Earlier this week, TV chef, noted lunchbox inspector and all-round mockney mug, Jamie Oliver, found himself in an unfamiliar position: on the wrong side of the commentariat.
The furore was sparked by some comments he made in an interview in the Radio Times, while plugging his new Channel 4 show, Jamie’s Money Saving Meals, in which he hopes to educate impoverished families how to eat healthily and heartily on a budget.
In his familiar patronising tone, he remarked how, after ‘spen[ding] a lot of time in poor communities’, he found that ‘the poorest families… choose the most expensive way to hydrate and feed their families: the ready meals, the convenience foods’. Referring to a scene from his 2008 show, Jamie’s Ministry of Food, he went on to voice his confusion that the self-same cash-strapped oiks were hoovering up their cheesy chips in the glow of big-screen TVs. ‘It just didn’t weigh up’, he lamented, in dumbstruck reminiscence.
Writing in the Guardian, an outraged Alex Andreou deemed this a ‘bogus distinction for the 13million people living in poverty in the UK right now’. Meanwhile, in the Independent budget-food blogger Jack Monroe labelled Oliver a ‘poverty tourist’, damning his comments as ‘not only out of touch but… dangerous and damaging’.
Both fair points. But after nearly eight years of Oliver’s crusade against the phantom obesity epidemic, starting with Jamie’s School Dinners in 2005, these critical commentators are rather late to the party. In fact, while spiked has criticised the classist and short-sighted nature of Oliver’s campaigns time and time again, up to now the newspapers were singing his praises.