Jamie Oliver

Television Personality

Photo by David Loftus

Born on 27 May 1975, Jamie took an early interest in food. He grew up in Essex, where his parents Trevor and Sally still run their own highly respected pub/restaurant The Cricketers in Clavering and 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 a stint at Antonio Carluccio’s Neal Street Restaurant (where he first met mentor Gennaro Contaldo),  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, published by Penguin Books accompanied the first television series and it became an instant bestseller. A second and then a third television series were commissioned by the BBC, along with the second and third tie-in books: The Return of the Naked Chef and Happy Days with the Naked Chef, with Happy Days with the Naked Chef becoming the official Christmas No.1 in 2001 in the non-fiction chart.

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 global 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 in the UK, became one of the biggest hit shows ofthe year.  It has now been shown in over 40 countries and the tie-in book, also called Jamie’s Kitchen, became a runaway success. 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 eighth 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.

In 2004, motivated by the poor state of school dinners in UK schools, Jamie embarked on one of his most ambitious ventures to date. He 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 (www.feedmebetter.com) and launched an online petition for better school meals.  As a result of the 271,677 signatures on the petition, which Jamie took to 10 Downing Street on 30th March 2005, the government pledged an extra £280 million to improve the standard of school meals, to provide training for dinner ladies and equipment for schools.  Over seven months of hard work and constant filming culminated in the award-winning series Jamie’s School Dinners, shown on Channel 4. The series prompted a public outcry for change to the school meals system and was awarded Best Factual programme at the UK National TV Awards. Jamie also received a special award for his contribution to television at the National TV awards.

A follow-up documentary, Jamie’s Return To School Dinners aired on Channel 4 in September 2006 and as a result of Jamie’s new findings the British government made further investment in school meals and food education for school children.

Between these two documentaries, in 2005, Jamie took a break from schools with Jamie’s Great Italian Escape, a series based on his travels around Italy and his love of Italian food. This was accompanied by Jamie’s sixth book, Jamie’s Italywhich instantly went to number one in the UK and sold more copies in the week before Christmas than any other non-fiction book has ever done.  The book was also nominated for the British Book Award ‘Book of the Year’ in the UK.

In addition to Jamie’s television programmes and books, 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 Churchill China.  Working with Tefal (T-Fal), Jamie has launched a number of ranges of cookware including the Jamie Oliver Professional 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 ShakerTM, which launched in the UK in 2005 and then internationally.

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 to help more young people to start a career in the catering industry.

Through 2006 and early 2007, Jamie filmed a series and wrote a book both called ‘Jamie At Home’.  He had been successfully growing fruit and vegetables and herbs at his Essex farmhouse since 2004 and the book and series reflected his new love of gardening organically as well as featuring delicious recipes inspired by the produce of his garden.  The series ‘Jamie At Home’ quickly became a hit in the UK and in a variety of international markets while the accompanying book ‘Jamie At Home’ also proved to be one of Jamie’s biggest sellers both in the UK and overseas.

In autumn 2007 Jamie announced a new chain of “high street” Italian restaurants called ‘Jamie’s Italian’, the first of which opened in Oxford in May 2008.  Restaurants in Bath (Oct 08) and Kingston (Nov 08) followed  that first year and subsequent Jamie’s Italians have proven to be firm favourites with the people of Brighton, Cardiff, Guildford, London’s Canary Wharf, Cambridge, Reading, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London (three restaurants), Birmingham, Nottingham and Bristol – www.jamiesitalian.com for more info.  Jamie’s Italian also has a restaurant in Dubai.

Jamie began 2008 with a burst of activity fronting two major TV programmes in the UK. Eat To Save Your Life used expert analysis as well as an autopsy by Dr Gunther von Hagens on a 25-stone man who literally “ate himself to death” to try to change the dietary habits of a group of malnourished Brits.  Meanwhile Jamie’s Fowl Dinners was an in-depth and challenging look at the British poultry industry with a message that unless British consumers were prepared to trade up to a higher welfare chicken and egg, the British poultry industry would suffer irreparably.  Groups ranging from the RSPCA to farmers’ organisations praised the programme and the immediate result was an increase in sales of free-range and organic chicken of up to 50%.

In 2008, Jamie as usual worked on a number of exciting projects including appearing in The Big Give, the prime-time Oprah Winfrey-fronted hit show on ABC in the States which aired in the spring.  

Jamie’s major project for 2008, however, was Jamie’s Ministry of Food, a Channel 4 TV series which showed how people who couldn’t cook could be inspired to cook with just a little encouragement and information.  The series, filmed in Rotherham, explored how friends, family and work-mates could be inspired to pass on recipes to each other and cook using fresh ingredients.  Additionally, a Ministry of Food centre set-up by Jamie in the town centre has been providing information, cooking lessons and advice to the townsfolk who want to move away from take-aways and ready-meals.  After the success of the Ministry of Food centre, Rotherham Council announced it would continue to fund the running of the centre and in 2010, the Rotherham Ministry of Food centre is so successful that its classes are booked many weeks in advance.  A second Ministry centre opened in Bradford in November 2009 and a third in Leeds in April 2010.   Many other UK councils are seriously looking at opening similar centres to try to halt Britain’s growing obesity problem.

A book, Jamie’s Ministry of Food was published by Michael Joseph in October 2008 and quickly became one of Jamie’s most successful books both in the UK and internationally.

In early 2009, Jamie was typically busy.  On television he tackled the issue of pig welfare and the need to champion British pig farmers in the Channel 4 one-off programme Jamie Saves Our Bacon.  He also announced a new high street cooking shop project called Recipease, the first of which opened in Battersea/Clapham Junction in February quickly followed by a second shop in Brighton in May.  

The year also saw the launch of Jamie at Home, an exciting direct selling business which empowers people to start their own businesses by selling Jamie’s quality products through holding parties for friends and colleagues.  For more info – www.jamieathome.com

On April 1st, Jamie had the great honour of cooking at 10 Downing Street for the third time in his career, this time for the assembled world leaders in advance of the G20 talks.  He and a group of graduates and an apprentice from Fifteen London cooked a menu showing off the best of seasonal British food.  Just over 24 hours later, Jamie was celebrating the birth of his third daughter – Petal Blossom Rainbow.

In Europe, Jamie began a partnership with hotel group Scandic which involved developing menus for different guests – initially children and then business customers.

Jamie spent much of 2009 in the USA, first making a series for Channel 4 (and overseas markets), Jamie’s American Road Trip, during which he visited Los Angeles (meeting Mexican ex-gang members who are being rehabilitated through food and cooking), Wyoming (where he spent time with cowboys living in a wilderness that has barely changed for centuries), New York (where he strayed from the typical tourist areas to discover delicious food from the Peruvian, Colombian, Egyptian and Chinese communities), Louisiana (hunting alligators and helping to get a restaurant damaged by a hurricane back on its feet), Georgia (investigating soul food and the southern of barbecuing) and Arizona (where Jamie spent time with the Navajo people and learnt about their food and culture).  An accompanying book, Jamie’s America, became Jamie’s 10th best-seller.

Late in 2009, Jamie launched an iPhone app called 20 Minute Meals which quickly became a best-seller and a huge hit with the app-loving public in the UK and overseas as well as winning the much coveted Apple Design Award for apps.

Later that year, he returned to America, this time to West Virginia, to start his first major network series for America television.  “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” premiered on ABC in America in March 2010, winning its slot each week with ratings peaking at 7.5 million. Jamie appeared on Oprah to launch the campaign and also carried out high profile interviews on Letterman, Leno and Nightline as well as press interviews in The New York Times and TIME magazine.   Jamie became the recipient of the prestigious TED award for 2010 (previous winners have included Al Gore and Bono) at a ceremony in California. http://www.ted.com/talks/jamie_oliver.html and in August 2010 the Food Revolution series received an Emmy Award for Best Reality Series.

If that wasn’t enough, back in the UK Jamie launched a new book and TV series: Jamie Does… early in 2010 which saw Jamie seeking out fresh inspiration from countries he visited on cheap short hall flights from the UK, to discover authentic recipes and flavours.

Autumn 2010 saw Jamie’s first foray in UK “daytime television” with the launch of 30 Minute Meals, a daily TV series at 5.30pm in the UK which aimed to show cooks of all levels that by simply using their kitchen kit cleverly, they could get not just one dish but a whole meal on the table in half an hour.  The accompanying book, “Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals” became Jamie’s best- selling book to date and the fastest selling book of all time in the UK, passing the one million mark just before Christmas 2010.

In addition, Jamie’s fourth child, Buddy Bear Maurice Oliver, was born on 15th September.

On November 3rd 2010, Jamie and renowned American chef Adam Perry Lang opened Barbecoa restaurant at the One New Change development next to St Paul’s Cathedral.  The restaurant specialises in traditional cooking methods using wood, charcoal and smoke – www.barbecoa.com for more info.  The following year, another restaurant collection was born – Union Jacks; a collaboration with US chef Chris Bianco which uses the finest British ingredients to create wonderful flats and delicious and nostalgic plates – www.unionjacksrestaurants.com

Early in 2011, Jamie and his family upped-sticks and moved to California for two months where Jamie filmed the second series of ‘Jamie’s Food Revolution’ for ABC.  The series was well-received by viewers and led to the landmark decision by the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) to ban flavoured milk from its schools.

In July 2011, Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival saw over 20,000 people converge on Clapham Common in London for a three-day festival of food and music and in the autumn, the Jamie’s Great Britain book, featuring over 130 new recipes showing the best of British food, was published.  A 6-part TV series, ‘Jamie’s Great Britain’ was shown on Channel 4 in October.

With 2012 being Olympic year as well as the 10th anniversary of Fifteen restaurant, Jamie’s focus has been on the work of his Foundation.  He has launched the Kitchen Garden Project which aims to get primary school children growing and cooking their own food and also initiated the first Food Revolution Day (May 19th) on which people all over the world held community events and dinner parties to focus attention on food education.

Jamie’s 14th book, ’15 Minute Meals’ will be published in the autumn.

For more information please go to www.jamieoliver.com