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Jamie Oliver as a Lifestyle Expert, Celebrity Endorser and Cultural Intermediary

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Jamie Oliver has had a progressive career as a celebrity chef, which has allowed him to remain diverse and dynamic in each role he has encountered. This essay will critically discuss how Oliver has been able to be a lifestyle expert, celebrity endorser and cultural intermediary throughout his career, and assess the elements that has facilitated in the success in each role, as it adds further to the critical discussion of each role. The understanding the history of Oliver’s life as well as the history of cooking will aid in developing a critical discourse into the importance it plays in the roles of Jamie Oliver in his career. In order to understand this the definition of celebrity used will be “anyone who is familiar enough to the people a brand wishes to communicate with to add value to that communication by association with their image and reputation” (Pringle, 2004, p.14).

Jamie Oliver is a well know British celebrity chef. In 1999, the BBC aired his first show, The Naked chef, where the British audience grew fond of him and his distinctive viewpoint on culinary practice (Hollows, 2010). Oliver’s Parents owned a pub-restaurant in Essex, where he was introduced to the culinary industry, that before his teen years he knew the steps of basic food preparation and realized that cooking was his talent (Schreiber, 2019). Oliver then continued learning the art of culinary by furthering his understanding in both Westminster Catering College in London, in addition to gaining extra training in France (Schreiber, 2019). Throughout Oliver’s career, he has gained TV credits which has demonstrated his love for food as well as his evolution in understanding the importance of promoting healthy food and a sustainable cuisine (Schreiber, 2019).

The History of Cooking

When we think about gender, we automatically know the roles that both females and males have been subjected to, especially when it comes to the role cooking. In the 19th century, the concept of advice manuals became increasingly popular. Women were thought to be keepers of good taste and morality, especially as Langland (1995) argued that status had become progressively more entwined with taste and manners, hence why many women searched for advice from these Victorian advice manuals (Lewis, 2014, p.137). This was a result of men and women’s defined roles in the 19th century. The men would commute to work, whether it be in a factory, shop or office. Whereas, the women stayed at home to manage the domestic duties (Marsh, 2016). The two genders were thought of as ‘separate spheres’, because it the two genders were only together at breakfast and dinner (Hughes, 2014). However, In the 20th century, both genders began to seek and receive change in their roles. The advice culture began to shift its concentration from women being bearers of good taste, to introducing them to the concept of consumption for fun and spend on themselves rather than it being for just their family and home (Catterall, 2002, p.61). Post-war magazines began to advice men in the importance of shaping their identity through domestic hobbies by negotiating the roles in the feminized home, which empowered men to re-define masculinity by finding a place within the lifestyle, focused on consumer culture for the everyday male audience (Courtney, 2009). This became more evident in TV programs from the 1990’s and onwards, as there was a rise in tastemakers and shapers (Lewis, 2014). However, men who liked cooking were understood as taking part in a leisure activity rather than labor, and domestic cooking for women was understood as them caring for others (Hollows, 2003). Thus, in the culinary industry the males dominate the professional position, as cooking outside of the home was perceived as ‘manly’, because women raising their voice, giving orders and being assertive, was seen as unacceptable when it came to cooking (Hollows, 2003). Jamie Oliver is a great example of someone who challenged this ‘manly’ perception, as his enthusiasm for cooking in a restaurant, landed him his first TV show, ‘The Naked Chef’, with the BBC. He demonstrated the enjoyment of food and the simplicity in making it which was emphasized even more because he was a man, who did not just enjoy cooking in a restaurant but also at home.

Jamie Oliver as a Lifestyle Expert

Oliver began his TV career with his first TV show, ‘The Naked Chef’, in 1999, at 24 years old. His portrayal of food cooking food at home, allowed him to become a recognized lifestyle expert. Lewis (2010) described a lifestyle expert as a “figure whose knowledge is tied to the ordinary and everyday”. In other words, Jamie Oliver branded his lifestyle advice, because his cooking style was an embodiment of who he was, whether the camera was on or not, he would still be the same. Oliver was able to successfully brand his lifestyle as an expert because he was an achieved celebrity (Rojek, 2001, p.18). This meant that Oliver’s viewers recognized him as someone who had a rare talent and had been able to gain great accomplishments from this, as well as fame (Rojek, 2001, p.18). Viewers considered Oliver as a role model, because he used his personal life as an occupational resource which proved his legitimacy and expertise, in-front of the many that were watching him. This is significant because in the 20th century, citizens role in consumption grew, which meant that they wanted to know more, for example, women’s magazines encouraged the females to shop for themselves and to have fun whilst doing so, and the men’s magazines encouraged them to find pleasure in doing domestic hobbies. These were considered identity shapers for both genders, as rules in what each social class could consume, eased, so individuals had the opportunity to establish personal preferences as society changed (Lewis, 2014; Pennell, 1999).

Oliver on ‘The Naked Chef’, always put on dramatic performances for his home recipes, that any one at home could follow at home. Rojek (2001) asserted his belief that someone who was perceived as common, yet considered the best of a kind, with a theatrical personality and achieved position, they will be able to grab the attention of the audience. This is a similar element to Oliver, as the presentation of his culinary skills in contrast to his robust cockney accent negotiated Oliver’s celebrity status, which allowed the audience to see him as an ordinary person, which gave a rise to his popularity as well as status. Beck (1992) argued that the rise in individualism, was a result of contemporary social change and deregulation, which meant less restrictions from social classes. This is evident through Oliver’s self-presentation on the show. He was a professional chef that spoke in use of colloquialism, using words and phrases which wasn’t expected to be heard from a cooking program and he was always dressed like he was going to meet his friends (Lewis, 2014). However, his profession in cooking allowed Oliver to re-define the skills that were considered feminine, by making cooking appear entertaining and simple, and can be imitated in the kitchen. He achieved this by avoiding the display of an excessive bossy attitude to his audience and by avoiding the use of technical language, as the audience would need to feel like they relate to him, which strengthened his influence to both female and male audience (Piper, 2015). Featherstone (1987), reasoned that, no matter the age nor the class, there will always be room for self-improvement and expression (Warde, 1997, p.15). Oliver was able to present this concept on individualism to his viewers, by showing them that change in gender relations will only occur when you disconnect from traditional social norms and make choices yourself of the lifestyle you want to live without social approval.

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Jamie Oliver as a Celebrity Endorser

Star celebrities are perceived as role models by many, which becomes effective to multiple markets for advertising, as the audience admires and want to learn from these influential figures, who are considered to be the most effective when promoting personal products or services, and once a celebrity reaches this opportunity, they become a celebrity endorser (Pringle, 2004, p.218, 227). Following Oliver’s first successful series of ‘The Naked Chef’, Oliver became the face of Sainsbury’s, in 2000, making appearances on TV and radio advertisement and in-store promotions. Oliver was the living brand identity that Sainsbury’s had been looking for in a public figure, because of his devotion for cooking, but specifically the style he presented it in, as it imitated his young and energetic character (Pringle, 2004 p.220). Oliver was known for actively making the dishes while giving imperative instructions which were characterized by his use of sociolect. This meant that, he was viewed as a presenter of his own factual entertainment series on, ‘The Naked Chef’, because he branded the series, thus making it appealing to multitude of audience types, which would also pave a way for appearances in other textual consumptions (Thomas et al., 2014, p.48).

Oliver’s dramatic performances were most captivating through his use of storytelling techniques. This technique allowed his viewers to share emotional experiences with him and to make sense of their reality, which would have created positive association that cooking was enjoyable and could be performed by anyone, which is what Oliver wanted his viewers to know (Kent, 2015). This was a significant element for Sainsbury’s, as the public developed a perspective that Sainsbury’s was not approachable because their adverts portrayed them as a middle-class store, which limited their range of consumers visiting the stores (Robinson et al., 2014). This was a result of Sainsbury’s use of posh chefs (before they signed Jamie Oliver), such as Catherine Zeta-Jones. She featured in a Sainsbury’s advertisement in 1992, where she used technical language whilst giving step by step instructions, spoke in a posh manner, was dressed in formal wear, had a classical piece playing as background music, but advertisement showed more screen time of the preparation of the dish, than it did of Zeta-Jones in the process of it. This was a setback for Sainsbury’s, as it failed to focus on building a connection or relatability with potential consumers. Consequently, for any viewers, who were not posh, nor were considered as middle-class citizens, this advert would not be able to gain their interest because there was nothing relatable to them. Hence, Sainsbury’s endorsed Oliver because of his flamboyant personality, which was unexpected from a professional chef, yet allowed him to be viewed as a common man and relatable, which meant that his cockney accent, ‘laddish’ appearance and ordinary kitchen, were meanings that the audience associated with Oliver and gradually transferred to the brand (McCracken, 1989).

Jamie Oliver as a Cultural Intermediary

Pierre Bourdieu (1984) coined the term cultural intermediary and in his original concept he discussed primarily those in the developing middle class who were assisting in the flow of cultural ideas to many audiences (Bourdieu, 1984). Hence, Oliver is perceived by the public as a cultural intermediary because he gives information on culinary and lifestyle to his audience, which shapes the way the audience connect with the food media texts (Piper, 2015, p.248). During Oliver’s progression in his career, he established the importance of healthy food and commenced promotion of it. Oliver’s status gradually became even more connected to his campaigns on food issues and various other social matters, as it was to his culinary expertise, moreover, he offered his audience guides on how to live and what to consume, but also the motivation to believe in living differently, which can be considered as a form of cultural intermediaries (Lewis, 2014; Piper, 2015).

In 2005, Oliver founded the ‘Feed Me Better’ campaign, which aimed to educate the nation on the importance of healthy food selection in primary schools. This was introduced through his documentary series ‘Jamie’s School Dinners’, in 2005, where he was appalled by the poor state of school meals in the UK. His aim was to educate dinner ladies and to change children’s perspective on cooking and eating healthy food. Oliver’s appearance on the series was a drastic change, as he was seen embodying the concept of a professional chef as he wore the white coat, and chef hat, and an apron which increased his credibility amongst the dinner ladies and the pupils, when explaining information and skills that they did not possess beforehand (Gleich, 1997). Oliver was able to appeal to the masses as they watched him through their TV screens, which is one of the ways that para-social interaction occurs. Horton and Wohl (1956) examined that para-social interaction occur when a viewer interacting with those on the screen is similar to a real-life interaction, but the performer does not reciprocate this (Horton et al., 1956). Many of Oliver’s viewers saw that he possessed the same values and similarities to them, which strengthened the interaction they had with him as “the audience's activities are not limited to either cognitive or emotional reactions to the people on the screen, but also represent social processes” (Gleich, 1997). Due to his impact on many the ‘Feed Me Better’ campaign achieved over 270,000 signatures on the petitions for change, which meant that not only did he appeal to both the working class and middle class, but he was able to identify with the viewers that were parents (Telegraph, 2005). Although he is considered ordinary, he has a high social status and he proved to his viewers that he wanted to provide the best information to live a healthy life, by showing the nation how he was prepared to make this change in primary schools.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Oliver’s career has presented him with roles that were consistent with his personality and his culinary skills. Through this, he has been able to appeal to the masses, both the working class and middle class to follow him on his journey, which is understood through his experience and the history of cooking. His persona allowed other people to relate to him, due to his use of informal manner and his ‘laddish’, which he took advantage of, as he educated them on culinary skills while presenting food as something which is enjoyable and simple. Oliver successfully branded himself, as he would not have been referred to as a ‘new chef’ but rather Jamie Oliver, because of his unique style in cooking and presentation. He represented the ‘new man’ and the ‘new lad’ as he combined his ‘laddish’ masculinity with the ‘feminized’ beliefs of the ‘new man’, which proved to his viewers that cooking can be enjoyable for both men and women (Hollow, 2003).

Bibliography

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Jamie Oliver as a Lifestyle Expert, Celebrity Endorser and Cultural Intermediary. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/jamie-oliver-as-a-lifestyle-expert-celebrity-endorser-and-cultural-intermediary/
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