'I wasn't supposed to be working.' 26 years ago, Jamie Oliver was accidentally discovered by a film crew.

Jamie Oliver was 23 when he got a phone call that kick-started his career.

Speaking on MasterChef Australia on Monday night, the celebrity chef, who has a decades-long career and dozens of TV series and books to his name, recalled the moment he was accidentally discovered by a BBC film crew on a Saturday night in 1997. 

That night, the BBC were filming a Christmas special at London’s The River Cafe, while Oliver was supposed to be spending time with his now-wife, Juliette Norton.

"I was 23 years old at The River Cafe, that day. But I wasn't supposed to be working. I was off," Oliver told this year's contestants. 

"Me and the missus had a night off together. A little bit of romance."

However, Oliver had to put his plans on hold when the restaurant called and asked him to work. 

"They said, 'We're one man down. We need you to help.' And she's like, 'Don't go. We haven't had any time together for ages.' And I'm like, 'I've gotta go and be part of the team'."

"So, I went in, [and there was a] TV crew everywhere... That was the moment." 

Once there, Oliver prepared a pasta dish known as rotolo - a dish he says "changed his life".

"Without that moment, I'd never be here. My journey, would never have been the journey," he told the contestants. 

"That kid is not the man I am now, I've failed right? I've failed and learned and failed and learned. And every one of you have got this incredible opportunity to do that version for yourselves."


After hearing his story, contestants began tearing up when they were told they'd be cooking Oliver's dish alongside him. 

"This is my dish, and I want you to be part of it. You're doing your version of the same right now," said Oliver, before pointing out one contestant named Grace had "tears in your eyes!"

"Bless you," he said, before another contestant admitted she too was getting emotional.

"Don't start, you'll get me going," he replied. 

"Look, it's really emotional, because food can change people's lives. Like, if I didn't turn up and cook that dish, what if?"


It's not the first time the 47-year-old has spoken about how he was accidentally discovered. 

Speaking to The Dinner Party Download podcast in 2015, Oliver recalled the camera crew were "kind of stalking" him in the kitchen that night and kept asking him questions while he was cooking. 

"They just kept asking me, 'What you doing? How you doing it? What is it?'," he told the podcast. 

"To be honest, they were in my way. So I was kind of pushing them out of the way and getting on with it, answering their questions. But of course, I loved it."

"I ended up sort of laced throughout the show. And then the rest was kind of history! Loads of phone calls. The BBC was kind of courting me - I was only a young boy."

After appearing in the Christmas special, Oliver went on to appear in his own BBC series The Naked Chef and become a much-loved figure on our screens. 

Several other cooking shows followed, including Jamie’s Kitchen, Jamie's Quick and Easy Food, and Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals. 


Outside of his television career, Oliver went on to release over 20 books in 36 languages worldwide, of which he has sold more than 40 million copies of.

At the peak of his franchise career, he had 42 restaurants in the UK, as well as premises in the UAE, Australia and Canada.

MasterChef continues on Wednesday night at 7.30pm on Channel Ten. 

Feature Image: Tristar Media/Getty/Channel 10/Mamamia.

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