A Sense of Place: Jamie Oliver’s “Fifteen” Restaurants

I don’t just sit here on my laptop obsessively checking my blog (though my hub possibly might not agree, ho ho).  This semester I have been teaching university classes on responsible management and social enterprise.  Social enterprise is business that has a “double bottom line” in that it exists for a moral purpose as well as making a profit.  Profits are usually re-distributed in order to expand the scope or reach of the social enterprise rather than enriching the founders, though accumulating personal wealth along the way is not excluded from the concept.  End of mini-lecture.

So, I showed the seminar some YouTube videos of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant chain, a business that was established to train and life-coach young, unemployed men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter careers in the catering industry.  It has had some considerable successes and now the concept has its own TV channel on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/user/fifteentv

We had a really good discussion about impact and pay-offs.  We talked about how the training programme, invented by Chef Jamie, had a huge impact on the individual lives of trainees, but that tangible impact was more difficult to measure within the communities from which the trainees hailed. Fifteen could not address wider social problems and the causes that led these young people into drugs, crime and hopelessness to begin with.  My students generated by themselves that all the tv programmes and publicity do Chef Jamie and his books, supermarket endorsements, cookery equipment and restaurants no harm at all.  He also has access to the brightest and best trainees to support his other food ventures.  Not one student had a problem with this.

The point of blogging was to share an insight from one of my students.  We had all agreed that Fifteen trainees, through the apprenticeship, built confidence, skills and self-esteem, they seemed to be able to better handle their problems at home and develop a new sense of who they could be.

One student then offered something different.  Fifteen gave trainees a sense of place.

Restaurants are community hubs, gathering points for nourishing the weary traveller, for eating, sharing, for family and laughing.  They are important venues indeed and Fifteen has added yet another dimension: a new kind of place in our society in which troubled young people can find their sense of place.  Quite amazing really.

The website: www.fifteen.net

3 Comments »

  1. Hi Skyler, it is nice that you have been able to combine your passion for food with you interest in social issues. Chef Jamie is not the only one doing good things in this department. Training For Life is a charity which seeks to tackle unemployment and poverty by providing training in ‘Prospect centres’ (enterprising learning centres) and social enterprises, such as their two restaurants, the Hoxton Apprentice and the Dartmouth Apprentice. I am arranging my work Christmas party and, since we are a charity, I suggested the Hoxton Apprentice as one of the options that went to vote. It won by a mile! My colleagues were all of the opinion that if we are going to spend charity funds on Christmas lunch, it is better if it is going to another good cause.

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    • That’s really interesting to know, we have an embryonic research thread at the uni looking at social enterprises and because of the food connections, obviously I get drawn in that direction so we have been working up case studies like Divine Chocolate and Fair Trade as a brand and bringing those into the classroom. I tweeted your prison food post, BTW, but I dont have too many followers so I end up tweeting into the ether…never mind, maybe someone important will look at my random tweets one day!

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  2. That was kind of you. I have the same issue with Twitter, only 20 or so followers, so I don’t tend to use it much. Bit of a catch 22, as that is probably why.

    Sounds like you are getting into some really interesting work at the uni. Hope to hear more installments soon.

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