I’m sitting at the bar in a pub, on a rainy foggy day, drinking a rich aromatic coffee. The restaurants theme is rustic and cozy. Colours of terra cottas and cafe lattes warm the eye, even before you notice the awesome use of the old brick walls alongside dark wood counters, leather seats and metal tables.
Many different dialects of English can be heard, along with some hints of Irish, Polish and other wonderful languages. I could be downtown St. John’s at Erin’s pub or Bridie Molloys, but I’m not. I’m at Jamie Oliver’s flagship/original restaurant Fifteen on the edge of the financial district in London, England.
Across the pub, camera and lights are set up, there are two TV crews on site, (Polish and Portuguese TV, with a Danish crew scheduled any minute.) Everyone, including myself, are patiently waiting to get their hands and their cameras on the man himself. As I watch, steady streams of journalist teams come through the door, each taking their turn with Jamie in hopes of spinning a unique take on Jamie Oliver’s life and business.
In a seat next to me at the bar, pages for an upcoming cookbook are being discussed, either hitting the approve pile, or going into the ‘needs work’ category. Along one other whole side of the bar, are Jamie’s cookbooks all lined up in a row, waiting for a signature and dedication that makes the recipient feel like they’ve been personally touched.
Behind the bar, a young apprentice chef is being schooled on the variety of wines, champagnes and sparkling waters. All the while, the restaurant staff hurry about, trying to get the front of the house ready for the next service at noon.
This location is where it all started 13 years ago. Jamie was an unknown young man who was set to make his mark on the world. Not only did he make his mark, he was successful in creating a culinary empire like no other.
Back in the 90’s he came up with a brilliant idea that could potentially help young people who had fallen by the wayside in society. He realized cooking could be a career path for these youths who needed a fresh start in life. This was all based on a social enterprise model, where the funds were used to fuel social ambition, rather than to be used for profit for himself.
In 2002, he recruited 15 young apprentices to train alongside a team of 25 professional chefs and mentors. He also set up a charity that would receive all the funds from the restaurant, in order to fund the program. Jamie Oliver’s ‘non-profit’ restaurant Fifteen was born.
The menu offered at Fifteen is the type of food Jamie and his chefs eat when they’re at home. They cook rustic , yet elegant and nostalgic flavours, served alongside modern European dishes with a daily-changing menu.
My coffee is done and himself is still up to his ears with media. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not meant to meet him in person during this visit. None the less, this is still my first exposure to Jamie Oliver and I’m amazed at the pure star power that accompanied this man. It’s still foggy and misty in London, as I leave Fifteen and return to my hotel room. Tomorrow is another day.
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The big question is, will I ever get to personally meet Jamie Oliver?