Jamie Oliver has revealed why he bought an Elizabethan country mansion at a time when his restaurant chain was heading into administration.
In 2019, the celebrity chef was scrutinised in some quarters after builders were spotted carrying out work on the Essex mansion house just days after his high street restaurant chain, Jamie’s Italian, folded and hundreds of employees lost their jobs.
In a new interview withThe Times, Oliver explained that he realised the irony of the decision at the time. “If I was just being media savvy, I wouldn’t have moved there when everything was going wrong,” he explained.
“No one really knows why I bought this house.”
Oliver continued: “There was a whole host of things that were quite specific, quite intimate… I don’t care what anyone thinks. They don’t need to know. It’s an old gaff that’s falling down; only an idiot would buy it..”
The chef, who shot to fame in his early twenties thanks to the launch of his BBC cooking show, The Naked Chef, went on to explain that owning such a property is a personal achievement.
“But to have come from where I was born to that house that’s only had three families owning it in 600 years, for me as a kid that went through special needs in school, it’s social mobility,” he said.
The Essex home has 70 acres of lush lawns, a beautiful old wooden kitchen and a three-bedroom lodge in the woods.
In 2018, Oliver declared he had “no more money” to invest in his high street restaurant chain after pumping millions of his own savings to bail out the struggling business. It was revealed at the time that Jamie’s Italian had debts of £71.5m, including £2.2m in wages owed to staff and £30.2m of overdrafts and loans.
Oliver opened his first Jamie’s Italian in 2008 and saw rapid expansion across the UK in the early 2010s. But that came crashing down when the debt of the business started piling up. In 2017, the company lost £700m and Jamie’s Italian shut 12 of its 37 sites as part of a Company Voluntary Agreement.
All but three of the remaining restaurants were then closed in 2019 when hundreds of employees lost their jobs.
Oliver reflected in the interview that the model for Jamie’s Italian was “wrong from day one”. He said that he was paying to outbid rivals for premium high street sites because “we were so hot at that time, a feeling of cockiness”.
Oliver and his wife Jools, along with their five children, reside at the country mansion, where Oliver’s new Channel 4 TV series 5 Ingredient Meals is filmed.