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Jamie Oliver Is Certain That His Restaurant Empire Was ‘Extraordinary’

10 key takeaways from the celebrity chef’s first interview, with The Times, since his restaurant empire collapsed

Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver Visits The Empire State Building
Jamie Oliver has spoken about his restaurant empire’s collapse for the first time
Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images

In his first interview since the collapse of his restaurant business, TV chef and best-selling cookbook author Jamie Oliver has told the Times that “the past few months have been the most disappointing of my life.” The chef, whose brand is founded on his being down-to-earth, a relatable cheeky Cockney, comes across variously candid, defensive, and, at times, utterly bizarre. As well as remembering that his overall business — comprised of his publishing arm, TV shows, and licensing arrangements — is in rude health, Jamie Oliver is personally worth a reported £150 million.

Here are the 10 key takeaways:

Despite the eventual failure, he’s proud of what Jamie’s Italian achieved: “I feel very lucky to have been pivotal in giving birth to one of the most extraordinary things in my industry. For years, no one could touch us. We were light years ahead of the competition.”

He summarises the group’s achievements thus: “In 13 years, we must have turned over around £1 billion. We must have employed around 20,000 people. We had seven years of the best of it.”

Before admitting: “Then we began to notice a decline.”

Though short on detail, he might resurrect his celebrated social enterprise and chef training programme, Fifteen, which he says was “very, very upsetting”: He “vows that it will be back in some shape or form.”

On the press: “I try not to read the papers.”

To his critics: “No one is ever going to thank me for starting up a business and employing a shedload of people. How many schools have been kept going because of the tax that JO businesses have put into the system?”

On politicians:
Tony Blair (the most impressive politician he’s encountered): “Blair was the first person to do anything worth talking about – which was a £268 million tranche of money to improve school food.”
And George Osborne (introducing a sugar tax): “Osborne will never realise how profound that moment was — the institution of government went, ‘Just a minute ...’ and actually stopped big business.”

On Brexit (which he was against): “It is divisive and has split families and workplaces. My own family has been split over it. But I believe in democracy and I believe in moving on and we should get on with it.”

On potential trade deals with America and animal welfare: “I think that hormone use and genetically modified crops are really not OK. Europe doesn’t have any of this...If we’re just going to have all of our culture and standards destroyed in a race to the bottom, then I’ll do my best to stop that.”

On his private life and being faithful: “I once got involved in a fight dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but that’s about it. I can assure you that Cockito has always stayed well within the boundaries of my trousers. I think I’ve been a good boy. I do like a drink, but I’m not a pisshead...That doesn’t end up with someone else’s wife or putting a load of charlie up my nose.”