break it down: jamie oliver

all photos courtesy Jamie Oliver

I just watched Jamie’s 2010 TEDPrize talk. Whatever your take on Mr. Oliver and his cooking, the man is plying his fame to tackle a critical problem. Even better, he’s proposing a simple, grassroots plan to stem the greasy tide of fast food and rampant obesity. Cheers to that.

Creative outsider, he’s not. But back in the late ’90s, Jamie was just a cocky Essexer working in London’s River Café. The charming, scruffy-haired lad who could talk almost as fast as he could chop intrigued BBC crews filming a documentary on the trendy dining spot. The TV segment aired and Jamie’s phone started ringing. Next came his own television series, The Naked Chef, and a growing audience dominated by women with a sudden interest in Pasta Puttanesca.

From that first series, Jamie built his name into a global brand expressed through television, best-selling cookbooks, an eponymous magazine, cookware and kitchen products, restaurants, and now a U.K. multi-level marketing program (think Tupperware). I realize that few creatives want to ply their wares in the style of sex toy and candle parties, but we can still rip a page from Jamie’s playbook. Let’s break it down:

The position

Jamie can cook and simultaneously charm the camera. That’s his thing. Flustered in the kitchen? Grab a stool and crack open a beer. He’ll show you how to grill up some fish with one eye on the football match. Simple. Easy.

The math

Choice and content

From a position of choice and expert status, Jamie had the leverage he needed to address issues close to his heart: The Fifteen restaurants built to train under-privileged young chefs, unhealthy school lunches and now, the bloated business of Big Food.

In 2004, sharing and creating content outpaced straight communication (i.e. email) as the top online activity. It was a huge cultural shift and technological shift. Jamie built his career by translating two basic talents into compelling content. That content built an audience, which in turn, enabled him to create more content, grow his profile, and leverage that profile to build his earnings, attract new opportunities and ultimately, control his own fate. That’s how the cheeky chef from Clavering has found himself onstage at TED. And isn’t independence — mixed with straight-up passion –– really the Holy Grail?

When creative skill is expressed through the right content (appropriate medium, format, distribution, tone), it builds an audience for the core work. We can’t all talk cricket and chop onions without severing a finger or two. But, every creative pro can develop engaging content. Take the best of who you are and what you do, match it with a fitting medium and create content that leads you to choice.

posted 9 Mar 10 in: business, food, media. This post currently has no responses.

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