Jamie Oliver says he’d choose ‘a normal life’ over fame if given the choice again

TV chef shot to fame in his early twenties thanks to the launch of his BBC cooking show, ‘The Naked Chef’

Roisin O'Connor
Tuesday 03 October 2023 11:40 BST
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Jamie Oliver holds eton mess dessert outside Downing Street during protest

Jamie Oliver has claimed he would choose a life of anonymity over fame, if he was given the chance to go back and do things again.

The TV chef was interviewed by broadcaster Kirsty Young for her debut podcast, Young Again, which is available on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds.

In each episode, Young revisits pivotal moments in the lives of her guests. Here, she asks them what they wish they’d known at the time, and what they would change if given the opportunity.

In the third episode of the podcast, which is out now, Young spoke with Oliver about his rapid ascent to fame aged just 23, following the release of his BBC cooking show The Naked Chef.

Oliver, now 45, also discussed what he learnt from a young age working in his parents’ pub, his relationship with wife Jools, and the challenge of balancing his activism and campaigning work with running a business empire.

“If you could go back, would you not do it?” Young asks him during the episode.

“Definitely,” Oliver responds. “I’m not trying to say ‘shoulda woulda coulda’ but if I came back on Earth and did again, I would go to [set up the] pub, and I would have a normal life and I would be aware that anonymity is our greatest gift that we will never give any currency to.

“To have just enough and to trot on, and to be the best you can at your thing, and be part of a community, and to have a mutuality… that is very very very precious.”

Jamie Oliver with wife Jools

Oliver and his wife met when they were 17, and have been together ever since. They have five children together.

The TV chef’s remarks follow soon after his business enjoyed a major boost in part thanks to his work producing shows such as Jamie’s £1 Wonders. The programme achieved an average of 1.4 million viewers as it helped households deal with the cost-of-living crisis by creating cheap and nutritious meals.

Oliver’s empire, which includes TV shows, recipe books, branded products and several lucrative partnerships, along with his numerous franchised restaurants around the world, made a pre-tax profit of £7.7m in 2022. This was a 17.5 per cent increase on the past year.

Sales for the Jamie Oliver Cookery School, which offers cooking classes in London and online, also grew by more than a third last year.

Amid a return to the hospitality industry after lockdowns during the pandemic, Oliver also announced the launch of a new restaurant in London’s Catherine Street, scheduled to open in November.

Last month, Oliver called for more free school meals help from the government, urging them to “put children’s health first” and widen eligibility criteria.

Jamie Oliver during a protest outside Downing Street on 20 May 2022

Under current rules, only children from households with an income below £7,400 – after tax and benefits – are eligible.

Following a major campaign by The Independent, London mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to roll out free primary school meals to all pupils in the capital in a year-long pilot.

The first three episodes of Young Again, the new podcast from Kirsty Young, are available now on BBC Sounds. Future episodes will be broadcast weekly on BBC Radio 4 at 11am from 3 October.

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