Spot the mistake: How things went wrong for celebrity chef Jamie Oliver

I never was a disciple of the Jamie Oliver ministry, or any other celebrity chef that knows shit about food safety (which is most of them, see the abstract from our 2004 paper, below).

Alexis Carey of The Courier Mail writes that when Jamie Oliver first landed on our TV screens back in 1999, he soon won over millions of fans thanks to his delicious recipes and cheeky, boyish charm.

Countless television appearances and cooking programs quickly followed his original series, The Naked Chef, along with cookbooks, advertising deals, charity campaigns and even his own chain of restaurants.

But today, a string of controversies coupled with multimillion-dollar losses has meant the shine has well and truly started to come off the 43-year-old Brit.

So how did it all go so wrong for one of the world’s best-loved celebrity chefs?

According to Aussie public relations expert Catriona Pollard, Oliver’s downfall was caused by a series of classic PR blunders including overexposure, a disconnect between his actions and his personal brand and a failure to address a number of controversies head-on.

Over the years, the father-of-five built a restaurant empire under the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, starting with the launch of Jamie’s Italian in 2008, followed by the Recipease cooking school and deli chain in 2009 and barbecue chain Barbecoa in 2011.

But in September 2017, Oliver was forced to inject $22.7 million of his own cash into Jamie’s Italian to save it from collapsing.

All Recipease outlets were closed by late 2015 and last February Barbecoa Ltd went into administration.

Ms Pollard said one possible reason behind those failures was the mismatch between Oliver’s “average Joe” identity and the up-market feel of his eateries.

The collapse of Oliver’s restaurants have affected his own personal brand.

“You can buy one of his books for $20, or watch his TV show for free. But a lot of his restaurants sold expensive meals … which didn’t really stack up for people,” she told news.com.au.

She said there was also a divide between Oliver’s relatable image and his staggering fortune, estimated to be around $441 million.

“His personal brand is very much the ‘everyday lad’, but that doesn’t convert to a businessman who is so wealthy. There’s a disconnect between his everyday persona and his wealth,” she said.

Ms Pollard said it had also been a mistake to link his name so closely to his restaurants, as their failure was now inextricably linked to his personal reputation.

Last year Oliver was accused of hypocrisy after signing a lucrative, $9.1 million deal with oil giant Shell to revamp its service station food offering.

But as Oliver had long been a supporter of climate change action, many considered a partnership with an oil company to be a serious betrayal.

Ms Pollard said Oliver’s decision to ignore the growing furore added another blow to his reputation.

Mathiasen, L.A., Chapman, B.J., Lacroix, B.J. and Powell, D.A. 2004. Spot the mistake: Television cooking shows as a source of food safety information, Food Protection Trends 24(5): 328-334.

Consumers receive information on food preparation from a variety of sources. Numerous studies conducted over the past six years demonstrate that television is one of the primary sources for North Americans. This research reports on an examination and categorization of messages that television food and cooking programs provide to viewers about preparing food safely. During June 2002 and 2003, television food and cooking programs were recorded and reviewed, using a defined list of food safety practices based on criteria established by Food Safety Network researchers. Most surveyed programs were shown on Food Network Canada, a specialty cable channel. On average, 30 percent of the programs viewed were produced in Canada, with the remainder produced in the United States or United Kingdom. Sixty hours of content analysis revealed that the programs contained a total of 916 poor food-handling incidents. When negative food handling behaviors were compared to positive food handling behaviors, it was found that for each positive food handling behavior observed, 13 negative behaviors were observed. Common food safety errors included a lack of hand washing, cross-contamination and time-temperature violations. While television food and cooking programs are an entertainment source, there is an opportunity to improve their content so as to promote safe food handling.

Blame celebrity chefs and lack of thermometer use: Campy increases in undercooked chicken livers

In the United Kingdom, outbreaks of Campylobacter infection are increasingly attributed to undercooked chicken livers, yet many recipes, including those of top chefs, advocate short cooking times and serving livers pink.

chicken-liver-pate-2During 2015, we studied preferences of chefs and the public in the United Kingdom and investigated the link between liver rareness and survival of Campylobacter. We used photographs to assess chefs’ ability to identify chicken livers meeting safe cooking guidelines.

To investigate the microbiological safety of livers chefs they preferred to serve, we modeled Campylobacter survival in infected chicken livers cooked to various temperatures. Most chefs correctly identified safely cooked livers but overestimated the public’s preference for rareness and thus preferred to serve them more rare.

We estimated that 19%–52% of livers served commercially in the United Kingdom fail to reach 70°C and that predicted Campylobacter survival rates are 48%–98%. These findings indicate that cooking trends are linked to increasing Campylobacter infections.

Restaurant cooking trends and increased risk for Camplyobacter infection

Emerging Infectious Disease Journal, Volume 22, Number 7, July 2016, DOI: 10.3201/eid2207.151775

A.K. Jones, D. Rigby, M. Burton, C. Millman, N.J. Williams, T.R. Jones, P. Wigley, S.J. O’Brien, P. Cross

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/22/7/15-1775_article

Celebrity food porn, NBC style

A food safety type from the U.S. writes that the average viewer of these celebrity chefs are ignorant of safe food handling practices. They are blinded because of the celebrity status of these chefs.

 celebrity.chefsThis past Thanksgiving, I tuned into “Today” and watched celebrity chef Giada prepare ready to eat foods with her bare hands. But worse than that is that she had a bandaid on her finger. At the very least she could have used a finger cot. I emailed the “Food Network three times with no response.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Another Mother’s Day outbreak in Australia

Mother’s Day is ripe for food poisoning in Australia.

Last year, over 140 dinners got sick with Salmonella from some raw egg dip in Canberra.

celebrity.chefsThis year, a Melbourne restaurant co-owned by George Calombaris is under investigation over a food poisoning outbreak following a Mother’s Day luncheon.

And this dude is a judge on the Australian TV crap show, MasterChef.

The Greek restaurant reportedly welcomed 600 diners through its doors on Mother’s Day.

“It’s completely put us through the wringer,” an unnamed victim told Fairfax Media.

“My wife was vomiting all day yesterday and most of Sunday night. This stuff shouldn’t happen at a restaurant like this.”

But fancy food doesn’t mean safe food; and celebrity chefs can be food safety morons.

A spokeswoman for Calombaris’ company, Made Establishment, said there was “no evidence as to the cause of this,” but confirmed they had received a call on Tuesday from a customer who had felt unwell after dining at Hellenic Republic on Sunday.

The spokeswoman added: “We are working closely together with Boroondara Council and health authorities to discover the cause.

“The welfare and enjoyment of our guests is of utmost importance to us and we are committed to resolving this as our highest priority.”

Stick it in: thermometers, not color, required to safely cook pheasant

Dean Ralph likes to hunt pheasant in Kansas. He likes to grill them as well.

After years of hearing me go on about tip-sensitive digital thermometers and their role in producing safe food, he finally got an automated contraption that hooks up to his BBQ.

The next time I saw him, he was gushing about how easier it was cooking with a thermometer and how he was a better cook for it (people tend to celebrity.chefsovercook to compensate for pink meat).

Dean Ralph could teach the folks at My Kitchen Rules a few pointers – MKR for those in the know – another in a long line of terrible cooking shows offering terrible food safety advice (not you, Alton Brown), that airs Sunday nights in Australia.

I don’t watch. But apparently the folks at safefood Queensland do, and decided to be witty Monday morning by taking to the twittersphere to proclaim:

SFPQ
Last night’s team on #MKR learnt a great lesson while cooking their pheasant. Juices should run clear with no pink meat visible. #foodsafety
2/24/14, 9:45 AM

Followed by:

 

 

 

SFPQ
When they saw blood after cooking for 15min, they wisely put it back in oven. Serving food poisoning is a good way to get a low score. #MKR
2/24/14, 9:46 AM

So I twittered:

barfblog
Fail. Use a thermometer “@SFPQ: Last night’s team on #MKR cooking pheasant. Juices should run clear with no pink meat visible. #foodsafety”
2/24/14, 9:55 AM

They wrote back:

SFPQ
Correct @barfblog if u have one. But a good guideline is no pink should be visible & juices run clear. If in doubt, cook it for longer.
2/24/14, 10:16 AM

To which I responded:

barfblog
Fail; color is a lousy indicator “@SFPQ: Correct @barfblog if u have one. But a good guideline is no pink visible & juices run clear.”
2/24/14, 10:47 AM

Several other food safety types jumped in to the twit-war, reinforcing that thermometers were indeed the best way to ensure microbiologically safe food. An hour later, safefood Queensland changed its tune.

SFPQ
Juices running clear & no visible pink is a starting point but use a #thermometer to make sure yr poultry & meats are cooked. #foodsafety
2/24/14, 11:48 AM

And then:

SFPQ
Meat thermometers take the guess work out of #cooking. It’ll be the best thing you’ll invest in for yr health and safety. #foodsafety
2/24/14, 11:50 AM

A five-minute search using Google yielded revealed that the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends cooking pheasant to 165F (74C) hamburger-safe and unsafe-thumb-450x138-175and letting the bird sit for 15 minutes. USDA states, “Cooked game meats can be pink even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature.”

So can chicken and hamburger and pork. Color of the finished product is variable, primarily due to the age of the animal at harvest and other biochemical factors that are in a lot of references, readily available on barfblog.com, but safefoodQueensland can do the job itself.

The appropriately named BBQ Down Under recommends “a target temperature in the thickest part of the breast is 75°C (167°F) – check it using a thermometer probe. Put the probe in approximately 3/4 of the way into the breast meat, making sure you don’t go too far and hit bone.”

In Canada, the recommended temp is 82C (180F), but that’s another discussion. At least the U.S., and more recently Canada, can, on this issue, keep a straight face when they say they use science-based decision making.

safefood Queensland, you can do better, especially when your website has statements like:

“Raw chicken and poultry can carry bacteria, which is responsible for more cases of food poisoning than any other pathogen.”

Mathiasen, L.A., Chapman, B.J., Lacroix, B.J. and Powell, D.A. 2004. Spot the mistake: Television cooking shows as a source of food safety information, Food Protection Trends 24(5): 328-334.

Consumers receive information on food preparation from a variety of sources. Numerous studies conducted over the past six years demonstrate that television is one of the primary sources for North Americans. This barfblog.Stick It Inresearch reports on an examination and categorization of messages that television food and cooking programs provide to viewers about preparing food safely. During June 2002 and 2003, television food and cooking programs were recorded and reviewed, using a defined list of food safety practices based on criteria established by Food Safety Network researchers. Most surveyed programs were shown on Food Network Canada, a specialty cable channel. On average, 30 percent of the programs viewed were produced in Canada, with the remainder produced in the United States or United Kingdom. Sixty hours of content analysis revealed that the programs contained a total of 916 poor food-handling incidents. When negative food handling behaviors were compared to positive food handling behaviors, it was found that for each positive food handling behavior observed, 13 negative behaviors were observed. Common food safety errors included a lack of hand washing, cross-contamination and time-temperature violations. While television food and cooking programs are an entertainment source, there is an opportunity to improve their content so as to promote safe food handling.

Groundhog Day continues in UK; celebrity chefs still suck at food safety

In 1996, 23 people died in an E. coli O157 outbreak when Scotland’s former butcher-of-the-year used the same knives on raw and cooked beef.

In 2005, a five-year-old child died and 160 sickened after a butcher used the same vacuum packaging machine on raw and cooked beef.

Celebrity chef Marcus Wareing, who cooked  for the Queen on her 80th birthday and is star of BBC’s Great British Menu series failed his most big_bill_in_groundhog-731047recent restaurant inspection because he used the same vac-pak machine on raw and cooked product.

Dude, there’s this thing called the Internet; do some research before you speak.

We simply needed a vacuum-packing machine as we only had one. The FSA [Food Standards Agency] Guidance recommends two. We weren’t aware the regulations had changed last year. It was a technicality and we hold our hands up to it and purchased the new machine within a week.”

That’s the ignorance that led to the death of 5-year-old Mason Jones in 2005. It’s sorta been talked about. Too busy being a celebrity.

“To go from five stars to one star just for that seems  too radical, given my 25 years of kitchen experience.

“If they were taking Michelin stars away like this, well, it’s quite scary. My kitchen is a bloody Rolls-Royce that has customers in it, on my chef’s table, daily.  

“Food safety, and the health of my team and customers, is not something I would knowingly jeopardize.”

I’m just a dopy American/colonist but I knew about it eight years ago (actually, a lot longer).

Maybe give Hugh Pennington a call.

The chef runs a restaurant at London’s five-star Berkeley Hotel, where celebrity.chefsdiners are charged £115 for a dinner tasting menu.

Inspectors noted that at the time of their visit raw fish was stored above cooked crab in the fish fridge.

The council inspectors also said  it “was very disappointing to note that the record-keeping had ceased since April 2013.”

Is there too much (food safety) filth on TV?

So asks Laura Day in the U.K. Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog in yet another take on the food safety silliness on many TV cooking shows.

Over recent weeks, MasterChef has been pushing contestants through their "toughest challenge yet" (again), which seems to have led to competition-induced amnesia when it comes to basic standards.

"Former Miss Swansea" Alice has been sporting a shock of bright red nail polish before she rustles up the goods. She’s taken some flak from viewers online for kneading dough with her chipped nails, with suspicions that some of the polish made it into her miniature lasagnes.

Compulsive hair grabber Polly has attracted ire for her flyaway strands (she should take a cue from bandana-wearing Jackie), and then there are the men, arguably the clammier end of the spectrum, who persist in adding many beads of sweat to their pan-fried cuisines. Not to mention Tom, who consistently creates an epic mess, and this week drew quite the dressing down from John who offered a disparaging shake of the head towards the floured floor at his feet.

This is the kind of behaviour we would more commonly associate with the string of cooks on Come Dine With Me, whose contestants are often to be found scraping crème brûlée off the lino and leaving sushi unguarded to be snacked on by their cat. But it’s not just the amateurs, and it’s not just recently.

Pudding-fiend and glamour puss Nigella, all boobs and spoon-licking, has always had her hair perfectly coiffed. Sure, her luscious locks look pretty good flowing all over her shoulders (and who wouldn’t want a head of hair like that?), I just wouldn’t want to admire it in my plate of brownies.

We covered this ground years ago, and while I’d like to redo the study, Food Network ratings have recently flattened, so maybe people are doing less watching and more cooking Thanks to Bobby Krishna in Dubai for sending along the story.

Mathiasen, L.A., Chapman, B.J., Lacroix, B.J. and Powell, D.A. 2004. Spot the mistake: Television cooking shows as a source of food safety information, Food Protection Trends 24(5): 328-334.

Consumers receive information on food preparation from a variety of sources. Numerous studies conducted over the past six years demonstrate that television is one of the primary sources for North Americans. This research reports on an examination and categorization of messages that television food and cooking programs provide to viewers about preparing food safely. During June 2002 and 2003, television food and cooking programs were recorded and reviewed, using a defined list of food safety practices based on criteria established by Food Safety Network researchers. Most surveyed programs were shown on Food Network Canada, a specialty cable channel. On average, 30 percent of the programs viewed were produced in Canada, with the remainder produced in the United States or United Kingdom. Sixty hours of content analysis revealed that the programs contained a total of 916 poor food-handling incidents. When negative food handling behaviors were compared to positive food handling behaviors, it was found that for each positive food handling behavior observed, 13 negative behaviors were observed. Common food safety errors included a lack of hand washing, cross-contamination and time-temperature violations. While television food and cooking programs are an entertainment source, there is an opportunity to improve their content so as to promote safe food handling.