In November 2002, Jamie Oliver opened Fifteen, a restaurant in London's Hoxton district. He had spent the best part of 2002 working to create a unique kind of restaurant with a unique staff - the majority of the chefs had been picked from over 1,000 hopefuls who turned up to "auditions" back in February and who, by and large, couldn't really cook! In six months, Jamie and his friends and contacts had not only renovated an old gallery building and made it into a superb eating and chilling space. Working in partnership with The Learning and Skills Council and Hammersmith & West London College, Jamie had also transformed these 15 hopefuls into pretty decent chefs. The reviews were exceptional - The Times said "Jamie Oliver should be given the Victoria Cross"; The Independent raved "It was fantastic. We sat trying to remember when we'd ever had three such triumphant courses'; the London Evening Standard exclaimed that Jamie "should be knighted for effort, energy, financial risk-taking and genuine empathy"; and the Sunday Times declared, "I'm mightily impressed by the restaurant".
Since those first trainees graduated - eight from the original fifteen made it to the end - there has been another set of young people through the Fifteen crash course and these are due to graduate in summer 2004. A third group is already in college and preparing to enter the kitchens at Fifteen later this year. A new generation of young British chefs is being created through the Fifteen experience and Jamie hopes to extend the idea across Britain and the world over the next few years - a Fifteen in Amsterdam is due to open towards the end of 2004.
The original Fifteen saga was caught on film by a documentary TV crew filming 'Jamie's Kitchen' for Channel 4 in the U.K. - and the series became one of the biggest hit shows of 2002 with average weekly audiences well over 5 million making it one of the Channel's top two shows of the year. The series has now been a success across the world.
Jamie Oliver is a cookery phenomenon. He has become, over the last seven years, one of the world's best-loved television personalities with three hugely successful series of 'The Naked Chef' for the BBC and then 'Jamie's Kitchen' and 'Return To Jamie's Kitchen' for Channel 4. He is also one of our most famous exports - 'The Naked Chef' series can be seen in over 50 countries including the USA, Australia, South Africa, Italy, France, Japan and Iceland! His books, which accompany each series, are best sellers not only in the UK but across the world - they have been translated into 16 languages. Jamie's Kitchen, the most recent book, is a huge hit in South Africa for example. His production company, 'Fresh One' also makes 'Oliver's Twist' which is a huge international hit series.
Born in May 1975, Jamie took an early interest in all things culinary. He grew up in Essex where his parents run their own highly respected pub/restuarant, The Cricketers in the small village of Clavering. At the age of eight, Jamie would help the chefs in the pub kitchen by peeling potatoes and podding peas. By 11 his talents were obvious and he could julienne vegetables with the best of them.
With his fascination with food and cooking clearly not merely a teenage fad, 16-year old Jamie left school and completed his training at Westminster Catering College. He spent time in France where he began his career as a chef before moving on to work for a while at Antonio Carluccio's restaurant as head pastry chef. From here, Jamie graduated to the acclaimed River Café where he worked for three and a half years alongside Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray.
In 1997, Jamie was featured in a television documentary on the River Café. He made quite an impact - the day after the documentary was televised, Jamie was contacted by five top production companies all wanting to discuss ideas for a new show. Jamie decided to accept an offer from the highly-regarded Optomen Television, who had been responsible for the 'Two Fat Ladies' series. A deal was done and 'The Naked Chef' was born.
The concept behind 'The Naked Chef' was to strip food down to its bare essentials - in effect to prove that you didn't need thousands of specialist ingredients or gadgets to make really tasty, simple food. Jamie's hands-on style and general chumminess was like a breath of fresh air. The most unlikely people would approach him in the street and thank him for turning them onto cooking - Jamie tells one story about a giant of a man who ran over to him one day and said: "Thanks to you, the wife said I should spend more time in the kitchen. If I'd seen you six months ago, I'd have knocked your block off - but now, I really enjoy cooking. And I'm getting quite good!" Jamie had become a phenomenon.
'The Naked Chef', published by Penguin Books to accompany the first television series, became a best seller. Recipes such as My Perfect Roast Chicken and Roasted Trout with Thyme became staples across the world. A second series was commissioned, along with a second book - 'The Return of the Naked Chef' added the Botham Burger and Pukkolla (a devilishly exciting variation on muesli!) to the international consciousness.
By now, Jamie's career was taking a variety of turns. He was invited by Tony Blair to cook lunch at Number 10 for the Italian Prime Minister and twenty other guests. He had begun a column for GQ Magazine in the UK, inspiring a generation of smart young men to turn away from pre-packed ready-meals in favour of date-impressing Prawn and Pea Risotto with Basil and Mint. A weekly feature in The Times Magazine brought Jamie's recipes to another eager audience.
Now 28 years old, Jamie has already won a BAFTA for his 'Naked Chef' series as well as a GQ Man of the Year Award, GQ Best Chef Award in the USA, the Home & Leisure Award and the WH Smith Book Awards, a TV Quick Award for Best TV Cook and the Most Stylish Male TV Personality award at the Elle Style Awards.
In 2000, Jamie married his childhood sweetheart, Jools (nee Norton) - although untraditionally, Jamie was awake at 5am on his wedding day, cooking with his dad and a bunch of mates from Monte's, the Knightsbridge restaurant where he was consultant chef for two and a half years until summer 2002.
The third in the 'Naked Chef' series trilogy began on BBC TV in October 2001 - the accompanying book 'Happy Days with The Naked Chef' became an immediate best-seller and was the official Christmas No.1 best-seller in non-fiction. Jamie spent late 2001 taking his cookery show on the road - the Happy Days Tour was a huge success with over 17,000 people packing into theatres in Cambridge, Bournemouth and London to experience Jamie live in the kitchen. Jamie then took the tour to Australia and New Zealand where he played to sold out crowds in seven cities.
Jamie currently works with top UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's, advising to further improve quality and variety of supermarket food, and he has also helped design a range of quality tableware and serveware for Royal Worcester. Jamie has also launched a range of cookware with world renowned company Tefal.
On March 18th 2002, Jamie became a father - Poppy Honey Oliver was born at 3.18pm and weighed in at 7lb 14oz. Just over a year later, Daisy Boo Oliver was born on April 10th 2003 at 6.18pm, weighing in at 8lb 4oz.
Jamie's fourth book, 'Jamie's Kitchen' was published by Penguin in September 2002 and immediately entered the best-seller lists. The restaurant, Fifteen is located at Westland Place, London, N1. In January 2003, Jamie took his trainees to 10 Downing Street to cook lunch for Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Irish PM Bertie Ahern while in February, Fifteen won the Tatler Best Restaurant Award. In March, Jamie won the Academy Award of Excellence at the Tio Pepe Carlton London Restaurant Awards; and in May he won Time Out's Special Award for Outstanding Achievement at the magazine's Food Awards, plus Food and Drink Personality of the Year at the GQ/Glenfiddich Food and Drink Awards. 'Jamie's Kitchen' was voted best TV cookery show at the same awards.
Jamie was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in the Queen's Birthday Honours on June 14th 2003.
The third batch of trainee chefs for Fifteen restaurant spent most of 2004 studying with the Hospitality and Catering Department at Hammersmith and West London College, just as the original fifteen did. They are now working in the kitchens at Fifteen and a new intake of students is expected early in 2005.
The Fifteen training programme is funded by the Fifteen Foundation charity - all of the profits from Fifteen restaurant go towards helping present, past and future trainees. The Fifteen Foundation also organises special charity events every year to raise more funds for the training programme.
In Jamie's School Dinners, he worked with catering staff and pupils at a London school to try to improve their diet while at the same time working within the school's stringent budget. A book - loosely linked to the series in that it features good, tasty, simple recipes for families or anyone on a budget - entitled 'Jamie's Dinners' went straight to the top of the best-seller list.
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