Saturday 24 March 2018

Why has Jamie Oliver gone to the (hot)dogs?

You don't become the world's richest chef without spotting an opportunity

Jamie is opening a hot dog joint.
Jamie is opening a hot dog joint.
Jamie Oliver stands in front of a table full of junk food as he prepares to announce a partnership to attack state-wide obesity on March 6, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.

Luke Blackall

Over the past few years, Jamie Oliver has reinvented himself from a TV chef with a cheeky persona to a transatlantic crusader, government critic and a man desperate to improve the way we all eat.

So it may come as a surprise that Oliver, scourge of the salty school dinner and tormentor of the turkey twizzler, is to open a hot dog joint. The Dog House & Diner on Shaftesbury Avenue in London will, according to reports, serve an "on-trend menu of hot dogs, burgers and ribs".

The adult market is, of course, different to the meals the country's children are served in schools. But if the move sounds like the sort of U-turn you would expect from a cold, cash-focused corporation, then you have to remember that Oliver is now big-business. Last year's Sunday Times Rich List declared his worth to be £150m, making him the world's richest chef.

This is also the man who described McDonalds' presence at the Olympics as "contradictory".

But his new venture could be perceived to be using his marketing and financial arsenal to take on similar small vendors, those who helped make fast food fashionable again.

Some wags on Twitter have suggested a better name for the venture would be "Bandwagon" as it comes trailing, belatedly, after London diners caught the bug for fashionable fast food.

Scott Collins from Meatailer, who have the Meat Liquor and Meat Market restaurants in the capital, says while the Dog House is the culinary equivalent of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, it is also unsettling for innovative businesses like his.

"For Jamie to serve 'on-trend' burgers, hot dogs and ribs is testament to the hard work and ethos independent traders brought to the London food scene," he tells The Independent. He added, however, "it is fairly insulting, to independent traders, that he is trying to get in on that market."

The market is, however, about to get even busier. US burger chains Five Guys (said to be a favourite of President Barack Obama) and Shake Shack are also planning to open flagship venues in the capital. And one can expect that if Dog House is a success, it will be rolled out across the country like Oliver's successful Jamie's Italian.

A spokesperson for Oliver said that the concept and the timing are "still in the process of being decided" and added: "Suffice it to say that the food will be some distance away from what most people would casually refer to as 'fast food'. The team are looking at higher welfare and sustainable ingredients as well as healthier options."

Independent News Service

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