Matt Doran has travelled to London to meet one of the most likeable and successful chefs in the world, Jamie Oliver – not just to master the perfect pasta, but to learn more about the man behind dish.
One of the main ingredients of Jamie’s popularity is undoubtedly his charm. Mix that with some serious business savvy and a dash of good fortune, and you have one of the most successful foodies of all time.
And then there’s his relentless work ethic – ingrained by his dad at the family pub as a kid.
Jamie remembers the tasks he had to tackle. “Cleaning toilets, regularly polishing the brass next to the men’s urinal, mopping, dishwashing, burning the boxes, cleaning the yard, sweeping the car park. Every job, but it’s good for kids. Working growing up in a family business was really precious to me.”
Jamie applied his pub skills to the London restaurant scene where he stood out as fresh-faced, charismatic and talented. It was the perfect fit for a new TV series – The Naked Chef.
“The Naked Chef was a phenomena,” Jamie recalls. “I was so green, so naïve. I always wanted to go to Australia, [I] never thought I’d get there honestly, and the first country that took the book and the TV series was Aussie, and I was welcomed with open arms and have been ever since. I really, really appreciated that.”
Things have only gotten bigger over the past twenty years. He’s running a company employing almost 8,000 people, Jamie’s TV shows are broadcast to all corners of the globe, and he’s sold 41 million books – making him the UK’s second-most successful author, after JK Rowling.
Making great food made Jamie Oliver a household name – but his proudest creation is still the Oliver family. Jools, his wife of 18 years, was a childhood sweet heart. Jamie and Jules now have five children.
Being a dad led Jamie to thinking more about what his kids were eating – at home and at school. He soon realised the food at school tuck shops was often appalling.
So began his war on fast food and sugary drinks, which he blames for an epidemic of childhood obesity.
“We try and keep it down but basically it’s never been worse,” Jamie explains. “Countries and populations can be scared of two things: one is hunger and one is obesity, and actually we have both in the globe right now.”
Jamie Oliver is man who has his finger in many pies – perhaps too many. Recently, his chain of Jamie’s Italian restaurants has hit hard times. Franchises in Australia and in the UK were shut down. Millions of dollars were lost, and hundreds of employees were laid off.
“[It’s] a huge weight,” Jamie reveals. “I carry lots of burden of stuff, which is my choice to do so. It was really tough. I mean, first of all, I have had my fair share of failure. I think my ratio is looking about 50/50, so don’t be under the illusion that I am untouchable.”
“But it’s all character-building stuff. I think there is a place for me to be doing stuff in Australia in the long term.”
Reporter: Matt Doran
Producers: Kristy-Lee Lorraway & Andrea Keir
His latest book, Jamie Cooks Italy, is available now in all good bookstores. Jamie’s Friday Night Feast Cookbook is also still on sale.