The Naked Chef's Big Plans

Celeb Chef's Eatery Helps Disadvantaged Youths

If you've become a household name as a celebrity chef on TV, and you sell over 2.5 million cookbooks a year worldwide and you've just turned 30, what do you do for the main course of your life?

Well, if you're the British chef Jamie Oliver, you campaign to change the eating habits of school children, not just in Britain, but here in the United States. And you also open a restaurant. You might think there's nothing unusual about that, but as correspondent Ed Bradley reports, there was.

Just over three years ago, Oliver put up more than $2 million to finance a restaurant from which he will never make a profit. He runs a charity and staffs it with disadvantaged young people that he essentially takes off the streets. Today, Oliver's restaurant is one of the best in London. But in the beginning there were moments when it seemed that the young chef had bitten off more than he could chew.



Oliver's plan to turn 15 unemployed and often homeless young Londoners into chefs and to open a restaurant called "Fifteen" in their honor was captured in a documentary film that had all the ingredients of a soap opera.

"You've been kicked out of school all your life, right, and you've got an opportunity here to blossom and to shine. And if you're not going to do that, piss off," Oliver told prospective chefs.

Never noted for speaking the Queen's English at the best of times, Oliver's language became increasingly saltier, when the restaurant opened for business.

"Kerry Ann, you're making a salad that (expletive) dies. Get your grater. It's dying!" he scolded one of his students in the documentary.

Oliver admits he swears a little bit.

"See, I swear a little bit in normal life, a little bit, and I'd like to say to my mum right now, in context to life," he says laughing. "If you had taken a vicar and put him in that situation I think you would have got a few swear words out of him as well. It was just very stressful times really."

In spite of his Cockney streetwise image, Jamie Oliver's upbringing was very different from that of his trainees. He had a comfortable childhood, growing up in Essex in a 16th century inn, which belonged to his father who serves food that is well above the usual English pub fare. Oliver is still close to his parents and often drops in to see them with Jools, his childhood sweetheart, who is now his wife.

Oliver's father, Trevor, says his son started working in the family's inn when he was about 8 years old, doing odd jobs such as washing up.

"My bedroom was just above here," Oliver tells Bradley, pointing at the low ceiling of the barroom. "And if you turn all the lights off and turn the lights on upstairs you can see gaps all the way through, and that's where I heard all the swearing."

"So that's where you picked it up?" Bradley asks.

"Yeah," Oliver says, laughing.

As a child, Oliver was happier working with his father in the pub's kitchen than he was at school. He was dyslexic and was teased by the other kids when he was taken out of class for special instruction.

"They used to sing songs as I left, 'cause they used to come every Wednesday to pick me up right in the middle of English class," Oliver recalls. " 'Yes, please, we've come to pick up Jamie and Richard Saunders for special needs.' And everyone used to turn round … and then they sort of, like, you know, (would sing) 'special needs, special needs, special needs, special needs.' They'd be singing it … but you know, I kind of managed to handle myself."
  • Daniel Schorn

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