Hard work and a desire to succeed propelled a hyperactive, dyslexic kid who failed just about every subject but art to the top of culinary stardom.
From a small village north of London, Oliver found his destiny in the kitchen of his father’s pub. From there, he became a celebrity chef at the age of 23 and went on to star in his own BBC cooking show, “The Naked Chef.” In the process, Jamie Oliver also found that he could help save lives through food.
“Work hard and you’ll be OK,” Oliver enthused. “I’ve always worked hard because I wanted to learn and be the best I could be. I’m still learning now; although when you have kids, you can’t work until 1 a.m., as I used to do.”
Today, Oliver is an unstoppable force in a pitched battle against the global obesity epidemic. As part of the larger struggle to save lives through healthier food, Oliver has directed a portion of his considerable energy towards convincing tight-fisted governments that children need healthy meals at school.
“When we got a massive investment in British school dinners, that felt great, especially when I’d been told time and again that there was no spare cash,” Oliver said. “When it came down to it, the £280 million we got in the first instance didn’t go very far when split amongst so many schools, but it still started the ball rolling. It led to the School Food Plan and that’s an ongoing process.”
Iterative and incremental
After Oliver won the TED prize in 2010, his high-intensity speech electrified Silicon Valley to care more about the public health crisis. It culminated with him dumping a wheelbarrow full of sugar on stage to demonstrate what’s in the school lunches of America’s children.
His solution, which involves iterative and incremental improvement and has delivered so many astounding advances from tech startups, is at the heart of his plans for a bet- ter world. “If one person teaches three people how to cook something,” he suggested, “and they teach three of their mates, that only has to repeat itself 25 times, and that’s the whole population of America.” That’s deep insight into what motivates Oliver to pit himself against seemingly impossible odds.
Oliver is well aware that he’s fighting an uphill battle against outdated government policies, the marketing budgets of processed food producers, the appeal of fast food and a time-crunched culture. That’s where his hyperactive nature has been absolutely crucial to his success on countless occasions.
The obesity epidemic
His next goal is to mobilize the intractable public sector on an unprecedented scale. “In 2016, we should be talking about the global obesity epidemic and the dramatic rise in preventable, diet-related disease. We need a global agreement to get governments to tackle the problem in their countries.”
He recognized that the problem extends far beyond the influence of global governments and private industry. In fact, while he might mince pies, he’ll never mince words when it comes to the responsibility for making the right food choices. “These parents,” Oliver told The New York Times, “when they’ve been to the doctor and keep feeding their kids inappropriate food, that is child abuse. Same as a cigarette burn or a bruise.”
Proper education on healthy foods and cooking strategies can make a vast difference, Oliver insists. Most people simply don’t know what a healthy diet looks like. They don’t have easy access to good food and they don’t know how to prepare it quickly. Processed food is still far cheaper and more readily available than fresh food virtually everywhere around the globe. It will take the efforts of a great many people crusading beside Oliver to change the world.
Cleverly, Oliver has already made provisions to train his next generation of food warriors. Jamie Oliver’s London restaurant, Fifteen, is his pathway for training like-minded apprentice chefs. It provides mentoring on cooking skills and restaurant jobs to the unemployed and underprivileged.
It was primarily this initiative among his many other campaigns that brought Oliver his MBE at the age 28.
A massive tech geek
Oliver finds that he easily connects with the next generation, especially over a love of gad- gets. “I’m a massive geek when it comes to new tech,” he gushed. “Everyone now knows this, so they send me info about the craziest things. At the moment I’m reading a lot about technology that could help people to feed themselves better.” It’s also led him to launch Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube, Europe’s largest online food community with 600,000 subscribers and 1.8 million monthly views.
A related offshoot of his love for future tech is Fat Lemon, an ad agency and commercial production house that produced the now-famous mobile ad of Kevin Bacon cooking a massive bacon sandwich. This channel is another subtle way to keep healthy food in the public eye and at the top of the collective consciousness. Do a little, as often as you can and never give up – that’s Oliver’s personal recipe for saving the world.
Will Oliver’s crazy dreams of a healthier world work out in the end? The proof is in the pudding.