Jamie Oliver: Family & friends helped when banks said no

He may be the cheeky Essex-boy chef turned entrepreneur estimated to be worth a cool £65million, but Jamie Oliver has now told how even he has become a victim of the credit crunch last year.

The celebrity chef has revealed that the banks proved so unhelpful when he asked for a loan for his restaurant chain, called Jamie’s Italian, he was forced to borrow ‘a small amount of cash’ from family and friends.

Oliver, 34, said: ‘The banks are crap and, if you’re not keen on venture capitalists and taking it from people who don’t have cultural care, that means being really brave.’

‘That means putting everything on the line, which is what I’ve done.’

The star continued: ‘I’ve got less in my bank now than I had ten years ago.’

Oliver was forced to go cap-in-hand to help with funding for the Jamie’s Italian group’s twelfth establishment, which recently opened in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

Indeed, the star now has 5,000 people working across his various businesses, which also include his TV production company, Jamie At Home houseware range and the Recipease shops, which sell food and offer cookery lessons in London and Brighton.

He continued: ‘Whilst i’ve not got about 5,000 staff, over 4,000 have been employed in the last 18 months – that’s in the darkest, toughest financial time in the last 50 years’

‘To employ that quantity of people alone – let alone if the business requires warehousing or product or whatever it is that you need – you need cash.

‘I don’t have anywhere near enough cash to do, necessarily, the things I want to do.’

Oliver has bucked the trend by continuing to expand his business despite the catering industry – including rival celebrity chefs – being hit by the downturn.

Oliver is far from being the only celebrity chef in the financial soup as Gordon Ramsay’s company announced an 87 per cent fall in profit in July last year, forcing him to close a few of his prized eateries, and Antony Worrall Thompson’s AWT Restaurants was put into administration in February last year.

But Oliver explained: ‘I’ve tried to beat my way out of the recession by being positive when everyone’s closing up and stopping and culling and making redundancies.

‘I’ve just tried to say: “Come on, if we’re going to do it, it let’s do it”.

‘I think that’s the attitude and I’ve done a lot of growing up in the last two years because of it.

Oliver, who first rose to fame as the Naked Chef in the TV series 11 years ago is now even a star in the U.S. after his show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution proved a TV ratings-winner.

The star and his family – pregnant wife Jools and their three young children, Poppy Honey, eight, Daisy Boo, seven, and Petal Blossom Rainbow, one – split their time between a sprawling £7.5million home in Primrose Hill, North West London and a country house near Saffron Waldon, Essex.

He told the BBC: ‘Ultimately, genuinely, I’ve got everything I want. I don’t want a massive mansion in the country. I’ve got my farmhouse with a bit of land and that’s all I need.’