’s not my world (children’s fiction) and people don’t like you getting out of your lane normally. We had a lovely turnout.”

The novel follows Billy and his three best friends who enter a magical world in Waterfall Woods, meeting friendly sprites and scary, feral creatures called boonas.

They learn about the Rhythm, another word for the environment, and how important it is for everyone to work together to keep nature in sync – with an emphasis on what we eat and where it comes from.

There’s a lot of food mentioned, and turkey bites made from disgusting chemical-filled pink slime.

Gazette: Discussions - Jamie Oliver talking to children in his local bookshop in Saffron Walden,Discussions - Jamie Oliver talking to children in his local bookshop in Saffron Walden, (Image: James Manning/PA)

But home life for the fictional Billy, who shows signs of dyslexia and has a bully to contend with at school, is a loving sanctuary and a cornucopia of delicious food.

Jamie, 47, says he never intended to write a children’s book, but when children Buddy and Petal became better than him at reading at around the age of 11, he would make stories up at bedtime and started to record himself, to remember where he was in his own imagined plot.

From there it blossomed into a book.

Jamie says he wasn’t bullied at school but acknowledges many children who struggle with traditional learning become targets.

He says cooking was his “saviour” when struggling at school, often working at his parent’s pub at weekends.

Jamie added: “I was lucky, because I knew it wasn’t hopeless, I knew I could cook from the age of 11, 12, 13, and if I wanted to make a career in cooking, it’s just an assembly of lots of little learnings.”

Those learnings over the years – plus some hard graft – made Jamie a household name with a series of TV shows and cookbooks as well as campaigning for good food for children.

Today, he lives in a £6 million Elizabethan manor house with his wife, Jools, and three of his five children, with the older two at university.

Gazette: Lovers - Jamie and Jools OliverLovers - Jamie and Jools Oliver (Image: Alamy/PA)

Jools – with whom he has just renewed his wedding vows – and children Buddy and River, all have parts in the audiobook.

Jamie hopes his new book will inspire children who are struggling with traditional learning although he’s not ready to jump on the dyslexia campaign trail.

“Hopefully I can serve to start conversations," he said.

“It’s not just the kids, it’s the parents who really worry about their kids, if they think they’re not fitting in or they’re not doing things conventionally. I know because I’m one of them.

“Every year when it’s GCSE time I always try and put stuff out saying ‘This doesn’t define you, it’s just a moment and there’s so much you’ve got to offer’.

"I think that’s really important.”

Gazette: Author - Essex TV chef Jamie OliverAuthor - Essex TV chef Jamie Oliver (Image: James Manning/PA)

Jamie agrees having dyslexia made him more resilient, also reflecting how his resilience came from his home life.

“I had the confidence of an amazing family and having a job as a young kid.

“I’ve been able to use dyslexia as a positive because I had the confidence of knowing it’s in the approach and problem-solving and looking at things in a different way.

“But I still think there are too many kids at school who don’t feel like they’ve got enough to offer.”