Jamie Oliver, on screen and in our cookbooks, is bursting with life and energy, brimming with honesty and humility, all tinged with a cheeky sense of humour.
When our editor-in-chief, Lisa Messenger, sat down with Jamie during his recent visit to Australia, all these unique traits were intact: he didn’t shy away from telling the truth about his business successes and failures, or his motives moving forward. The chef-turned-food activist is trying to change the world, one plate at a time, and he’s already making waves: his 2010 TED Talk on America’s junk-food crisis has been viewed more than 7 million times. In the past six years, he’s also opened four Ministry of Food Centres in the UK, plus a centre in every mainland state of Australia, offering healthy cooking lessons to people of all ages. In Australia, he’s also set up Ministry of Food trucks that run mobile-cooking lessons in Indigenous communities. Success? He knows a bit about it.
Here’s what we learnt from the Essex chap during his raw and honest chat with Lisa Messenger.
The future is unpredictable
This bloke is living, thriving proof that you’re never set on one road, no matter where your journey begins. Jamie hated school as a youngster and struggled with dyslexia. In fact, the now 42-year-old global food pioneer only read his first book at the age of 38. Did that stop him from building an empire? Not in the slightest.
Your MO can evolve
He started as a chef, morphed into a TV star, and has since revolutionised everything from school tuckshops to supermarket offerings. “I never intended to be a campaigner,” he confided. “I never grew up being political, and I certainly had a terrible experience in education. But now I’m more passionate about the politics of food and education than ever. For me, I think, just to be able to affect the mood or conversation about our industry is powerful.”
Success is not just about outcomes
One of Jamie’s famed traits is honesty – and it came in droves during his interview with Collective Hub. As anyone in business will attest to, failure comes with the territory, but Jamie has a different way of framing it.
“Often people try to judge you on one campaign – did he win or did he fail?” he tells us. “But I think it’s about the ripples. Why is it now that McDonald’s UK are 100 per cent organic milk and free-range eggs? It’s because people expect more. It’s because the noise we live in has a history of documentaries and exposés, and people ranting. It’s amazing when you can have a broad conversation with a population and make them want or expect more.”
Pick your battles
“I think if you want to make system change, you have to work with the system,” he explains. “It’s a different kind of weapon. I’d rather work with people than fight them – although I’d do either. Some of the most powerful things I’ve done has been working with the enemy. [Woolworths] is the most powerful influencer in agriculture and public health, and getting kids to eat healthily.”
Be true to yourself
What’s this father-of-five’s recipe for success?
“Start small and be humble,” he says. “Get up again, try to employ the best people, listen to your heart. It’s not just about talent or what you deliver, it’s about timing and tone. I can look at businesses I closed down that were maybe five years or three years too early; sometimes you can be too far ahead of the game. Everyone says, ‘Oh, Jamie Oliver, it must be really easy for you,’” he says. “But everything has its challenges – even for me.”
The June issue of Collective Hub features Jamie Oliver on the cover. Available from June 5.
Can’t wait? Buy it online now!