The lively British lad known slightly misleadingly as the Naked Chef grew up near the kitchen. Jamie Oliver’s father ran a pub-restaurant, and by age 7, little Jamie was set to work peeling potatoes and shelling peas. He continued working at the restaurant until age 16; after a stint at the Westminster Catering College and some time in France, Oliver started work as the head pastry chef for Antonio Carluccio at London’s Neal Street Restaurant. His next job, as a sous-chef at the River Café, marked his first appearance on camera. During the making of a documentary about the restaurant, filmmakers became fascinated by Oliver — who later described himself as the “cheeky kid who was so into the cooking that he’d answer back to the crew.” After the documentary, Oliver had calls from all over asking him to consider cooking for a show.
His first series, The Naked Chef, began on the BBC in April 1999. The title referred to the simplicity of his recipes while hinting at the fact that many female viewers found the impish, working-class bloke with a chef’s knife a bit dishy. Oliver has since starred in many other shows, written a number of books and produced a magazine. In 2005 he launched the School Dinners campaign, intended to promote the use of healthy, unprocessed foods in U.K. school lunchrooms. In addition to being a great chef with a charitable outlook, he is married to a former model and seems to be recession-proof. Oliver’s company, Jamie Oliver Holdings Limited, increased its pretax profits 82% this year — outstanding when compared with the 87% drop suffered by competitor and compatriot Gordon Ramsay.
Next James Beard