Celebrated “back-to-basics” chef Jamie Oliver is well known for his earthy style and his continual dedication to getting people and animals to enjoy a better quality life, whether through campaigning for healthier eating or promoting animal welfare.
Jamie took an early interest in food; he grew up in Essex, where his parents run their own highly respected pub/restaurant and Jamie was frequently found helping out in the kitchens. His fascination for food continued to grow and at 16 Jamie left school and completed his training at Westminster Catering College. After spending some time working in France, followed by Antonio Carluccio’s Neal Street Restaurant, London Jamie joined the acclaimed River Café where he worked for three and a half years alongside Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.
In 1997, Jamie was featured in a television documentary about the River Café. Soon after the documentary was aired, Jamie was offered his own television show and The Naked Chef was born. The concept behind The Naked Chef was to strip food down to its bare essentials and Jamie’s hands-on style and general laid back outlook was like a breath of fresh air, inspiring everyone to cook and winning himself a BAFTA Award for the best television series in the Features Category in 2000.
The Naked Chef book accompanied the first television series and it became an instant bestseller. A second and then a third television series were commissioned, along with the second and third tie-in books: The Return of the Naked Chef and Happy Days with the Naked Chef .
Jamie spent the autumn of 2001 taking his cookery show on the road – the Happy Days Tour was a huge success with over 17,000 people packing theatres in the UK. The tour then took in Australia and New Zealand, where Jamie played to sold out crowds in seven cities. He had become a phenomenon. 2001 also saw Jamie cooking for the Italian Prime Minister at Tony Blair’s invitation at Downing St and also writing various columns in magazines including GQ and The Saturday Times magazine, bringing his recipes to another eager audience.
By the end of 2001 Jamie needed a new challenge; he wanted to ‘give something back’ to the catering industry, so he decided to open a training restaurant for young people who were not in full time education or employment. Followed by cameras that documented his every move he spent the year setting up a training scheme, the restaurant and the charity into which all the profits would be channelled. The series, Jamie’s Kitchen, broadcast by Channel 4, became one of the biggest hit shows of the year in the UK. The triumph of the restaurant was shown when it won Tatler Best Restaurant Award 2003, and the Academy Award of Excellence at the Tio Pepe Carlton London Restaurant Awards in the same year. Jamie was awarded an MBE in 2003 for his contribution to the hospitality industry. The Fifteen Foundation charity now owns Fifteen London and continues its work, recently recruiting the sixth year of students for training in London. The first Fifteen franchise opened in Amsterdam in 2004 and subsequent Fifteens have opened in Cornwall, UK and Melbourne, Australia in 2006.
Jamie’s School Dinners was motivated by the poor state of school dinners in UK schools; Jamie went back to school with the aim of educating and motivating the kids and dinner ladies to enjoy cooking and eating healthy, nutritious lunches rather than the processed foods that they were used to. Jamie launched a national campaign called Feed Me Better and launched an online petition for better school meals. As a result, the government pledged an extra £280 million to improve the standard of school meals, to provide training for dinner ladies and equipment for schools.
Jamie teamed up with other celebrity chefs in 2008; his contribution to ‘The Great Food Fight’, a wider campaign promoting animal welfare, was to host Jamie’s Fowl Dinners, a televised gala supper in which Jamie took horrified guests through every stage of the chicken production process.
A wide range of books have followed, as well as two series focusing on getting people to cook more healthily, Jamie’s Food Revolution.
Jamie works with top UK supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s, advising them on how to further improve the quality and variety of supermarket food. He has also designed a number of ranges of quality tableware and serveware with Royal Worcester, including the most recent range, Simply Blue. Working with Tefal (T-Fal), Jamie has launched three ranges of cookware called the Jamie Oliver Professional Series, most recently, The Italian Series. Jamie has also launched an Italian food range and has a wide range of gift foods, which are distributed internationally. Jamie has also turned inventor and developed a great kitchen gadget called the Flavour Shaker TM, which launched in the UK in 2005 and is now being launched internationally. Jamie writes regularly for the Sunday Telegraph magazine, Stella, and the News of The World Sunday magazine. His recipe columns are syndicated all over the world.
Jamie’s seventh book, Cook With Jamie was published in the UK in October 2006 and quickly became a massive best-seller. All of Jamie’s profits from this book go to the Fifteen Foundation.
Jamie’s latest project, 30 Minute Meals, is currently airing on channel four; he guides viewers through the process of creating delicious meals in just half an hour. The book accompanying the series is currently number one in Amazon.co.uk’s best-sellers charts.
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.
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