After 20 years on the telly, Jamie Oliver is back with a new show that celebrates the humble vegetable. Tara Ward looks back on the celebrity chef’s achievements.
If anyone has the power to make us see carrots in a new light, it’s Jamie Oliver. Since he burst onto our screens over 20 years ago, the celebrity chef has published over 20 cookbooks and made over 30 television shows, and changed the way we feel about food. He taught us to squeeze a lemon through your hand so you catch the pips, and proved you can never use too much olive oil. Whatever the situation, whatever your issue, just chuck some extra virgin all over it and suddenly life looks a lot brighter.
Jamie’s back for 2020 with a new show called Jamie’s Ultimate Veg, starting this week on TVNZ1. Jamie travels the world in search of delicious vegetarian meals, because he’s about to make vegetables cool again, and I am here for it. I’m here for the fibre, I’m here for the antioxidants, in fact just cover me in courgette ribbons and call me your little vegetable moussaka, because I am here for you, Jamie Oliver.
Jamie Oliver is here for us, too, because his influence stretches far beyond the TV screen. He’s lobbied governments to improve school meals, he set up a foundation to teach people to cook, and he’s on a mission to make the world a happier and healthier place. Jamie Oliver is a cooking powerhouse fuelled by vegetables and humanity, so let’s take a look back on some of his career highlights, both in and out of the kitchen.
He slid down a spiral staircase without carking it
We were mad for The Naked Chef in 1999, even if there wasn’t a skerrick of nudity to be seen. Without fail, the best part of each episode was when Jamie whizzed down that fancy spiral staircase to open his front door, somehow never falling onto the floor like a clove of freshly pulverised garlic. A true 20th century miracle.
He saved the world, one apprentice at a time
In 2002, Jamie launched Fifteen, a charitable foundation that took 15 unemployed young Londoners, trained them as chefs, and gave them jobs in his new non-profit restaurant. The highs and lows were captured in fly-on-the-wall series Jamie’s Kitchen, which followed Jamie as he juggled new parenthood with the demands of building a new restaurant and mentoring a group of apprentice chefs with no cooking experience. A hero, on all counts.
He sells a lovely set of tongs
Whether it’s a solitary teaspoon bought during Countdown’s Jamie Oliver stamp promotion, or a snazzy side plate purchased in a Briscoes Easter Madness frenzy, Jamie Oliver has spread himself over your kitchen like a knob of butter atop a hot piece of Dover sole. There’s Jamie Oliver merchandise for every occasion and some of them sound super classy, like ‘carafe’ or ‘ramekin’ or ‘Al Forno’, for when you want to Al Fornicate, I guess.
He pulled back the chicken nugget curtain and changed a nation
I’ll never eat another nugget without remembering the moment in Jamie’s School Dinners when Jamie Oliver showed a group of kids what really goes into their beloved chicken treat. It was the blender of British nightmares, as Jamie’s 2005 documentary series revealed the daily budget for school meals was only 37p per child, which meant kids were eating absolute shite.
Thanks to Jamie’s successful ‘Feed Me Better’ campaign and the power of Jamie’s School Dinners, Turkey Twizzlers were scratched from the menu and the UK government announced an overhaul of school meals. Academic results went up, sick days went down, and turkeys everywhere were overjoyed.
He kick started a healthy eating revolution
In 2010 my goal was to marry Dr McDreamy, but Jamie Oliver’s was to launch a Food Revolution that would educate kids about schools, inspire families to cook healthy meals, and reduce obesity worldwide. Jamie was awarded the TED Prize and US$100,000 to make it happen, and 750,000 people have since signed up to become Food Revolutionaries. I will never get hitched to Seattle Grace’s finest, but I do have a Jamie Oliver Non Stick Loose Base Tart Tin, so everyone’s a winner.
Even the bloody Queen loves him
MBE, OBE, OMG.
You can watch Jamie’s Ultimate Veg on TVNZ1 at 8:30pm on Thursdays.
This content was created in paid partnership with TVNZ. Learn more about our partnerships here.