Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rebranding Jamie; in a Rare Interview, the Naked Chef Tells Us Why He Is Changing His Image

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rebranding Jamie; in a Rare Interview, the Naked Chef Tells Us Why He Is Changing His Image

Article excerpt


A YEAR ago, Jamie Oliver was getting on the nation's nerves. He was probably the most ubiquitous celebrity out there, constantly on television and radio telling us what and how to cook. If you somehow managed to avoid this media blitz there was always his CD to cook by - yet another way of shoving Jamie's food and his message down our throats.

Of course anyone suffering from Jamie fatigue was well advised to stay away from Sainsbury's, where he became the store's official flagbearer. Fruit, vegetables, herbs, ready-meals, and, of course, the Oliver-must-have ingredient pancetta, all featured the cheeky chap's face on their packaging.

Then columnists and feature writers who had once clamoured for interviews began sticking the knife in. When it emerged his advertising campaign with Sainsbury's could earn him more than [pound]5million, one writer said he would happily pay him the same amount to stay off our screens. And when his wife, Jules, was snapped shopping at rival Waitrose ... well, the headline writers had a field day.

Interviewing Jamie back then was easy. But recently he has been rather more elusive. So elusive that it takes weeks to set up any interview-- and even then it is likely to be on the phone.

For Jamie, it seems, is trying to reinvent himself as someone far less irritating. A potential newbabyand-home picture deal with Hello! magazine, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, was swiftly rejected, and these days he's more likely to be seen giving wads of his money away - whether it's spending thousands on World Cup tickets for his friends at the Posh and Becks party, or setting up his own culinary college for underprivileged youngsters.

It may well be that marriage and a child have forced him to grow up a bit, but just as significant has been a clever public-relations strategy which has seen him off our screens, yet still clinging on to the title of the nation's favourite chef. In a rare admission, Jamie reveals his dismay about being so overexposed.

He says: "I have no doubt people were seeing too much of me. To be honest I was filling up every last minute with rubbish that I shouldn't have been doing.

"I didn't do all these things out of greed; it came from the fact that too many things were set up a year or two ago, and then I found myself committed to them.

"When you are 22 and Sony phone you and say, 'Give us 18 of your best tunes and we'll press a CD,' what adolescent boy wouldn't want to do it? I had too many options. What I have learned to do is say no.

"When I was younger I took some bad advice, but I think now I'm focusing back on what I do best - ie, cooking as much as possible."

The man responsible for Jamie's new public relations strategy is London publicist Alan Edwards - the man credited with turning the Spice Girls into a global pop phenomenon. …

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