Jamie Oliver has told of his desperate attempts to save his restaurant group from collapse as he ploughed millions of pounds of his own money into the business.
The celebrity chef admitted there had been no “plan B in case it goes down the toilet” when he first began setting up his Italian high street restaurant chain.
The group, which included Jamie’s Italian, Barbecoa and Fifteen, collapsed into administration in May, making about 1,000 staff redundant.
In an interview with The Times magazine, Oliver said the last few months had been the “most disappointing” of his life.
“When it was all going wrong it felt like a colander: the business was full of holes and there was nothing we could do to plug them,” he said.
Adding that he took “full responsibility” for the collapse, he said: “I did believe I could turn it round. I put in £3 million, another £3 million, then another £3 million, however the numbers went. But there was no good news.”
According to the paper, Oliver lost a total of £25 million of his own money to try to save the chain.
In the end, insolvency specialists at KPMG closed 22 of the chef’s 25 restaurants after investment could not be secured to keep them trading.
Three outlets at Gatwick Airport – Jamie Oliver’s Diner, Jamie’s Italian and Jamie’s Coffee Lounge – were snapped up by food-to-go specialist SSP Group, saving 250 jobs.
In his interview with The Times, Oliver vowed never to “have the wool pulled over my eyes or suffer from a lack of clarity again”.
He called rental costs, business rates and the cost of labour “our worst enemies”, adding that the business had not responded quickly enough to changes in the industry.
Oliver is due to talk more about the collapse of the restaurant chain and lift the lid on his personal life in a one-off documentary.
The Channel 4 programme, hosted by Davina McCall and called 20 Years Of The Naked Chef: Jamie Bares All, will cover the highs and lows of his life and his campaigning over the country’s food culture.