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Jamie Oliver Makes a 15-Minute Meal of Discussing Gender in the Kitchen

What is it that leads ageing British chefs to spout essentialising nonsense?

Jamie Oliver Cook Book Presentation “Geniale One Pot Gerichte Bei Dussmann” In Berlin
Jamie Oliver on the book promo circuit in Berlin last month.
Tristar Media/Getty Images

Jamie Oliver has joined a noble British culinary tradition, by making ill-advised comments on gender in kitchens while promoting something.

While speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in support of his new book, One, the chef, TV presenter, cookbook author, and erstwhile successful restaurateur began discussing the topic. And, like so many before him, he absolutely bricked it. After explaining that he perceived a division in what men and women aim for when cooking, he said that “if I’m ever good, I have to try and think like a woman,”

As a young boy, getting a craft and this energy about Michelin stars and measurement and how you control nature as opposed to how you react to nature, which I think are more feminine traits like nourishment and more maternal feelings.

Oliver also reflected on his evolving relationship with the British public, which has developed through his various roles as television upstart on the Naked Chef, school meal ambassador, and turkey twizzler slayer. He said that his television success had led to him being “roughed up a few times”, suggesting that men were angry that his recipes had inspired their partners to expect better cooking.

He also reminisced on what he memorably dubbed “scaffolding abuse.” While not comparable to the sexist catcalling he is unnecessarily making light of here, the image of Oliver walking along a street under hollering fire from labourers over the quality of his recipes is a ... Picture.

Though his comments are less extreme than theirs, Oliver is undoubtedly following in the footsteps of Marco Pierre White and Heston Blumenthal, two more famous British culinary personalities who interrupted their own PR-controlled media appearance to spout off some nonsense rooted in gender essentialism. In 2019, White declared women too emotional for professional kitchens, while Blumenthal opined that their “biological clock” and alleged inability to move heavy pans were barriers to success. In all three cases, the simple solution is the best one: not talking about a subject beyond one’s grasp.