Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver has broken down in tears in a new documentary following the collapse of his restaurant empire. Just months after his restaurant group went into administration and forced most of his Jamie’s Italian restaurants in the United Kingdom to shut up shop, the 44-year-old appeared in Jamie Oliver: The Naked Chef Bares All, where he revealed the impact the closures have had on his life. The documentary aired on Channel 4 in the UK this week.
At its peak, Jamie’s Italian had 44 stores in the UK alone, as well as many others in countries including Australia, Canada, Brazil and Singapore. The UK stores were turning over £108 million (AU$195 million, US$132 million) each year, but most of the restaurants abruptly shut in May, leaving a thousand employees out of work. Footage from the documentary showed Oliver informing his non-restaurant staff of the closures, admitting he was “utterly devastated”.
The TV chef also returned to the first restaurant he ever opened in London, Fifteen, with the documentary’s host Davina McCall describing the scene as “eerie”. Empty plates were left on tables and dirty dishes were spotted in the kitchen — given staff were told to leave the premises immediately.
“It’s like in the films when the bomb’s gone off and everyone has to leave and everything is just left,” the father-of-five said in one part of the documentary, holding back tears. “My God, it’s tough.”
Oliver told McCall he’d been so stressed and waved at the camera to stop filming when tears began to well up in his eyes. He pointed out a pillar which once had two plaques of students who had died, with the stat admitting there was a lot of history in the restaurant that was being closed forever.
An administrator also appeared on camera and revealed that everything in the restaurants would be sold and that money would be used to pay creditors. The company would then be dissolved at the end of the process.
“To survive in this industry is really tough,” Oliver admitted elsewhere in the show. “I was very naïve. I was good at running one restaurant, but I wouldn’t call myself a businessman.”
He told McCall he was good at quite a few things but wasn’t brilliant at everything, adding: “We did plenty wrong. I opened lots of big restaurants and I think people like smaller, medium sized restaurants and you have these big cathedrals you can’t fill.”
Fans were quick to comment on the latest documentary, with one person on YouTube saying: “Ah man, this sucks. I know people have had their issues with him, but he’s obviously such a good guy. Always been a fan. Hope he bounces back. Best of luck to him and his team.”
Another comment read: “It’s a real shame to see my favourite restaurant dissolve,” while a third added: “His judgement is sometimes misplaced but this man has a good heart. He’s not upset about the money. He obviously upset about the staff out of work and his avoidable errors. We’re all human. Show a little compassion.”
Oliver first broke his silence in May in a statement shared on his Facebook page. The ‘Naked Chef’ wrote: “I’m devastated that our much-loved UK restaurants have gone into administration. I am deeply saddened by this outcome and would like to thank all of the people who have put their hearts and souls into this business over the years.”
The board of Jamie’s Italian Limited appointed Will Wright and Mark Orton of KPMG to put the business into administration. According to a statement on Oliver’s website, Jamie Oliver Holdings, which operates Jamie Oliver Limited, Jamie Oliver Licensing Limited and Jamie’s Italian International Limited (the international franchise business) will continue to trade as normal.