Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Jamie Oliver – Fifteen, Jamie's Italian, Barbecoa, Union Jacks, Recipease

06 December 2012
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Jamie Oliver – Fifteen, Jamie's Italian, Barbecoa, Union Jacks, Recipease

Overall ranking: 2 (ranked 1 in 2011)
Chef ranking: 1 (ranked 1 in 2011)

Jamie Oliver Snapshot

Fifteen years ago, a fresh-faced Jamie Oliver appeared on our television screens in the first series of The Naked Chef. Nearly 30 TV programmes later (with screenings in more than 40 countries), he has published 18 books, is hurtling towards owning/part owning 50 restaurants; counts an outside catering company, three cafés-cum-cookery schools, and a magazine in his business empire; and can reel off numerous high profile food campaigns to his credit. In addition, for 11 years (until 2011) he was the face of supermarket Sainsbury's.

The past four years have seen Oliver become a major player in the casual-dining market. The Jamie's Italian chain, which currently operates 30 restaurants in the UK, one in Ireland (Dublin), and five in Asia, plus his four-strong Union Jacks brand (which serves wood-fired flatbreads with traditional British flavours) have helped to make Oliver worth £150m according to The Sunday Times 2012 Rich List. His London barbecue-grill restaurant, Barbecoa, party catering arm Fabulous Feasts, and Recipease shops and cookery schools - together with his charitable foundation Fifteen and its four restaurants in the UK, Holland and Australia - complete his impressive portfolio.

It is, of course, Oliver's more philanthropic activities that have endeared the UK public to a once-derided "cheeky chappy" chef. After gaining much acclaim, in 2005, for changing government policy on school meals, 2011 saw Oliver take his healthy-eating campaign stateside USA, although this hasn't been without controversy; as a lawsuit for $1.2b brought by Beef Products against ABC (which broadcasts his Oliver's Food Revolution) illustrates. The food producer took exception to Oliver referring to one of its products as "pink slime" in an episode of the series and contests that some of the facts he reported as part of its production processes were false. Oliver, himself, is not being sued.

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 a 1997 TV documentary on the west London restaurant.

So began a successful career in the public spotlight as a TV chef, author and columnist, not to mention that Sainsbury's deal, a range of Tefal saucepans and a new range of wood-fired ovens for the consumer market. After five years as a celebrity chef, Oliver chose to give back to the industry when he launched his first restaurant. In November 2002 he opened Fifteen, in Hoxton, north London, alongside the charitable foundation of the same name, which tasked itself with helping disadvantaged youths to train as chefs. The launch was accompanied by a TV programme called Jamie's Kitchen, which followed the first intake in their bids to become chefs. Further venues opened in Amsterdam, in 2004; and 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 onto 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, which ran 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, and more recently to Los Angeles, California.

Oliver hasn't only helped disadvantaged children into hospitality. As a dyslexic, he failed to shine at school before going to catering college and his 2011 series Jamie's Dream School saw him branch out from cooking and use public figures, such as actor Simon Callow and politician Alistair Campbell, to inspire 20 teenagers who had struggled in - and become disillusioned with - the mainstream education system.

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 2008.

Jamie Oliver - What we think

Oliver's success over the last 15 years has rested on juggling the cooking programmes in which he made his name with constant campaigning for healthier eating habits, all the while showing canniness as a businessman by launching - amongst other interests - two chains of popular restaurants and an ever-increasing range of culinary products.

Ten years ago, three TV series of The Naked Chef, together with matey Sainsbury's advertisements, saw Oliver become the butt of many jokes and drew accusations of overexposure. But his 2002 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 and the following year Oliver expanded his charitable work when he 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 school caterer Compass Group at the time would probably beg to differ.
Oliver has not let the fire burn out on the issue, revealing in 2012 plans to spend millions of pounds of his own money in a bid to improve food education and meals in primary schools. His intention was to 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". He raised the issue again last summer, when he slammed food and sport education in the UK and called for a health-related Olympics legacy - and in November renewed his call for a universal set of nutritional standards for all schools, including state maintained, academies and free schools, after new research showed that 92% of parents supported the measure.

He is not just a campaigner, though. Jamie's Italian is based on affordable menus and fresh ingredients - a simple but effective mantra for a hospitality business. It was named Brand of the Year at the 2010 BHA Awards. His latest venture Union Jacks has received mixed reviews to date, although there would be few who would bet against him refining the concept to become another success.

It's hard to keep up with Oliver. His prolificacy as an author continues: in December 2011 his cookbook Jamie's 30-Minute Meals became the fastest selling non-fiction book of all time. Meanwhile, in September 2012 he teamed up with Blur bassist-turned-cheesemaker, Alex James, to launch The Big Festival, a celebration of food and music backed by Electrolux.

Jamie Oliver's ranking in the 2011 Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 >>

Jamie Oliver set to open Jamie's Italian in Russia >>

Apprenticeships: The new kids on the block >>

Jamie Oliver renews call for universal school meal Nutritional Standards >>
Jamie Oliver involved in US pink slime lawsuit >>

Jamie Oliver website >>

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