St. Jamie’s Academy

(This piece was originally written for Hecklerspray)

I was checking out Jamie Oliver’s Twitter page today and was staggered to find a recipe on there. I’d forgotten he was a chef. Yes, before Jamie turned into Food Jesus, he was actually a bog standard telly cook: a tousle-headed, lisping Delia.

His ‘crusade’ TV shows are a more recent phenomenon, but at least he’s tended to stick to a cookery theme. Until now. According to some detective work by The Guardian, Food Jesus is planning to found a school ‘with a difference’ and is looking for 16 to 19-year-old students from the Greater London area who left school feeling unfulfilled.

His spokesman Peter Berry has said it’s a ‘fair guess’ that the focus of the series will be on teaching the kids general life skills rather than focusing on cookery.

Er, what?

Sorry, but how is Jamie Oliver – some bloke who can whip up a decent spag bol and has somehow managed to build an estimated £25 million fortune around this – qualified to teach anything other than cookery? His parents ran a pub, he left school at 16 and after that he was quickly noticed by the BBC as a young sous chef at the River Cafe. They gave him his initial Naked Chef series (you know, the one where he actually cooked things instead of lobbying politicians) and he’s now married to a model, lives in a mansion and has kids called Poppy Honey, Daisy Boo and Petal Blossom.

In his 2008 Ministry of Food series, at the heart of which was the idea that anyone can learn to cook in 24 hours, Jamie went Oop North and bothered the citizens of Rotherham (yes, he’s a Rotherham botherer), hectoring them into giving up their diet of deep fried fat, sugar coated lardy-pops and butter pies.

In one memorable scene, he asks an unemployed mother of two (Natasha) why she hasn’t passed on the recipe he taught her to her friends. She hasn’t got enough money for the ingredients, she replies tearfully.

Yes, quite staggeringly the first recipe he decided to teach his Northern protégés was a fish pie made with fresh salmon, prawns and smoked haddock. This is a woman who can’t afford to put her heating on half the time. Fresh salmon? I grew up on a council estate in Bolton. I didn’t even know what salmon was until I was 20. I thought it was a sort of vegetable.

He means well, but in the words of fellow mockney Lord Sugar: “You ‘aven’t got a bladdy clue, mate. Not a bladdy clue”.

In the clip, Jamie stands around looking awkward while Natasha cries, fanning himself with a wad of fifties and using them to dab his own tear-streaked cheeks before crumpling them up and tossing them in the bin.

OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you can clearly see he can’t get his head around the strange alternate reality he’s strayed into in which someone can’t afford to buy luxury fish products.

In conclusion, it’ll be very interesting to see what kind of odd world view these 16-19 year olds emerge from St Jamie’s Academy with:

“So, Darren, what’s your career plan?”

“Er, hang around outside BBC Television Centre juggling carrots and lisping winsomely until an exec notices me and gives me my own telly show”

“Sounds good to me.”


About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at

3 Responses to St. Jamie’s Academy

  1. ladyblahblahs says:

    It’s all part of the Tory campaign to prove that you don’t need teaching qualifications or educational experience to run a school. Anyone can do it, even Jamie! Feel sorry for the kids being experimented on.

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