Jamie Oliver has said men “hated” him and would be abusive in the early years of his career, because he made women realise that their male partners should cook for them too.
The TV chef and restaurateur, who rose to fame with his first TV series The Naked Chef in 1999, said “women around Britain made me succeed”.
Speaking of the impact his show had, Oliver said: “I didn’t realise it was political at the time, but 20 years ago women, en masse, were going to work…
“Women and men, husbands, boyfriends were coming home from work, they’d sit down at six o’clock and go ‘Ahh, f****** tired’, and men across Britain would look at their wives and go ‘What’s for dinner?’
“And they weren’t having it. And rightfully so. They had both done a 12-hour day, their feet both hurt, they’re both contributing to the rent – so I didn’t know it because I was too young and stupid, and I was just enjoying life way too much – but women around Britain made me succeed.”
Oliver said that when The Naked Chef was on TV, he looked “about one-year-old – almost like a foetus”, which then inspired women to tell their partners to cook more.
He said: “So, for the girls around the country, old and young, when their husbands said ‘What’s for dinner?’, they said ‘See that boy? He’s 23 years old. If he could cook for his missus, and all his friends, look what he’s cooking, it’s simple, look he’s getting his hand in there’, and they went ‘Go on’.
Oliver continued: “And then that’s why, if you look back in the papers and study it, men hated me for two years, and I got chased and punched a few times, I had loads of abuse. Men f****** hated me.
“If I did a demonstration in front of two and a half thousand people, and I used to do it four times a day, for a week, so 40,000 people … It was all women and gay men.
“Men are very simple, they need a hug and they need food; that’s really all they need in life, right?”
The TV star added: “When men stopped thinking of me as the competition, as a threat, when they realised if I cooked for my wife, for my girlfriend, she loves me a little bit more, then in turn – after about two and a half years – men would stop wanting to punch me.
“I would do a demonstration in front of two and a half thousand people and, over the years, now it’s 50/50.”
Oliver, who returns to screens next week with his new series Jamie Cooks Italy along with long-time friend and mentor Italian chef Gennaro Contaldo, said the “Italian kitchen saved me a little bit”.
One of his first jobs was at Antonio Carluccio’s Neal Street restaurant, and Oliver said it helped him “because it wasn’t about chefs and trade or craft”.
He added: “I think, really, it’s the women.”
Jamie Cooks Italy starts on Channel 4 on Monday August 13.