Since he first burst onto British screens in the late 90s, Jamie Oliver’s career has gone from strength to strength. In the decades since his debut, The Naked Chef has built a restaurant empire, sold more than 10 million cookbooks in Britain alone and fronted several of the nation’s favourite food shows. His success has even helped him go global. Whatever you may think of him, he remains the familiar, friendly face of British cooking.
Aside from dynasty building, Jamie Oliver has one philosophy that has helped define his public persona more than any other. Since 2005, Oliver has been a passionate advocate for healthy eating, working tirelessly to raise awareness and campaign against the widespread use of cheap fast food in schools, as well as attempting to educate adults on how to prepare simple, nutritious meals. Any English child of the early 2000s remembers well the infamous turkey twizzler ban. This crusade earned Oliver accolades as well as enemies. It is also perhaps the most defining aspect of his legacy.
For years, Oliver’s integrity on the subject was beyond question. However, a stunning new report from the Press Association has revealed that, while he was ostensibly working to derail and diminish the power of the fast food industry, there may well have been something sinister going on under the surface.
The report, which has been widely circulated among media outlets, suggests that, whilst publically lambasting the industry, Oliver was covertly offering consultation to fast food giants McDonald’s. Though it is unclear exactly what the nature of these meetings may have been, sources suggest that they were held in order to “discuss healthy eating initiatives.”
Oliver’s status as a prominent “healthy eating” campaigner has brought him into conflict with McDonald’s several times over the years. In 2011, he called their burgers “unfit for human consumption”, and in 2012 celebrated the business’ decision to remove so-called “pink slime” from their ingredients list. However, The Press Association now report that, while these disagreements were aired in the public forum, Oliver was privately meeting with McDonald’s chief executive Paul Pomroy and other leaders for “several years”, serving as an “informal advisor”.
This alleged conflict of interest has certainly raised a few suspicions in the wider food industry. The Independent newspaper pointed out that Oliver’s tone appeared to soften in the aftermath of these alleged meetings, highlighting that the chef recently said he would “allow his children to eat at the chain”.
Given that the details of Oliver’s role remain unknown, it would be unfair to jump to any conclusions about exactly what has taken place. When pressed for comment, a spokesperson told Eater,“Jamie and his companies has no current or planned formal or informal relationship with McDonalds and any reporting to the contrary is incorrect (sic).” No mention was made of any possible past relationship. As more details emerge, it remains to be seen whether this case will ultimately unravel the image that Jamie Oliver has worked so hard to cultivate.