Jamie Oliver says he's 'devastated' by the closure of dozens of his Italian restaurants, writes Janet Street-Porter
Jamie Oliver says he's 'devastated' by the closure of dozens of his Italian restaurants.
Over 1,000 workers have lost their jobs without any warning - I don't imagine that they had much of a 'pukka' day either.
This latest example of rampart egomania bringing down a celebrity chef has seen Jamie Oliver - the most famous cook in the world - face the unpalatable truth; diners don't love the cheeky chap from Essex as much as he imagined.
Our hot love affair hasn't just cooled, it's the leftover lasagne at the back of the freezer.
Jamie Oliver burst into our lives in 1999, riding a scooter, exuding madcap enthusiasm for a plate of simple Italian food cooked with high quality ingredients.
This cheeky Essex lad (whose parents ran a pub) was never just a chef, though - he was determined to be the messiah of healthy eating, a bloke with just two GCSEs and severe dyslexia who wasn't interested in running for a political job but who passionately wanted Prime Ministers and Education bosses to sit up and listen when he pronounced on the state of the nation's health.
Jamie was called 'anti-poor' and accused of 'fat-shaming' for complaining about obesity and its link to junk foods.
He campaigned to improve school dinners, wanted supermarkets to stop placing chocolates and sweets by the checkouts and berated us to care about everything we ate.
Meat had to be reared and slaughtered humanely and fish must be sustainable. In short, Jamie was an evangelist for decent food - at a time when most those in power couldn't see that obese people cost health services millions, and are destined to die before they should.
Over 1,000 workers (group pictured outside Jamie's Italian in Piccadilly, London today) have lost their jobs without any warning - I don't imagine that they had much of a 'pukka' day either, writes Janet Street-Porter
Although Jamie meant well, you could be forgiven for thinking it's fine for someone living in a £9million house near Hampstead Heath with 100 staff at his headquarters, a devoted wife and five lovely healthy children, to have such high standards.
In the real world outside mansions full of children with names like River, some critics found Jamie's well-meaning pronouncements patronising and unrealistic.
If working people have five kids, they will probably be earning the minimum wage, working shifts or receiving benefits.
They will be pushed for time and many will be living in substandard accommodation without non-stick griddle pans, Jamie Oliver storage jars and a spice rack.
In many of these homes children and parents have to eat at different times, not all sitting around a table gazing in wonder a bowl of perfectly cooked meat balls and home made pasta.
Jamie Oliver's restaurant group was the main reason why his companies lost nearly £20million in 2018 - and yet he continued to trade, closing 12 restaurants and making 600 staff redundant.
Staff outside Jamie's Italian in Piccadilly, London - they turned up for work this morning only to find the restaurant closed
Since 2017, Jamie has put around £12.7million of his own money into the group, refusing to accept the inevitable.
Rampant egomania? In one year alone, his business debts totalled £71.5 million- and the restaurants were threatening to drag down his lucrative publishing division, his profits from merchandising and TV programmes.
Sadly, the one thing that made Jamie such a star - a tasty simple Italian dinner- has become his downfall.
Now, he owns just three restaurants in the UK - and all the ones overseas are franchises.
People have fallen out of love with food they could buy ready-made at half the price in their local supermarkets.
Jamei's wife Jools Oliver is seen here for the first time today since the news her husband's restaurant empire had crumbled
Food they could knock up at home in under thirty minutes (ironically, thanks to Jamie's best selling 30 minute meals cook book), food they could eat without having to put on decent clothes, get in the car, find a parking space or book a taxi to enjoy.
Restaurant chains are closing in every high street as diners opt for basic home cooking or street food you can eat on the run, without having to book a table and make it a special occasion.
Carluccio, Byron, Prezzo, Carluccio and Patisserie Valerie have all been hit as diners get more choosy and are willing to spend less.
Another Celebrity Chef, Gordon Ramsay, has posted a £3.8million loss in May 2018 and before that his group only made a profit one year since 2012.
Ramsay shut his flagship restaurant Maze, in Mayfair, and re-opened it as a themed 'asian' eaterie called Lucky Cat last month.
People spending a lot of money for fine dining want an 'experience' they can talk about afterwards - the food is secondary.
Despite his financial woes, Jamie recently splashed out £6 million on a 16th century Essex mansion, in a 70-acre estate
Every night, popular television shows fronted by Jamie, Gordon and Co combine travelogues and cooking.
While the middle classes buy designer ingredients (all those Moroccan spices that are just gathering dust at the back of the shelf), stuff like tahini, nduja and pomegranate molasses that sits and rots in the jars because you can't remember what to do with them.
Research has revealed that although we buy plenty of cookery books (Jamie has sold over 40 million making him the best-selling chef in the world) - most people usually cook just five simple dishes.
At the end of a long a hard day, we want something spicy and quick - so we buy jars of ready made sauce (made by Jamie and his pals) or we phone Deliveroo or Uber Eats.
The cuisine of half the world can be delivered to our doors within half an hour.
The notion of going out for a simple bowl of pasta in a room with annoying music, over-familiar staff and a big service charge on top of 20 per cent VAT has never been less appealing.
Jamie has admitted he's 'f***ed up' around 40 per cent of his business ventures, but along the way he managed to make an estimated £150 million.
Earlier this year, he splashed out £6 million for a historic mansion in Essex with 70 acres of land.
So don't worry about Jamie's bank balance. It's his giant ego that's taken the biggest knock today.