Jamie Oliver has given another interview about the collapse of his Jamie’s Italian restaurant empire, in which the celebrity chef says that had he opened “posh restaurants,” they would all be open today.
Oliver’s restaurant group’s decline left him owing himself millions of pounds, rueing the closure of social enterprise restaurant Fifteen, in London, and reflecting on the casual dining industry that he built his house on. Now, speaking to the Daily Mail’s magazine, You, the chef says:
If I’d have spent 13 years opening posh restaurants, I could assure you they’d all be open today. You know, Britain has always been very good at nourishing the rich. My obsession – just because I knew it was my audience – was mid-market dining. It was so badly represented.
Oliver is certainly not wrong about the inequalities at the heart of eating in the U.K.; inequalities that Fifteen and Jamie’s School Dinners sought to tackle, and that Oliver again connected to class in 2015: “In Britain, eating well and feeding your kid right and being aware about food is all considered very posh and middle class.” Jamie’s Italian is also far, far from the only mid-market chain to struggle — hello Byron Burger, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Carluccio’s, Prezzo, Strada, and Pizza Express — but it is not in the same wheelhouse as genuinely facilitating change in the country’s eating habits, for which Oliver recently hailed Tony Blair and George Osborne.
It’s also important to remember that Jamie Oliver’s restaurants are one subsidiary of a monolithic operation: his overall business — comprised of his publishing arm, TV shows, and licensing arrangements — is in rude health, and Jamie Oliver is personally worth a reported £150 million, despite leaving himself millions out of pocket after Jamie’s Italian, Fifteen, and Barbecoa went bust.