Jamie Oliver: author, chef, host, star. Until I did this research on his life; I had no idea he was such a prolific, lucrative author (on the list of top cookbooks in history). His life was not without drama, though: He built a huge international network of restaurants; and then lost most of it in a controversy we’ll still yet to understand completely.
He’s also a strong activist on several causes, and, at the end of the day, a family man. Let’s discover more about the life of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
1. Quick Facts: Jamie Oliver
Name: James Trevor Oliver
Date of birth: May 27, 1975
Birthplace: Essex, England, United Kingdom
Partner: Juliette Norton, better known as Jools Oliver. They’ve been married since 2000 and live in Essex with their five children.
Restaurants: Jamie Oliver's Pizzeria, Jamie's Deli y Jamie Oliver Kitchen (many of his other restaurants closed in 2019)
2. Early Life
James Trevor Oliver was born and raised in Clavering, a village in Essex County, United Kingdom. Fun fact: the village only has two pubs; one of them being owned by Oliver’s parents, “The Cricketers”.
The pub also served as a restaurant business, and it was there Jamie learned the deeds of cooking as a child. By the time he was 11 he was already doing basic meal prep with the rest of the staff.
He left school when he was 16. He considered himself to be a “special needs kid” and felt like school had let him down. He changed to Westminster Catering College.
There’s isn’t a lot more to say about Jamie Oliver’s early life previous to cooking, as he followed his call when he was still a teenager.
3. Culinary Career
After spending some time in France, his first official experience (I mean, outside the comfort of his parents’ pub) was at Antonio Carluccio's Neal's Yard restaurant. There, he was a pastry chef and got a glimpse into Italian cuisine. But most importantly, he met his number one mentor, Gennaro Contaldo.
Then, he moved to The River Cafe, where would work as a sous-chef for the next three and a half years. When he talks about the time spent there, he’s emphatic to say he learned all the time and effort required to create “the most honest, totally delicious meals”.
But there’s another reason why this period is a milestone in his culinary career. One day, the BBC crew showed up to shoot a documentary about the River Cafe. The producer couldn’t help notice his natural charm in front of the camera and things escalated quickly after that.
A lot happened the same year: “The Naked Chef”, his very own show, debuted for BBC, his cookbook became a best-seller and he was invited to make lunch for Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Jamie Oliver’s restaurants
Fifteen was Jamie’s first -and probably his flagship- restaurant in London. The restaurant was, at the same time, a social project training young adults with a difficult background, so they could get a job in the hospitality industry.
The original Fifteen was greatly successful, so other branches opened in Amsterdam, Cornwall and Melbourn. It focused on Mediterranean flavours, especially Italian. It continued to help youngsters in need until the day it closed.
Barbecoa is another memorable restaurant by Jamie Oliver. This one was an upscale barbecue place, with a meat-based menu created with the help of the chef’s friend Adam Perry Lang.
Jamie’s Italian, another restaurant opened in 2008, was another huge success, reaching the number of 42 venues in the UK and many others in Canada, Hong Kong, Russia, Turkey, Iceland, Qatar, Ireland and Singapore.
After having built an international empire; the Jamie Oliver Group went into administration. 22 of his 25 restaurants in the United Kingdom were closed and 1000 people lost their jobs. Some locations in airports, as well as international franchises, remained unaffected.
Chef Jamie tried to salvage the situation, looking for investors and putting his own money (more than $15 million); but in the end, then he finally dropped the battle. It couldn’t have been an easy time for the British chef.
Closing Oliver's Fifteen was probably the hardest for him. It represented his vision for a better world and his culinary roots.
But even though many of his restaurants closed in 2019, he still runs successful restaurants around the world in places like Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Portugal, Russia, and more. He’s said to be “relieved” his enterprise has become smaller.
4. Books and Media Appearances
Let’s just start by stating that Jamie Oliver is the #1 best-selling British non-fiction author (at least since records began) and the second best-selling British author overall; only surpassed by J.K. Rowling. He’s huge.
“Cook with Jamie” is considered his best book by kitchen connoisseurs. He recently announced his next book “Memorable Meals Made Easy”, focused on delicious recipes to share with loved ones on special occasions. "Jamie's Comfort Food" is another popular book that focuses on feel good food.
He has also wrote several other book titles including "Jamie's American", "5 Ingredients", "Jamie Cooks Italy", "Jamie's Kitchen", "Jamie's Food Revolution", "Everyday Super food", "Ultimate Veg", "Jamie Oliver Together", "Save with Jamie", and "30 minute meals". This made him on of the most successful cookbook authors.
He sold more than 14.55 million books and appeared in many TV shows, documentaries and TV specials. His first series was “The Naked Chef”, so successful that it resulted in three books: The Naked Chef, Return of the Naked Chef and Happy Days with the Naked Chef.
He also had series with a more social approach like “Jamie's Kitchen”, documenting the set up of Fifteen and the training of disadvantaged youth; and Jamie's School Dinners where he was in charge of the meals for a school in Greenwich. He won an Emmy for “Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution”.
He started a Dailymotion webisode series called "Jamie's Family Christmas" in 2017 and he also appeared on The Graham Norton show in 2019.
We couldn’t possibly name all of Jamie’s TV appearances. Even if we filtered by “most successful”, we’d still have a lot to write. Just to name a few popular titles: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals are names to remember.
He has also starred in "Jamie's Dream School", "Jamie: Keep Cooking and Carry On", "Jamie's 15 minute meals", "Jamie Keep Cooking family favourites", "Jamie's Ministry of Food", and "Jamie's school dinners".
He even toured in 2001 with his live show “Happy Days”. The show, special effects and music were more like a pop concert and the event sold out in several cities of the UK and Australia.
Worth mentioning: he was the face of Sainsbury’s Supermarket for eleven years. This partnership where he did more than 100 adverts for the brand earned him more than £10m.
Today, he has a monthly social media reach of more than 30 million followers, and his global TV audience is 67 million.
5. Personality: What’s He Like?
The fact that he’s such a mediatic figure, allows for some transparency when it comes to his personality. Other chefs might be more introverted, but we don’t get that vibe from him.
We know, for example, that he is a down-to-earth person, but still an optimist at the same time. It’s apparently the perfect combination for business, as his huge entrepreneurial success shows. Impulsive? Maybe. “I screw up about 40 percent of my business ventures' ' (his words).
He’s always been humanitarian. He took action on his social concern right from the very beginning: as he opened Fifteen, his first and most acclaimed restaurant, he also started his campaign for teenagers with a difficult background and combined the two operations.
Jamie Oliver has shown his support for a National Farmer's Union petition, urging the british government to maintain UK food standards on imports. The celebrity chef has joined the fight to maintain food standards, after british government ministers voted down an amendment to maintain British standards on food imports.
With most of his venues closed down; Mr. Oliver’s life is a bit quieter now. He cooks a lot, spends time with the family and produces content about the subjects that he’s passionate about.
6. Charity Work And Advocacy
As I mentioned before, Jamie Oliver showed an interest in social causes from the beginning of his career. It’s almost as if we couldn’t separate the two.
It started with his Fifteen Foundation where he trained disadvantaged young adults in hospitality. The program was successful for seventeen years until the restaurant closed down, along with the program.
Oliver’s “Food Revolution'' campaign also earned him a TED prize in 2010. The campaign focused on food education, fighting childhood obesity and changing the world’s overall mindset about what makes “great food”.
Over the years he made continuous efforts to improve school lunches, food education and healthy eating, for example with his campaign “Feed Me Better” and the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.
He currently supports many foundations and charities including the American Heart Association, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Small Steps Project, Comic Relief and the American Stroke Association, among others.
7. Follow Jamie Oliver On Social Media
Lucky for you, Jamie Oliver is constantly sharing his best kitchen secrets on his official site jamieoliver.com with an extensive section for recipes divided into healthy recipes, main ingredients (chicken, pasta, beef, fish…), family recipes (kids, school, money-saving…), special occasions, special diets, or baking recipes.
If you follow him on Twitter, you’ll also see his retweets of people trying out recipes from his books like the Smoky Chorizo Salmon or his 2-ingredient flatbreads.
He’s a YouTuber as well, where you can find short instructional videos like “principles for superb salads”. He’s also active on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.
8. Fun Facts About Jamie Oliver
- Oliver was once listed as one of the richest Britons under 30 by The Sunday Times.
- He is the second-best-selling British author (J. K. Rowling is number one).
- The TV chef has severe dyslexia. He read his first novel at the age of 38.
- He was a drummer before being a TV chef. He even had a band “Scarlet Division”.
- He’s been married to Jools Oliver for more than 20 years. They are childhood sweethearts and they claim to be as in love as day one.
- His five children carry three names each, because neither he nor his wife Jools could decide one.
- Speaking of their children's names: they are all quite unusual: Poppy Honey Rosie, Petal Blossom Rainbow, Buddy Bear Maurice, Daisy Boo Pamela y River Rocket Blue (this last one named after the River Cafe)
- Chili is his favorite ingredient.
- People magazine named him “the sexiest chef alive” in 2000.
- When he won an MBE award for his services to the hospitality industry, he refused to wear a tie: "I like ties but I prefer not to wear one when I am nervous".
- He’s got a reputation for using too much olive oil in his recipes, generating a lot of memes around the internet.
- He played the British English voice of the health inspector in the Disney movie Ratatouille.
- Jamie has won British academy television awards including the Richard Dimbleby Award.
- He appeared on Iron Chef America in 2008.
9. Frequently Asked Questions
What is Jamie Oliver's most famous dish?
His “Steak Sarnie” is a classic and he has other well-known recipes like his black bean burgers with zingy Salsa, yoghurt, mango and avocado. However, Jamie doesn’t really have one signature dish. Instead he wrote many cookbooks with memorable, easy food.
How many Michelin stars does Jamie Oliver have?
Jamie Oliver still hasn’t received any Michelin Star.
Where does Jamie Oliver live?
The chef currently lives in a 6th century mansion in Essex with his wife and children.
What does Jamie Oliver’s wife do?
Juliette Norton, better known as “Jools Oliver”, used to work as a model; but she’s now dedicated to taking care of her family and helping in her husband’s projects.
What is Jamie Oliver's net worth?
Oliver has an approximate net worth of over £240million.
What is Jamie Oliver best known for?
Chef Jamie Oliver is known for his first television series 'The Naked Chef' (and all the series that followed), his best-selling cookbooks, his restaurants and his activism for healthier diets.
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Written by Eva ContrerasFood & travel writer based in Buenos Aires. Superpowers include relentless curiosity and high tolerance to spicy foods.