The popular TV chef tells Lauren Taylor why he’s joining the food delivery revolution with new company Pasta Dreams.
Amie Oliver says he learned from the collapse of his restaurant chain in 2019 – and is ready to “go back” after the “little slip” when he launched a new delivery-only pasta service.
The celebrity chef’s chain of restaurants suffered 22 closures and about 1,000 job losses. When asked if he’s learned from what happened, Oliver says, “Yes, sure, and every other failure I’ve had – that’s about 50%. But I’ve never been rounder, I’ve never been more experienced.
“It happens, and I would really call it a little glitch in the vision and in the dream. A very painful one. But definitely, I’m better for it.
“We had 13 great years and learned a lot. I was a young man when I started, now I’m much older and wiser,” adds the 47-year-old father of five.
It might only have been a matter of time before a big-name chef joined the delivery revolution and the growing trend of “ghost cooking” (pickup and delivery only).
Oliver’s new venture Pasta Dreams, which includes delivery-first restaurant group Taster, will offer its Italian-inspired dishes on Uber Eats, Deliveroo and other platforms.
But don’t be surprised if you see another Jamie Oliver restaurant collection in the future. “We’re really well positioned to go back and we will go again and I will go back to restaurants as soon as I can,” he says.
“It’s in my blood, it’s really all I know. It was never a size issue, it was rents and rates that really got us and the decline of the high street.”
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Starting with two pop-up spaces – in London’s Soho and Paris – Oliver has ambitious plans to roll out the Pasta Dreams service in London and other UK cities at a rate of two locations per month.
Pasta seemed like the “natural” choice for Oliver to build a delivery brand. “I’ve been doing this almost every day for 30 years,” he says.
And the public can see elements of old Jamie’s Italian chain in it: “Because it’s ultimately mine and my palate. No matter what I do, there’s a little bit of JI [Jamie’s Italian], in a way. JI was just a part of me.
“But it’s definitely different,” he adds of the new company. “The service behind the scenes has been refined. And it’s designed specifically for travel.” And for pasta, he says, that’s a challenge.
“Certain things travel well; curries travel well, noodle ramen dishes travel well” – while certain noodle shapes and sauces don’t taste as good after a bumpy 20-minute bike ride. “A lot of the combinations that people loved didn’t work or last — carbonara is a good example of that.”
Instead, there’s a twist on “Cacio e Pepe x Carbonara” that combines two classic dishes but is good to travel with. While his spaghetti pomodoro “isn’t the spaghetti you know” – it’s chitarra, a square version that allows for better intake and prevents the shell from sticking together.
It’s all done with fresh pasta, with a special mix of flour and organic eggs. “Fresh pasta doesn’t come out al dente, dry pasta does. So it’s a silkier, more luxurious and soothing experience,” says Oliver. “I never really said ‘secret recipe,’ but now because I don’t want anyone to copy it!”
The menu also includes antipasti, garlic focaccia, salads and tirimisu, and comes in plastic-free packaging.
With 23 years of television work and cookbook publishing under his belt, and more than 48 million books sold worldwide, Oliver says his job has been to “take something that’s a difficult technique to be a chef” and adapt it for supermarkets and home cooking – and Pasta Dreams goes in the same direction.
“But there’s a lot of ego in it,” he says, and as a chef you have to “put your ego out the door”.
https://www.independent.ie/style/celebrity/celebrity-news/jamie-oliver-calls-restaurant-collapse-a-minor-blip-and-failure-has-made-him-better-42066221.html Jamie Oliver calls a restaurant collapse a “little blip,” and one failure made it better