His current project, launched in 2002, is Fifteen, a big-ticket but nonprofit restaurant partially staffed by disadvantaged young people. They spend a year under Oliver's tutelage, learning the trade, before moving on to paying jobs in the industry. Amazingly, the restaurant has gotten good reviews and seems to be perpetually booked. But for Oliver, who doesn't earn a dime from the project, it serves a more crucial function: "It is important to inspire young kids and bring on new talent," he says. "Rather than being overly protective of your knowledge, you need to disperse it and encourage others."
AMERICAN WAY: For decades, London had been notorious as the place with terrible food. Recently, though, the opposite has been true. Suddenly it's a culinary hotspot, with restaurants like Gordon Ramsey, Petrus, and Chez Bruce. How'd that happen?
JAMIE OLIVER: Go back a few hundred years and you see that England was famous for good food. But after the first and second world wars, everything [fell apart]. It's been a bad 100 years that we've spent the last 10 years digging ourselves out of. There've been good chefs that have been inspiring people and helping to instill a sense of confidence in young cooks.
AMERICAN WAY: Okay, so a good chef can make a decent living in London now. In fact, when you're not zipping around town on your motor scooter, you're known for tooling around in a black Maserati. If I wanted to spend a couple hours cruising through town, be it by sports car or scooter, which route would you suggest I take?
OLIVER: Back when I used to work at The River Café, I rode my scooter from the restaurant in Hammersmith to band practice in Peckham [Oliver played drums in a rock group]. The best bit is when you hit the embankment on Kings Road, follow it all the way down, and go over London Bridge. You see Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, all the nice sights.