Jamie Oliver

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Jamie Oliver

Oliver in Union Square in New York City, 2008
BornJames Trevor Oliver
(1975-05-27) 27 May 1975 (age 38)
Clavering, Essex, England, UK
Cooking styleFresh and Organic, Italian cuisine, British cuisine
EducationWestminster Kingsway College
SpouseJuliette Norton (m. 2000)
Official website
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Jamie Oliver

Oliver in Union Square in New York City, 2008
BornJames Trevor Oliver
(1975-05-27) 27 May 1975 (age 38)
Clavering, Essex, England, UK
Cooking styleFresh and Organic, Italian cuisine, British cuisine
EducationWestminster Kingsway College
SpouseJuliette Norton (m. 2000)
Official website

James Trevor "Jamie" Oliver MBE FRCGP (Hon) (born 27 May 1975) is a British chef, restaurateur, media personality, known for his food-focused television shows, cookbooks and more recently his campaign against the use of processed foods in national schools. Nicknamed the Naked Chef, he strives to improve unhealthy diets and poor cooking habits in the United Kingdom and the United States. Oliver's speciality is Italian cuisine, although he has a broad international repertoire.

Early life[edit]

Jamie Oliver was born and brought up in Clavering, Essex in England. His parents ran a pub, "The Cricketers", where he used to practise cooking in the kitchen.[1] He was educated at Newport Free Grammar School. In 2009 Oliver stated that he was of partial Sudanese ancestry via his great-great grandfather John, whom he described as "a bit swarthy".[2] However, research for the Sunday Express established that John's father Peter was a hatter from Penzance, and that James' father Richard was also Cornish, leaving little or no possibility of a Sudanese connection. The family legend of Sudanese ancestry may have originated in the 19th century when John Oliver returned from sea, possibly with a tanned complexion after visiting Africa.[3]

Oliver left school at age sixteen with two GCSE qualifications[4] and went on to attend Westminster Kingsway College, formerly Westminster College.[1][5] He then earned a City & Guilds National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in home economics.


His first job was a pastry chef at Antonio Carluccio's Neal's Yard restaurant, where he first gained experience with preparing Italian cuisine, and developed a relationship with his mentor Gennaro Contaldo.[5] Oliver then moved to The River Café, Fulham, as a sous chef.

It was there that he was noticed by the BBC in 1997 after making an unscripted appearance in a documentary about the restaurant, "Christmas at the River Cafe".[6] That year, his show The Naked Chef debuted and his cookbook became a number one best-seller in the UK.[7] That same year, Oliver was invited to prepare lunch for the Prime Minister of that time, Tony Blair at No. 10 Downing Street.[7]

In 2000, Oliver became the face of the UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's through an endorsement deal worth $2 million a year.[7] After 11 years the partnership between Oliver & Sainsbury's ended. The final television advertisement was for Christmas 2011.[8]

Oliver created Fifteen in 2002. Each year, fifteen young adults who have a disadvantaged background, criminal record or history of drug abuse, are trained in the restaurant business.[9]

In 2003, he was awarded an MBE.[10]

In 2005, he initiated a campaign called "Feed Me Better" in order to move British schoolchildren towards eating healthy foods and cutting out junk food. As a result, the British government also pledged to address the issue. Delving into politics to push for changes in nutrition resulted in people voting him as the "Most Inspiring Political Figure of 2005," according to a Channel 4 News annual viewer poll.[7]

His emphasis on cooking healthily continued as he created Jamie's Ministry of Food, a television series where Oliver travelled to inspire everyday people in Rotherham, Yorkshire, to cook healthy meals. Another television series is Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (2010–2011), where he travelled first to Huntington, West Virginia and then to Los Angeles to change the way Americans eat, and address their dependence on fast food.[7]

In 2007 threats against Jamie Oliver's charitable "15 Cornwall" were made by Cornish nationalists.[11]

Oliver's holding company, Sweet As Candy, has made enough profit for Oliver to have been listed on The Sunday Times list of richest Britons under 30.[12][13]

In June 2008 he launched a restaurant called Jamie's Italian, his first high-street business venture, in Oxford, England.[14] Jamie's Italian has proved successful and there are now 35 restaurants in the chain.[15]

It was reported in October 2009 that Oliver is in the process of raising US$22 million to help fund 30 of his Italian restaurants in Asia.[16]

In December 2009, Oliver received the 2010 TED Prize.[17]

In June 2013, the Jamie Oliver was inducted into the Culinary Hall of Fame


From 2000, Jamie was the public face of the Sainsbury's supermarket chain in the UK, appearing on television and radio advertisements and in-store promotional material. The deal earned him an estimated £1.2 million every year.[18] By 2004, the company had made 65 advertisements with Jamie, but this arrangement has not been without controversy. Jamie was reported to have admitted that he does not use supermarkets, saying “For any chef, supermarkets are like a factory. I buy from specialist growers, organic suppliers and farmers".[19] He was also said to have been criticised by Sainsbury's CEO Justin King when he slammed the "junk" sold by supermarkets that ends up in the lunchboxes of millions of children. King reportedly hit back, saying: "Dictating to people—or unleashing an expletive-filled tirade—is not the way to get engagement."[20]

Oliver also has a line of non-stick pans and cookware for Tefal and has appeared in Australian television commercials for Yalumba wines, using Del Boy's catchphrase of "Lovely Jubbly".[21]

In August 2013, Oliver and Canadian supermarket chain Sobeys announced a partnership in improving nation-wide nutrition and advertising campaigns.[22]

Television shows[edit]

1999-2001The Naked Chef3 series plus 3 specials
Oliver's first series. The title was a reference to the simplicity of Oliver's recipes and has nothing to do with nudity. Oliver has frequently admitted that he was not entirely happy with the title, which was devised by producer Patricia Llewellyn.
In the UK edit of the show, the opening titles include a clip of him telling an unseen questioner, "No way! It's not me, it's the food!"
The success of the programme led to the books Return of the Naked Chef (2002) and Happy Days with the Naked Chef (2002).
2000Pukka TukkaChannel 4 special
2002Oliver's Twist52 episodes
Jamie's KitchenA five-part 2002 documentary series. It followed Oliver as he attempted to train a group of disadvantaged youths, who would, if they completed the course, be offered jobs at Oliver's new restaurant "Fifteen".
2003Return to Jamie's Kitchen2 episodes
2005Jamie's School DinnersA four-part documentary series. Oliver took responsibility for running the kitchen meals in Kidbrooke School, Greenwich, for a year. Disgusted by the unhealthy food being served to schoolchildren and the lack of healthy alternatives on offer, Oliver began a campaign to improve the standard of Britain’s school meals. Public awareness was raised and subsequently the British Government pledged to spend £280m on school dinners (spread over three years). Tony Blair acknowledged that this was a result of Oliver's campaign. Following the success of the campaign, Oliver was named "Most Inspiring Political Figure of 2005" in the Channel 4 Political Awards 2006. In episode 2 of Jamie's School Dinners, Oliver's Fifteen London restaurant was visited by former US President Bill Clinton. Clinton asked to see Oliver; however, Oliver refused: 36 showed up for a booking of 20 and many of them were on a South Beach Diet and refused the special menu that had been prepared, even though it had been approved in advance.[23]
Jamie's Great Italian EscapeA six-part travelogue series, was first broadcast on Channel 4 in Britain in October 2005. It follows Oliver as he travels around Italy in a blue VW van (plus a trailer for cooking). He is about to turn 30 and this is his personal adventure to rediscover his love of cooking.[24]
2006Jamie's Kitchen Australia10 episodes
Jamie's Return to School Dinners
2007Jamie's ChefA four-part series continuing where Jamie's Kitchen left off. Five years and fifty trainees later, Oliver's most recent series aims to help the winning trainee establish their own restaurant at The Cock, a pub near Braintree, Essex. The charitable Fifteen Foundation retains ownership of the property and has provided a £125,000 loan for the winner, Aaron Craze, to refurbish the establishment. As of 13 January 2008, the Cock has closed down and reopened as a regular pub.[25][26]
Jamie at HomeFeatured Oliver presenting home-style recipes and gardening tips, with many ingredients coming from his substantial home garden. Jamie at Home airs on the Food Network in the United States. Due to licensing restrictions, only two recipes from each Jamie at Home episode appear online; also, access to recipes is limited to users within the United States.[27]
2008Jamie's Fowl DinnersA special with Jamie backing Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's "Hugh's Chicken Run" in trying to get the British to eat free range chickens.[28]
Jamie's Ministry of FoodA four-part series that aired from 30 September to 21 October 2008.[29] It was based in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.[30] Oliver aimed to make the town "the culinary capital of the United Kingdom" and tried to get the town's inhabitants to learn how to cook fresh food and establish healthy eating as part of daily life.[31] The 'Pass It On' campaign also featured in this series with the local townspeople being taught one of a selection of recipes and passing it on to family members and friends.[30] The 'Pass It On' campaign gained a following on the social networking website Facebook which has a group and fan page with users signing up to chart their progress.
What's Cooking? with Jamie OliverVideo game
2009Jamie Saves Our BaconPart of Channel 4's British Food Fight Season, a thematic sequel to Jamie's Fowl Dinners. In the special, Oliver looks at the state of pig farming in the UK and EU. It was broadcast on 29 January 2009.[32]
Jamie's American Road TripA Channel 4 series following Oliver in the US, where he meets and learns from cooks at street stalls, off-road diners and down-to-earth local restaurants. Along the way, he picks up new recipes and learns how other cultures adapt when they come to the USA.[33]
Jamie's Family ChristmasA short series (5 episodes) on Channel 4 with Oliver cooking traditional and new Christmas dishes. Unusually, the series includes members of Oliver's family: a family member (wife, children, sister etc.) appears in a supporting role with the preparation of particular recipe interspersed with more traditional Jamie alone delivery to an off-camera person. First broadcast 15 December 2009.[34]
2010-2011Jamie Oliver's Food RevolutionA series that aired during 2010 and 2011 on ABC in the United States. In the first season, Oliver visited Huntington, West Virginia, statistically one of the unhealthiest cities in the US, to try to improve its residents' eating habits. In 2010, the show won an Emmy for Outstanding Reality Programme.[35] In the second season Oliver visited Los Angeles, where his crusade to change school meals was met with resistance. Oliver was ultimately barred from filming at any Los Angeles public school. The show's cancellation was announced by ABC in May 2011, two weeks before the final episode of the season had aired.[36] The program also aired in the United Kingdom on Channel 4 under the title Jamie's American Food Revolution, and in Australia on Channel 10 under the original title.
Jamie Does...A Channel 4 series of 6 episodes following the success of Jamie's American Road Trip. Oliver travels across Europe and North Africa, cooking local dishes. Known as Jamie Oliver's Food Escapes in the US
2010Jamie's 30-Minute MealsA Channel 4 series of 40 episodes aired during October–November. The programme focused on home-cooked meals that could be put together within the titular timeframe, using simple, 'not cheffy' techniques, with an emphasis on educating viewers about the cooking processes themselves.[37]
2011Jamie's Dream SchoolA Channel 4 series that looks at young people’s educational problems and attempts to uncover whether they are down to personal circumstance, society or the education system itself. It also examines how the new teachers get on as they try to translate their real-life expertise into the realities of the classroom. Professor Robert Winston, historian David Starkey, barrister Cherie Blair, journalist and political aide Alastair Campbell, actor Simon Callow, artist Rolf Harris, musician Jazzie B and Olympic gold medallist Daley Thompson all offer their opinions during the series.
Jamie's Fish SupperA one-hour special show in which Oliver cooked 10 fish recipes as a part of Big Fish Fight campaign.[38]
Jamie Cooks SummerA one-hour special in which Oliver cooked summer dishes in various outdoor locations.[39]
Jamie's Great BritainA six-part series in which Oliver travels the length and breadth of the country in search of new ideas and inspiration for recipes and to find out what makes British food great.[40]
2012Jamie's 15-Minute MealsA follow-up to Oliver's book and television show 30-minute meals
Jamie & Jimmy's Food Fight Club4 part series with childhood friend Jimmy Doherty.
2013Dream SchoolExecutive producer, based on Jamie's Dream School

Other television appearances[edit]

Oliver has twice guest-hosted Channel 4's The Friday Night Project.

He has also made two appearances in the "Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car" segment of BBC Two's Top Gear. In his first appearance he attempted to make a green salad in the back of his Volkswagen Microbus, which was fitted with a Porsche engine, while the Stig drove it around the Top Gear test track.

Oliver is the second British celebrity chef (after Robert Irvine) to appear as a challenger on Iron Chef America, taking on Iron Chef Mario Batali in 2008 in a losing battle with cobia as the theme ingredient.[41]

He starred as one of the judges in the 2008 US series Oprah's Big Give hosted by Oprah Winfrey on ABC (America).

He guest starred as himself in the "Meatloaf Surprise" episode of Phineas and Ferb.

In 2012, Oliver appeared during Week 6 of the series on MasterChef Australia as the celebrity chef in the show's Immunity Challenge 5. Showcasing his skills, Oliver's board plate scored higher than the three contestants he was up against (all three judges scored Oliver a 9/10), thus preventing them from earning an Immunity Pin.

The Happy Days Live tour was Oliver's first live show in 2001 and included several dates in the UK and Australasia.[42] Performing to sold-out venues, he cooked on stage and interacted with the audiences with competitions, music and special effects only usually seen in pop concerts.[43] He took the audiences by surprise by singing and drumming to a song called Lamb Curry written by his longtime friend Leigh Haggerwood. Oliver appears at the BBC Good Food show each year and took to the road once more in 2006 on an Australian tour where he performed in Sydney and Melbourne. Following the entertaining format of his first live show, the 2006 Australian tour featuring special guests including mentor Gennaro Contaldo, and students from Fifteen London. Oliver also performed a new song written by Leigh Haggerwood called Fish Stew which Oliver cooked to and also drummed along to at the end of the show. The shows were a great success and are featured in a one-off TV documentary called Jamie Oliver: Australian Diary.[44]


In 2005, Oliver was widely criticised by animal rights groups for slaughtering a fully conscious lamb on his TV show, while PETA praised Oliver for showing the killing uncensored, claiming that it highlighted problems with the methods used within slaughterhouses for viewers at home.[45] PETA spokesman Sean Gifford said that it "could turn the more diehard carnivore into a vegetarian".[45] British TV regulator Ofcom reported they had seven complaints from the public.[45]

Jamie Oliver in Toronto 2010

Oliver has been known for his comments about other chefs and has spoken out against Marco Pierre White, who has been critical of Oliver in the past, and the notorious swearing of Gordon Ramsay.[46]

In 2005, Oliver embarked upon his school dinners campaign to improve the quality of food fed to pupils. While the campaign was arguably successful,[47] at the time it was a highly controversial shake-up for students and parents, some of whom believed that the students should have a healthy option available, but still be given the choice as to what they want to eat. In September 2006, Rawmarsh Community School, South Yorkshire, made headlines after a handful of parents revolted against Oliver's lunch plan (in which all 1,100 pupils on site were fed two portions of fruit and three vegetables every day) by delivering junk food from local shops to the pupils through the school fence. One parent dismissed Oliver's food as "disgusting rubbish" and declared, "Food is cheaper and better at the local takeaways".[48]

In 2011, Oliver, an advocate of cooking meals from scratch and using local produce, caused controversy after it turned out the sauces used in Jamie's Italian in Glasgow were from an industrial park almost 400 miles away in Bicester.[49] That same year, Oliver came under fire for lack of food safety protections in his restaurants and illnesses associated with under-cooking mince meat that may have been contaminated with E. coli.[50]

Oliver and Gordon Ramsay are spokeschefs for the "Big Fish Fight", which campaigns for sustainable seafood, but were criticised for their use of endangered fish.[51]

Charity and campaigning[edit]

Oliver conceived and established the Fifteen charity restaurant, where he trained fifteen disadvantaged young people to work in the hospitality industry. Following the success of the original restaurant in London, more Fifteens have opened around the globe: Fifteen Amsterdam opened in December 2004, Fifteen Cornwall in Newquay in May 2006 and Fifteen Melbourne in September 2006 with Australian friend and fellow chef Tobie Puttock.[52]

Oliver then began a formal campaign to ban unhealthy food in British schools and to get children eating nutritious food instead. Oliver's efforts to bring radical change to the school meals system, chronicled in the series Jamie's School Dinners, challenged the junk-food culture by showing schools they could serve healthy, cost-efficient meals that kids enjoyed eating.[53] Jamie's efforts brought the subject of school dinners to the political forefront and changed the types of food served in schools.[54] In 2012, after supporting Scottish primary school blogger Martha Payne in her NeverSeconds blog,[55] Oliver attacked education secretary Michael Gove for failing to adhere to the standards agreed to by the previous administration.

In December 2009, Oliver was awarded the 2010 TED Prize for his campaigns to "create change on both the individual and governmental levels" in order to "bring attention to the changes Englanders and now Americans need to make in their lifestyles and diet."[17]

In 2010, Oliver joined several other celebrity chefs on the series The Big Fish Fight, in which Oliver and fellow chef Gordon Ramsay spend time on a trawler boat to raise awareness about the discarding of hundreds of thousands of saltwater fish because the fishermen are prohibited from keeping any fish other than the stated target of the trawl.[56]

Oliver is a patron of environmental charity Trees for Cities.[57]

Awards and honours[edit]

In June 2003, Oliver was awarded the MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours. A proponent of fresh organic foods, Oliver was named the most influential person in the UK hospitality industry when he topped the inaugural Caterersearch.com 100 in May 2005.[58] The list placed Oliver higher than Sir Francis Mackay, the then-chairman of the contract catering giant Compass Group, which Oliver had soundly criticised in Jamie's School Dinners. In 2006, Oliver dropped to second on the list behind fellow celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.[59] In July 2010, Jamie regained the top spot and has been named as the most powerful and influential person in the UK hospitality industry once again.[60]

In 2013 Oliver was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the Royal College of General Practitioners for his work in tackling childhood obesity by improving the nutritional value of school dinners.[61]

In popular culture[edit]

Oliver is mentioned in the South Park episode "Medicinal Fried Chicken". He is also featured in the later episode "Crème Fraiche", in which he tearfully tries to convince celebrity chef Bobby Flay that kids' food should be healthy.[62]

He was parodied in Full English episode, "Bank to the Future"

He was a guest on Epic Meal Time, a YouTube Channel specializing in Epic Meals (dishes that: contain bacon, are physically very large, and contain intentionally high amounts of calories and fat).

He was also a guest on Annoying Orange, the episode "Snack Attack"

He appears in an episode of Phineas and Ferb, in the episode "Meatloaf Surprise" where he is a judge in a meatloaf cooking contest.

Personal life[edit]

In July 2000, Oliver married Juliette Norton.[63] The couple met in 1993 and have four children: Poppy Honey Rosie Oliver (born 18 March 2002), Daisy Boo Pamela Oliver (born on 10 April 2003), Petal Blossom Rainbow Oliver (born on 3 April 2009)[64] and Buddy Bear Oliver (born on 15 September 2010).[65] Oliver announced the births of the two youngest children on Twitter.[66][67] The family lives in Clavering, Essex.[68]

Oliver has dyslexia, and read his first novel (Catching Fire) in 2013, at the age of 38.[69]




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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]