Growing up in Essex, where his parents run their own highly respected pub/restaurant in Clavering, Jamie Oliver was frequently found helping in the kitchen. At 16, Jamie left school to complete his training at Westminster Catering College. After spending time working in France and at Antonio Carluccio’s Neal Street Restaurant in London, Jamie joined the acclaimed River Café, where he worked for three-and-a-half years alongside Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.
In 1997, Jamie was featured in a television documentary about the River Café. Jamie was then offered his own television show, and The Naked Chef was born. The concept was to strip food down to its bare essentials, and Jamie’s hands-on style and general laid-back outlook was like a breath of fresh air, inspiring everyone to cook. The first US show aired in 1999. The Naked Chef book accompanied the television series and became an instant best-seller. A second and third television series was filmed, along with the second and third tie-in books, The Return of the Naked Chef and Happy Days with the Naked Chef, both published by Hyperion in the United States.
Jamie spent the autumn of 2001 taking his show on the road; the Happy Days Tour was a huge success with more than 17,000 people packing theatres in the U.K. The tour then traveled to Australia and New Zealand with sold-out crowds in seven cities. In 2001, by personal invitation from Tony Blair, Jamie also cooked for the Prime Minister of Italy at Downing Street.
Jamie wanted to "give something back" to the catering industry, so he opened a training restaurant in 2001 for young people who were not in full-time education or employment. Cameras documented him as he spent the year setting up a training scheme, the restaurant and the charity into which all the profits would be channeled. The series, Jamie’s Kitchen, became one of the biggest hit shows of the year in the UK. It has now been shown in more than 35 countries and the tie-in book, also called Jamie’s Kitchen, became a runaway success. The triumph of the restaurant was shown when it won Tatler Best Restaurant Award 2003 and the Academy Award of Excellence at the Tio Pepe Carlton London Restaurant Awards in the same year. Jamie was awarded an MBE in 2003 for his contribution to the hospitality industry. The Fifteen Foundation charity now owns Fifteen London and continues its work, recently recruiting the sixth year of students for training in London. The first Fifteen franchise opened in Amsterdam in 2004 and subsequent Fifteens have opened in Cornwall, UK, and Melbourne, Australia, in 2006.
Motivated by the lack of nutrition in UK school lunches, Jamie wanted to educate and motivate the kids and school administrators to enjoy cooking and eat nutritious lunches. He launched a national campaign called Feed Me Better (www.feedmebetter.com) with an online petition for better school meals that garnered 271,677 signatures. In March 2005, Jamie took the petition to 10 Downing St. where the government pledged an extra $550 million to improve the standard of school meals and to provide training for lunch workers and equipment for schools. Seven months of hard work and filming culminated in the award-winning series Jamie’s School Dinners, which prompted a public outcry for change to the school meals system. A follow-up documentary, Jamie’s Return To School Dinners, aired in the UK in September 2006, and the British government made further investment in school meals and food education for school children as a result of Jamie’s new findings.
Jamie’s Great Italian Escape, a series based on his travels around Italy and his love of Italian food, followed his school movement and was accompanied by his sixth book, Jamie’s Italy.
In addition to Jamie’s television programs and books, Jamie works with top UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, advising the store on how to further improve the quality and variety of supermarket food. He has also designed several lines of quality tableware and serveware with Royal Worcester, including the most recent range, Simply Blue. Working with T-Fal, Jamie has launched three lines of cookware called the Jamie Oliver Professional Series, most recently, The Italian Series. Jamie has also launched an Italian food range and has a wide range of gift foods, which are distributed internationally. Jamie has also developed a great kitchen gadget called the Flavour Shaker, which launched in the UK in 2005 and is also being launched internationally.
Jamie’s seventh book, Cook With Jamie, was published in October 2007 by Hyperion Books. All of Jamie’s profits from this book are going to the Fifteen Foundation to help more young people start careers in the catering industry.
Through 2006 and early 2007, Jamie filmed a series and wrote a book, both called Jamie At Home. He had been successfully growing fruits, vegetables and herbs at his Essex farmhouse since 2004. The book and series reflect his new love of gardening organically and feature delicious recipes inspired by the produce of his garden. In 2008, Jamie At Home aired in the United States. The book was published in the fall of 2008.