The Triceratops and the Cowpoke Live in Pious Harmony in This New Outpost of Jamie Oliver's Army
Self, Will, New Statesman (1996)
Jamie Oliver--like the poor he so adores--seems always to be with us; to be with us and to have been with us always as well, although it's only 14 years since he first thrust his meat and two veg at us in the television series The Naked Chef Since then, not a year has passed without some new Oliver production: cookery books, more TV, many Sainsbury's advertising campaigns, restaurants, delicatessens, food product ranges and latterly a number of campaigns aimed at improving the eating habits of the nation, specifically its children.
Not content simply to gnaw the mound of bread he's accumulated by giving supermarket endorsements, Oliver has committed himself to spreading the wholesome word: his Fifteen chain of restaurants aims to give a break to young folk who're broken, by delinquency, addiction and poverty, by inserting them into the food industry as sous-chefs and so vastly improving their life chances.
It's this combination of shameless avariciousness and a belief in the drizzle-down of oily emolument from the top to the bottom that makes Oliver the personification of contemporary Britain. If Terence Conran plum-mily taught the middle classes how to be a proper European bourgeoisie in the 1960s, 19705 and 1980s, Oliver is his worthy estuarine successor, taking the permanent foodie revolution on to that portion of the former working class who bought up the public housing stock. Now they can borrow against their equity to buy bruschetta, while the poor saps who didn't get their plutocratic act together poke Turkey Twizzlers through the school gates to feed their morbidly obese cuckoo kids.
Needless to say, Oliver sticks in my craw and I'd walk a c**ty mile to avoid him and all his works. What this society needs is a culture that values its eternal soul above its lemon sole and a form of social justice that doesn't depend on the tit-beating self-righteousness of charity--with all the patronising bullshit that goes along with this. Still, I don't expect Oliver to have a Damascene conversion on these matters, not while he's doing such a lovely jubbly.
Between the liverish columns of the brutalist former bank building at the end of Shaftesbury Avenue in London, a new outpost of Oliver's army has been established: Jamie Oliver's Diner. …