A lot of people don't like celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. For good reason.
I DISLIKE CELEBRITY CHEF Gordon Ramsay but I think I dislike Jamie Oliver even more. Frankly, I can't stand the guy. I don't like his television shows. I don't like his books. And I don't like how this ex public schoolboy speaks in a faux working class cockney accent.
While Ramsay shouts and generally abuses people in the name of television ratings, Oliver has been waging a more widespread war against ordinary folk and, in particular, they're eating habits. But he has largely got away with it because Jamie is one of the good guys, don't you know? He just wants to make the world a better place. He's on our side.
The fact that he supports David Cameron's Conservative- led government, presently engaged in a vicious war of austerity against the British working class, is apparently neither here or there. (Before Cameron, Oliver was the darling of Tony Blair's New Labour).
It's also entirely a coincidence that Oliver's crusading outbursts always seem to occur when he's got a television show, a book or a new restaurant to promote. You would have to be bitter and twisted to claim that a Jamie Oliver crusade is all about Jamie Oliver promoting himself and his many business concerns.
I generally only think about Oliver when one of his many shows suddenly appears on my television screen and I'm diving in the couch desperately trying to find the remote to switch channels. I would probably never even write about him except that I stumbled across a nauseating and cloying interview with him in the Sunday Star Times over the weekend.
Oliver is in this neck of woods, namely Australia, to promote his new social campaign. Or so he claims. The main reasonwhy he's here is to check on his chain of Italian restaurants. He plans to open one in Auckland and Wellington within the next year. So you get expect more PR fluff in the local media when the restaurant openings draw near and Oliver no doubt visits New Zealand.
"I think, and hope, it's going to work," he waffles in the Sunday Star Times. ""Jamie's Italian is kind of like a little scene, a little vibe, it's an energy.' Mmn. Smells like bullshit to me.
While in Australia Jamie announced his new campaign. This is a global petition calling for compulsory food education in schools. He is also reportedly campaigning to get local lobby groups to pressure our government to provide food education in schools.
This is one of just many food-related crusades that Oliver has been over the years. In fact he has often used them as a basis for another television show, which not only does he get paid lots of dosh to front but keeps his public profile right up there. This is especially important when he jostling with the likes of Gordon and Nigella for that all important limelight and those important lucrative television and publishing contracts.Not to mention all that spin off publicity he gets for his restaurants.
Who remembers Jamie's Kitchen? In this show fifteen young unemployed people got the opportunity' to work - unpaid - in Jamie's new restaurant. And help him make another cooking-themed show which he reportedly got paid several million pounds for. None of that money found its way to the fifteen unemployed youngsters.
Having found a marketable formula, Oliver moved on in 2005 to Jamie's School Dinners in which the viewer followed him around as he singlehandedly tried to get children eating better meals at school. Unfortunately the show kind of fell into disrepute with 'the loveable (fake) cockney' losing his rag and describing some of the parents as 'fat old scrubbers'.
In fact what had happened was the two mothers concerned were just ensuring that their children got something to eat; as part of the Jamie's sudden reorganisation of school meals, the school had so messed up its lunchtime arrangements that some children weren't’t able to get fed. So it was actually all Oliver's fault.
But attacking 'the lower orders' is a common trait of Oliver's.
In 2013 he claimed that the poor were spending their money on ready meals and large plasma televisions rather than on nutritious cuisine - the kind of food that Oliver writes about in his many cook books, for instance.
He told The Daily Mail that "...the poorest families in this country choose the most expensive way to hydrate and feed their families. The ready meals, the convenience foods.'
This is the same Jamie Oliver who has his own brand of ready meals. So, breathtakingly, he manages to lecture against such meals - while selling them at the same time.
He topped his attack on the supposed eating habits of the poor with a tirade against the 'lazy attitude' of Britain's young people, who he said were always 'whingeing' and were 'wet behind the ears' They needed, he trumpeted, to take leaf out of the book of Eastern European workers, According to Oliver they were quite happy to put in 18-hour shifts and not get paid very much for the 'privilege'. Not like Britain's feckless young generation who had to cheek to expect decent wages and not be exploited by greedy, money-grabbing employers.
What prompted this outburst? Oliver, the chef with a social conscience, happily signed up his forty or so British restaurants to the Conservative-led government's workfare programme where the young employed are forced to work for nothing or lose their benefit.
Oliver moaned that young people weren't enthusiastic about the 'opportunity' he was providing them. It was also an admission that he likes to use cheap immigrant workers to staff his restaurants that are patroned by those who can afford to eat in a Jamie Oliver restaurant. Oliver is worth over $400 million.
The real reason that ordinary folk don't have the kind of diet that Oliver demands of them is economic; they can't afford to. But Oliver never mentions this. It's suits Oliver's reactionary politics to blame ordinary people for what they eat and what they give the children. He's the kind of a Tory boy who talks about people being 'aspirational' in a country where more and more are seeking the help of food banks.
A new report published in the British Medical Journal last week observes:
"More food banks are opening in areas experiencing greater cuts in spending on local services and central welfare benefits and higher unemployment rates."
It notes that the expansion of food banks in Britain has been 'unprecedented'. In 2009 there were 29 food banks operated by the Trussel Trust, a non-governmental organisation that coordinates food banks throughout Britain. By 2014 that number had risen to 251.
Anything to say, Jamie? No, I didn't think so.