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Top 100: Jamie Oliver, Jamie's Italian and Fifteen

19 April 2018 by
Top 100: Jamie Oliver, Jamie's Italian and Fifteen

Overall ranking: 11 (2 in 2012)

Chef ranking: 4 (1 in 2012)


TV chef Jamie Oliver, 42, trained at Westminster Catering College and, after a stint in France, landed the head pastry chef role at Antonio Carluccio's Neal Street restaurant for a year. But it was during his time as senior sous chef at the River Café that he was "discovered", having appeared in a 1997 TV documentary about the west London restaurant. In 1999, the BBC launched him in his own TV programme, The Naked Chef, and his fame took off. While his media role, involving around 30 cookery shows and the publication of 24 books has gone from strength to strength over the past 19 years, his empire of casual-dining restaurants has become a casualty of the current decline in the sector. Recent closures across the Jamie's Italian chain took the number of sites in the UK down to 25, alongside two Fifteen restaurants in London and Cornwall. Meanwhile the group has 52 sites internationally across four brands: Jamie's Italian, Jamie's Deli, Jamie's Diner and Jamie's Pizzeria. Among his many business ventures, he was the face of supermarket Sainsbury's in a £2m a year deal for 11 years and until 2011. Oliver's net worth, according to The Sunday Times Rich List 2017, is estimated at £150m.

What we think

Jamie Oliver, once derided as a "cheeky chappie", has proved himself a passionate supporter of the industry. In 2002, after five years as a celebrity chef, he opened his first restaurant, Fifteen in Hoxton, London, alongside the charitable foundation of the same name, to help disadvantaged youths to train as chefs. A TV programme called Jamie's Kitchen followed the first intake of hopefuls and further sites opened in Amsterdam in 2004, and Newquay, Cornwall, and Melbourne, Australia, in 2006.

Notably, in 2005, he initiated a campaign called "Feed Me Better" to help schoolchildren get access to healthy foods, supported by a TV show called Jamie's School Dinners

A string of accolades recognise his business acumen and charitable activities. They include an MBE 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. In 2004, Oliver was appointed an honorary vice-chairman for Hospitality Action's Ark Foundation, which addresses alcohol and drug problems. In 2010, Jamie's Italian was named Brand of the Year at the BHA Awards and in 2013, he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the Royal College of General Practitioners for his work in improving the nutritional value of school dinners.

Oliver has many business strands, though not everything has worked. Recipease, a chain that combined a cookery shop, cookery school and café, closed in December 2015. And in March 2017, he sold the last of the four Union Jacks pizza restaurants, which he launched with US chef Chris Bianco in 2011.

As the result of a restructure of Oliver's business interests, the restaurant division has been brought under the same management as the media division, Jamie Oliver Holdings. In its most recent set of reported figures, turnover for the year to 31 December 2016 dropped from £31.9m to £30m, but pre-tax profit jumped from £1.1m to £5.3m.

More recently, the wheels have fallen off with respect to Jamie's Italian as rising costs and tougher trading conditions hit the casual-dining market. In February, the group, which had debts of £71.5m, accepted a Company Voluntary Arrangement and announced the closure of 12 sites in the UK, leaving 25. At the same time, Oliver's Barbecoa brand, made up of two restaurants, collapsed owing £6.7m to creditors and making 75 out of 166 staff redundant. One site in Piccadilly has been closed, while the other in St Paul's continues to trade.

Jonathan Knight, chief executive of the Jamie Oliver Group, admitted that the company has "rested on its laurels" as competition had grown around it and that there was a disconnect between the business and Oliver's work on TV and in books.

There is however no sign that Oliver is scaling back his ambition and this month (April) he announced an exclusive 10-year deal with Aramark that will see his restaurant concepts taken into workplaces. It was a move that the celebrity chef said would help achieve his aim of reaching more people with nutritious, well-sourced food.

Despite the challenge in recent months, Oliver remains at number 11 on the Top 100 list due to his political impact and his continual high-profile media persona.

Further information

Jamie Oliver Group hires 'business transformation partner' >>

Barbecoa collapsed owing almost £7m to creditors >>

Jamie's boss: 'We didn't know who the competitors were or who we were' >>

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