Overall ranking: 1
Chef ranking: 1
Jamie Oliver - Snapshot
How you describe Jamie Oliver depends on what day of the week it is. He is a chef, restaurateur, campaigner, television star and author as well as being the face of Sainsbury’s. Oliver’s reputation in the early days of being an omnipresent – and annoying for many - “cheeky chap” has been superseded by his astonishing success in managing to change Government policy on school meals and the diets of families both here and in the USA. Recent years have seen a highly successful launch into the casual dining market, with Jamie’s Italian.
Jamie Oliver - Career guide
Jamie Oliver, who was born in May 1975, got his first taste of the hospitality industry at the age of eight, working in the kitchens of his parents’ pub-restaurant, the Cricketers in the Essex village of Clavering. He racked up some outside experience at the Starr in Great Dunmow, Essex, before enrolling at Westminster Catering College at 16.
After a stint in France, Oliver landed the role of head pastry chef at Antonio Carluccio’s Neal Street restaurant for a year. He then worked as senior sous chef at the River Café for three-and-a-half years, where he was “discovered” in 1997 in a TV documentary on the London restaurant.
So began a successful career in the public spotlight as a TV chef, author and columnist, not to mention an ongoing advertising deal that made Oliver the public face of supermarket giant Sainsbury's.
In November 2002 he opened his first training restaurant, Fifteen, in Hoxton, north London. It was followed by more venues in Amsterdam, in 2004; Newquay, Cornwall; and Melbourne, Australia in 2006.
In 2005 Oliver initiated a campaign called "Feed Me Better" in a bid to move British schoolchildren towards eating healthy foods and cutting out junk food. Oliver backed up his beliefs with action and worked with Kidbrooke Secondary School in Greenwich, south-east London, to wean pupils on to a healthier diet. By July 2005 nearly all the 80 schools in Greenwich using the local council’s catering team were serving Oliver’s meals.
As a direct result of Oliver’s campaign, the Government committed to spend an extra £220m on school meals provision, which was then backed up with a further £240m, running until 2011.
His emphasis on cooking healthily continued as he created Jamie's Ministry of Food, a TV series where Oliver travelled to Rotherham, South Yorkshire, to inspire people to cook healthy meals. This was followed by Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, which saw him going to Huntington, West Virginia, to change the way some American families depend on fast food.
In 2008 Oliver turned his attention to the casual dining market and opened the first Jamie’s Italian restaurant in Oxford to critical acclaim. The chain – or "collection" as Oliver prefers to term it – now stands at 11, with two more due to open in July 2010.
Among his many accolades include an MBE, awarded in 2003, a Catey Special Award in the same year for his work at Fifteen, and being named as the "most iconic British chef of all time" by Olive magazine in 2004.
Jamie Oliver - What we think
It seems like a long time ago now that a 21-year-old Jamie Oliver burst into the public consciousness as the Naked Chef after appearing in a TV documentary on London’s River Café.
Three TV series of The Naked Chef, together with years of matey Sainsbury’s advertisements, saw Oliver become the butt of many jokes and accusations of overexposure. But his next project, Jamie’s Kitchen, which charted his six-month struggle to convert a derelict building in Hoxton into a 70-seat restaurant manned by 15 unemployed youngsters who had taken a crash course in cooking, showed the first glimpse of the campaigning Oliver.
The Jamie Oliver Fifteen charitable venture attracted an avalanche of accolades in 2003, including a Catey Special Award and an MBE. Oliver expanded his charitable work in 2004 when was appointed an honorary vice-chairman for Hospitality Action’s Ark Foundation, which addresses alcohol and drug problems in the hospitality industry.
That might have been enough for some people, but Oliver had grander aims, and it was his next TV project that won him serious plaudits from across the country. Jamie’s School Dinners produced a domino effect that ended in a £460m Government investment in school meals provision. It is hard to understate what an achievement this was for a mere “television chef”, although Bernard Matthews – the producer of the derided Turkey Twizzler – and the battered and bruised board of schools caterer Compass Group at the time would probably beg to differ.
Oliver has not let the fire burn out on the issue and, in April 2010, revealed plans to spend millions of pounds of his own money in a bid to improve food education and meals in primary schools. The healthy-eating champion said he would set aside a percentage of profits from each of his companies to create a fund that would be used to create "a mechanism of food that the schools can bid for".
Oliver’s latest campaign is arguably his most ambitious. He is planning to set up his own school to help teenagers who have struggled in the mainstream education system. Oliver, who is dyslexic and failed to shine at school before going to catering college, will work on the project this summer for a forthcoming Channel 4 series.
He is not just a campaigner, though. Jamie’s Italian, which launched in 2008, is gradually rolling out across the UK, with its success based on affordable menus and fresh ingredients – a simple but effective mantra for a hospitality business. Jamies Italian was named Brand of the Year at the 2010 BHA Awards in June 2010. He is also launching a new restaurant in the City of London this autumn in a joint venture with US chef and barbecue enthusiast Adam Perry.
Not enough for you? Well, Oliver is also branching out into the events catering market with the launch of a new company called Fabulous Feasts.
Jamie Oliver - Further information
Read more about the Caterersearch.com 100, the list of the most influential people, here >>