Here's how it started
"Fifteen represents the way I would have loved to have been taught myself; it embraces many of the things I love and feel passionate about, not only in the catering industry but also in friendship and family life." Jamie Oliver
In the early 90s, Jamie was struck by the idea of cooking as a potential career path for young unemployed people - specifically those who had fallen out of mainstream education and were in need of a fresh new start in life. And from there, the concept of Fifteen began to take shape. Jamie was particularly excited by the social enterprise model whereby a business is driven primarily by social ambition rather than financial gain. His vision, which took almost 10 years to bring to fruition, was to use the magic of food to give unemployed young people a chance to have a better future.
On completion of his third book, Jamie decided that it was time to give something back. His idea was simple: to establish a reputable London-based restaurant that offered young, unemployed people the experience of learning to work in the restaurant business. In late 2002, he opened Jamie Oliver's Fifteen in London, and recruited 15 young apprentices to train alongside a team of 25 professional chefs and mentors. He also set up a charity that would receive all the funds from the restaurant, in order to fund the programme.
The concept received enormous exposure through the successful seven-part television programme ‘Jamie’s Kitchen’, broadcast on Channel 4, which highlighted the highs and lows of launching Fifteen. The programme – which aired just as the restaurant opened - made Fifteen one of the most talked about restaurants in London. Millions of people all over the world watched the series, making it one of the biggest shows of 2002 with average weekly audiences of well over 5 million people. In 2003, Jamie was awarded the MBE, as part of the Queen's Birthday Honours, in recognition of his role in establishing Fifteen and his work with young people.
Following the success of the flagship restaurant, two other restaurants followed in Amsterdam (December 2004) and Cornwall (May 2006), both of which have their own localised charities that receive profits from the restaurants.
Now coming up to its 15th year, the Fifteen Apprentice Programme will be coming to an end with a view of creating a national apprenticeship instead. In the words of Jamie: "We’re going to take all the amazing insight we’ve gathered over the years and work to give more young people the opportunity to be part of this wonderful industry. When I opened Fifteen back in 2002 it was my very first restaurant. Now, I've got restaurants in towns and cities all over the UK, so it feels like the time is right to expand the Apprentice Programme out into the regions and across the whole country. Plans are already underway and my dream is that we’ll soon have at least one apprentice in every one of my restaurants in the UK, each of them learning from the core values and passion established at Fifteen."