I probably did 300 grand of my own dosh on School Dinners."Any suggestion that there's a conflict of interest between advertising Sainsbury's and lambasting the Government and food industry for the standard of school dinners and prevalence of junk food, is met with a well rehearsed answer."I don't advertise junk food for Sainsbury's. But he's much more than a rich chef, even a very rich chef."People will tell you I'm ambitious or entrepreneurial. I don't disagree with them, but I just think I'm quite excited about exciting things. Could I have made lots more money in the past seven years? Fuck yeah, double, easy peasy I've done really well, really well But I spend a lot as well. But still, more than anything else he's done, it's the Sainsbury's connection that shocks foodie purists "I am quite commercial," he admits. "Fifteen cost me two-and-a-half million quid," he claims.Only the telly and the adverts made it possible, of course. It's changed my life as well as my students." So he'd trousered Sainsbury's money for advertising their supermarket with a format remarkably similar to his early programmes; it then helped him fund Fifteen.
"It had been on my mind for nine years, and I was in a position, which I never for a second thought I'd be in, to afford to do something that had never been done before. I wanted it to work like an old-fashioned apprenticeship, with a family aspect and to show there was an integrity about the food and the sourcing trips." Surrounded by his students, the once-irritating cheeky chops came across as a patient and intelligent manager, motivator and teacher And benefactor. As do scores of others: 60 people in his Sweet as Candy office, 100 in the restaurant, 10 working for the Fifteen Foundation charity, the 15 trainees, and six in the TV production company "They're all fucking talented cool people," he says. "And if I meet anyone who's fucking good I'll employ them too."Oliver wants the Fifteen Foundation, which he started in 2001, to become a global social enterprise. The money, skills and time he has given to train disadvantaged young people to work in his restaurant have already earned him a prize for being the most generous celebrity.
He still insists that's the project dearest to his heart, the one he's committed to for life - and his hope is that one day he'll have helped set some trainees up in their own restaurants."Fifteen drives everything else that I do," he says "It wasn't just a programme; it was a real thing. My director and executive producer are food lovers and they have kids. I have to believe they're good enough and true enough to not stitch me up."They owe their livelihood to him. The point is, did it impact [upon] my family? Jools wouldn't let it and nor would I."No, having so much revealed, both in the Jamie's Kitchen series and in Jamie's School Dinners never bothered him "Because you know what? Both projects were brilliant. "I'd rather not film at home quite frankly," he says, "but if you want to touch hearts and souls and paint a really true picture, how else can you make a meaningful documentary? School Dinners wasn't just school dinners, it was an emotional thing I wouldn't risk my family for anything. Except that Jools' sister, rather than a loose-tongued nanny, helps her with the children.