As many of you know, I consider myself a huge fan of Jamie Oliver. I’ve written about his recipes, television shows, and cookbooks multiple times. I have enjoyed his recent focus on seasonal cooking, and I admire the positive work he has done with school lunches in England and his chain of restaurants called Fifteen. I’ve even become an official fan of his on Facebook. If that doesn’t prove my devotion to this man, I don’t know what else I can do.
My husband Jim is fully aware of my Jamie Oliver love and is not intimidated by it at all. In fact, while walking through the Heathrow airport on his way home from our trip to Prague, he noticed my favorite chef’s face on the inaugural cover of Jamie Magazine. He picked it up, brought it home, and promptly bought me a subscription for Christmas. Now every two months I get an up-to-date dose of Jamie Oliver, delivered straight to my door from the U.K. Unfortunately the magazine isn’t available on newsstands in the U.S.
As I eagerly flipped through the pages of the launch issue, I encountered many of my favorite Jamie Oliver trademarks. The photography is just as beautiful as in his cookbooks, and the magazine is printed on a gorgeous uncoated paper stock. Oliver’s words are predictably light and goofy, and the design is clean and quirky. As expected, Jamie Magazine is a visual delight.
The content is varied and should interest all types of food lovers. Travel pieces, such as a lovingly photographed piece on Stockholm, alternate with more recipe-based articles. Also included are shorter columns on wine, cookbooks, and harmless celebrity Q&As. (Brad Pitt and Ricky Gervais have appeared so far.) I have always loved Oliver’s recipes, so I tend to pay the most attention to these sections of the magazine. In the first issue, I appreciated the simple tutorial on omelets. The second issue, which I received last week, includes many budget-friendly recipes, as seen in features about one-pot Greek dinners and cheaper cuts of pork. The only problem for me is that the ingredients are listed in grams—I might finally need to buy a scale so that I can make these recipes at home. I also enjoy the special pull-out poster illustrating meal ideas for next two months.
However, amidst my love for the magazine’s design and recipes, I do have one complaint about the content: the blatant, overwhelming amount of product placement. I guess it wasn’t enough to package the first issue of Jamie Magazine with a smaller catalogue for the Jme Collection, Oliver’s line of house wares. That article about aioli and beautiful wood serving pieces? It also functions as a plug for the chef’s line of all-natural boards and platters. The recipe for orrechiette with lamb ragu? Paired with an article about the designers for the Jme Collection, it’s yet another vehicle for endorsing the product line. And on and on it goes, every few pages containing a short article that also encourages the reader to invest in Oliver’s herbs, sauces, and house wares. I’m happy to say that the product placement in the second issue has been toned down a bit, but there’s no escaping some of the promotional propaganda. I doubt that a feature article on chef Adam Perry Lang, who is about to open a chain of barbecue restaurants with Oliver, would have been included otherwise.
Perhaps I should take a look at other celebrity-driven magazines, such as O, The Oprah Magazine, and Every Day with Rachel Ray, just to see how they compare in terms of self-promotion. I understand that Jamie Magazine is driven by Jamie Oliver and is meant to capitalize on his name and personality, as well as to sell his brand. But as I turn the pages and see all of his products it tries to sell, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I will stick with my favorite chef and watch the magazine evolve over the next few months. I hope to see more great recipes and articles, and less product placement. Because that’s what true fans want from Jamie Oliver.