Was it warped news priorities or a symptom of metropolitan values that caused the BBC on Tuesday to give headline treatment to the demise of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant chain over the pending threat to British Steel, putting 5,000 jobs at risk and endangering 20,000 in the supply chain?
The chef’s eponymous outlets, along with brands Barbecoa and Fifteen have been put into administration, with 1,000 jobs in peril.
Mr Oliver blamed “the well-publicised struggles of the casual dining sector and decline of the UK high street, along with soaring business rates” for the company’s collapse. It is now up to accountants KPMG to sort out the stricken group’s finances and hopefully find a buyer for at least some of the outlets.
Now I am one of those who have been mesmerised by Jamie’s highly appetising Italian dishes on television. He prepares them with a lightness of touch and effortless manner.
Surely anyone can follow suit, flick the virgin olive oil into the pan, finely chop the tomatoes, red peppers, green salad, onions and mushrooms, toss the ensemble gaily into the air, grind in exotic seasoning, dust with parmesan and serve with mint-speckled pasta. Oh, and the wine. As I am on cooking duties this evening, how could I dare forget the wine?
But there were other ingredients that Jamie has struggled with – finances mainly: the outgoings, the business rates, staff costs, in-house decor, VAT and regulation and compliance costs.
The business is reported to owe HSBC more than £30 million. I can’t help but wonder if a husband-and-wife fish-and-chip shop in Aberfeldy would be advanced a fraction of this sum, even if profitable.
Jamie had a great media presence. But now it looks as if the bank has been as lightly tossed as one of his mouth-watering salads.