Food: Not-for-Profit Restaurants Do Not Have to Be like Jamie Oliver's Fifteen

Article excerpt

Jamie Oliver has been having a tough time of it lately. A leading restaurant guide recently awarded his London restaurant Fifteen (which gives unemployed teenagers the chance to train as professional chefs) the worst rating of all 32 establishments in its most expensive ([pounds sterling]65-a-head) category. Customers complained of "average" food, "unbelievably rude" service and prices that "seriously take the piss". The charitable aspect of the venture has also come under scrutiny. Oliver's trainees have dropped out at a surprisingly high rate, and the scheme has had only a few unqualified success stories.

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All this must have come as a bit of a shock to Oliver, who not so long ago seemed destined to succeed at everything he did. After he had charmed (and made) millions with his cheeky-chappie television persona, his new venture seemed poised to prove what a thoroughly nice chap he was. Fifteen undoubtedly sprang from laudable intentions--when it opened, Oliver spoke of his desire for others to have the same opportunities as he'd had.

But this may have been part of the problem. Oliver's route to wealth and fame was through television; as such, his conception of success was always likely to be bound up with that medium. Fifteen was never just a charitable venture; part of its raison d'etre was to provide the ammunition for a reality-TV show. In helping the young people to solve one set of problems, wasn't the project saddling them with another--that of coping with the pressures of being, at least in a small way, famous? …