Famous dyslexic Jamie Oliver
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Famous Dyslexics: Jamie Oliver (chef, campaigner)

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Jamie Oliver (MBE) is a celebrity chef, with dozens of restaurants across the world. He’s sold millions of cookbooks, and he’s the face of numerous campaigns for healthy eating and better education.

Not bad for someone who left school with just two GCSEs, eh?

Jamie found secondary school a “rough time”. He was caught between a rock and a hard place: identified as “special needs”, but not given real support, because his dyslexia “wasn’t the most severe case”.

He has “always struggled with writing” and his reading ability comes and goes: “sometimes I have really good days at reading, sometimes I read like a five year old,” he says.

However, after leaving school, Jamie was able to concentrate on what he was good at: cookery. A chance appearance in a restaurant documentary put him on the nation’s TV screens, and the rest is history.

Words of wisdom

What does Jamie have to say to his fellow dyslexics?

It’s the ideas that matter

Jamie hasn’t let his problems with reading and writing stop him from becoming a best-selling author of cookbooks. He emphasises that it’s the ideas in books that really matter, and there’s no shame in asking for help:

“I’ve never had a problem with imagination, but when I write my cookbooks, I have my editor take down what I say. He’s really good at spelling and all that. I think it’s fine to tell kids you don’t need to be good at everything.”

Step outside your comfort zone

Jamie is known for his campaigning and work with children

Jamie, like many dyslexic people, finds some aspects of his work force him out of his comfort zone. But that’s no bad thing…

“I’d tell my younger self, when you’re really uncomfortable, that’s often when you do your best work. Humans never surprise themselves when they’re comfortable.”

Find dyslexic heroes

Jamie has sought inspiration from other dyslexic people in the public eye:

“The people who I admire and love, who get me going, Richard Branson, Paul Smith, they’re all dyslexic.”

It’s never too late to learn to love reading

When Jamie read his first full novel (Suzanne Collins’ sequel to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire) at the age of 38, he proved that defeating dyslexia is a lifelong effort – but one that can open you up to new experiences:

“I’m dyslexic and until recently I’d never got through a book. But I read Catching Fire. I loved disappearing into a story.”

Live long and prosper

“Being dyslexic or having special needs is not a reason for you to not prosper – it’s just that you’re not gonna be good at the predictable things. But every single one of us needs to feel like we’re good at something.”

The sky’s the limit

“I’ve never really had much time for cynical people. I’ve never really been inspired by doubters. I do think the sky’s the limit, and you can create and do anything.”

Further reading

JamieOliver.com | Biography

Telegraph | Jamie Oliver, the naked chef, opens up about family life

Big Issue | Jamie Oliver: “I’m much calmer than the original me”

London Evening Standard | School ‘labelled me as special needs’, says chef Jamie Oliver who suffers from dyslexia

London Evening Standard | Dyslexic Jamie Oliver reads his first book

YouTube | Jamie Oliver radio interview with Celebrity Radio

Follow Holly Swinton:
Holly is a mum, a teacher, an author, a public speaker – and a proud dyslexic. She is the author of Defeat Dyslexia!: The Parents' Guide to Understanding Your Child's Dyslexia.

2 Responses

  1. […] took TV chef Jamie Oliver till the age of 38 to discover a love of reading – but parents can help their dyslexic child learn to love reading […]

  2. […] Even if they do misspell their signature dish. (Anyhoo, all the best chefs are dyslxecsic.) […]

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