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I've always really wanted to like Jamie Oliver, but have reconciled myself to finding him irritating. I know he's hugely popular, but for me he's just too much.
I also don't care much for his writing style and have found several of his recipes to have errors with unclear directions.
His most recent endeavour into the Jamie At Home ... home based selling (think Tuperware) is apparently an enourmous success in the UK. One hosts a "Jamie Party" at home, inviting friends and promoting/marketing his cookware, gadgets, dishes, accessories, etc. There's Jamie DVD to play at the beginning of the evening and then everyone starts ording and buying like crazy.
I think he's becoming a big business machine.
Incredible that he is supposed to have earned £150 million from these rather trite little books!
Jamie's a prime example about why I tend to avoid recipes/cookbooks from celebrities. It's not that they are never any good. It's that I want to buy based on quality, not brand. When people start buying things simply because of the name on it, I tend to think twice. There are exceptions, of course - my Julia Child collection is not small - but think of it this way. With a dating site, gadgets, cookware, time spent (very publicly) supporting causes, television shows, etc., how much time is Jamie Oliver putting into developing the recipes on his television show and in his cookbooks? It's probably mostly if not all done by a staff of anonymous recipe developers - and I rather expect that is true for many celebrity "chefs".
I admire and respect Jamie Oliver for the tremendous success he has achieved in his career and in leveraging his celebrity to effect positive change and rasing awareness in schools and society around nutrition.
I have a number of Jamie's books and believe I've cooked from all of them. I don't recall any failures and have come to rely on JO for delicious recipes that appeal to a variety of palates and preferences. One of my favourite books is his "Italy" cookbook. Though I have hundreds of wonderful Italian cookbooks on my shelves, I very much enjoy the recipes in this book and wouldn't hesitate to select a recipe from it when it comes up in an EYB search.
I also thoroughly enjoy JO's tv programmes and especially love the ones where he includes his mentor, Gennaro Contaldo. Their bantor and genuine affection for one another is inspiring and entertaining. To his credit, Jamie's "slice of life" tv show format where he cooks and entertains friends has subsequently been copied by a number of chefs and tv cooks. With Jamie's affable style and very relaxed approach to food and cooking I can only imagine how many new cooks and chefs he's inspired.
I agree with Breadcrumbs on this one. I own all his books (and don't find them trite at all) and cook from them a lot. All his recipes (whoever they were developed by) work - I don't think I have ever had a failure. His books are really practical for everynight cooking.
I also really admire his philanthropic work. He may have made a lot of money personally but he has also invested huge amounts of time and money into his Fifteen Foundation (which trains disadvantaged young people for culinary careers) and his healthier school meals campaigns. Many other celebrity chefs talk the talk on charitable work but Jamie walks the walk.
Another one agreeing with Breadcrumbs here! I think he was almost single-handedly responsible for getting many, many young people (especially young men) interested in cooking for pleasure back in the late nineties, using fresh, simple ingredients and unfussy 'uncheffy' recipes.
He not only demystified cooking for so many, but he made it fashionable and cool. He inspired people with the confidence to entertain at home, instead of feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by the prospect.
He has also encouraged people to have fun with food, always with the emphasis on simplicity and good quality fresh produce. He has made vegetables and salads sexy, and his food presentation style is (while a tad messy for my liking at times) unpretentious and therefore completely achievable by all. I doubt we'd be seeing the huge unprecedented obsession with cooking, baking and vegetable growing that has hit the UK in recent years if JO had not played his part so well all through the noughties.
I think the country is also indebted to him for bringing about a lasting change in the quality of school meals. That programme alone will also have caused many to question the quality of the processed foods they routinely fed their families.
I love his books, but I haven't bought all of the more recent ones as I find them a little basic and/or repetitive for my needs now. However I think there is no-one better to help you get started and easily inspired as a beginner.
Nothing like taking a pop at someone's favourite chef to stir up the forums which seem to be getting rather quiet! I looked again at the two Jamie Oliver's I own - both gifts, not bought by me. Jamie's Italy I have re-assessed; some of the recipes are certainly worth trying, but it is still a rather basic introduction; perhaps that is how he intended it - everyone has to start somewhere. 30 minute dinners no - many people say the timings are quite impossible. Now we have his 15 minute meals; de Pomiane already did 10 minute cooking years ago so that leaves a slot for 5 minutes - 2 adzuki beans and and icecube on a lettuce leaf by "Posh" Spice or Gwyneth Paltrow????
I am still amazed at the sheer number of cookery books he has produced providing basic introductions to so many topics; I guess that is where the money comes from!
Jamie Oliver is to cookery as Andre Rieu is to classical music? A way in, that's all.