Everything that British food activist Jamie Oliver does, “is about educating, empowering and inspiring people to make better food choices, for life.” For Oliver this means starting from the basics; his numerous projects and books aim to teach his audience to nourish themselves using the time and resources that they can afford. By age 37 Oliver has written a plethora of cookbooks, has his own cooking magazine “Jamie,” stars in his do-it-yourself YouTube cooking series, created a day of action, Food Revolution Day, and owns a slew of restaurants.
One of Oliver’s largest endeavors has been founding the charity A Better Food Foundation in order to “inspire people to reconnect with food. It’s all about raising awareness and individual responsibility, resuscitating dying food culture around the world and, ultimately, keeping cooking skills alive.”
The organization has three branches: the Kitchen Garden Project for children, the Fifteen Apprentice Program for teenagers and the Ministry of Food for adults. Inspired by the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Project in Australia, Oliver brought the Kitchen Garden Project to the U.K. in order to teach children the benefits of eating healthfully and being able to prepare their own food. It’s a “real scrape-the-bowl, dirt-under-the-fingernals learning,” according to Stephanie Alexander. Adds Oliver, “If we can get gardens, school food and the curriculum working together, we’ve got a really potent, beautiful, inspirational catalyst for change.”
Oliver founded the Fifteen Apprentice Programme in 2002, opening the restaurant Fifteen and hiring 15 young apprentices to learn from the 25 professional food workers. The program is funded by a separate charity that Jamie set up. Fifteen’s success has led Oliver to institute the same program in restaurants in both Amsterdam and Cornwall. Says apprentice Troy Dennehy, “After not doing anything productive for a year my key worker told me about the Fifteen Apprentice Programme. I am looking forward to…learning new skills so I can create an amazing future for myself. In ten years’ time I hope to have founded and own my own restaurant.”
Oliver says that the Ministry of Food is his most important campaign. This charity was modeled after a government project started during WW2 to help teach British citizens to feed themselves nutritiously with their rations. In a similar vein, The Ministry of Food aims to help educate citizens on how to cook from scratch. Oliver focuses on using fresh ingredients that are in season. Armed with this knowledge, Oliver hopes that the Ministry’s work will help to cut down on the major health issues facing the U.K., such as obesity and diabetes.
If you want to taste what all the fuss is about, Oliver is the author of well over fifteen books including The Naked Chef which “strips food down to its bare essentials” and Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals, featuring recipes that are simple to make as well as “anchored in balance and nutritionally sound.” Oliver dedicated a whole cookbook, Jamie’s Great Britain, to showing the world that Britain, despite its reputation for lackluster food, does have a rich culinary history replete with delicious meals. The chef is quick to admit, however, that he is an aficionado of Italian cuisine; his passion can be read about and tasted in his cookbook, Jamie’s Italy . Oliver currently lives in the U.K. with his wife and four kids, all of whom make frequent appearances in his cookbooks.
At Ace, we find Oliver’s Food Revolution inspiring. Like this food activist, we believe that every person should have access to delicious, nutritious meals regardless of their time constraints or financial situation. If you’re interested in learning more about Oliver or jumping on his bandwagon, keep an eye out for the next Food Revolution Day on May 17th, 2013 and in the meantime gather some inspiration from Jamie’s Food Tube.