Celebrity chef Oliver says European migrants beat Brits at work

Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:22am EDT
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By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

LONDON (Reuters) - Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, already under fire for criticizing the diet of Britain's poor, has said all his restaurants would close immediately if it were not for European immigrants who make far better workers than "wet behind the ears" Britons.

The gabby 38-year old, who inspired home cooks across Britain with his "pukka tukka" or nutritious food recipes, said European workers were tougher and stronger than their British contemporaries and willing to work longer hours in hot kitchens.

In an interview with Good Housekeeping magazine, the television chef whose cheeky working class personality has driven up his TV viewing figures and recipe book sales, criticized Britons for complaining about work hours restricted to 48 hours under European Union regulations.

"And they still whinge about it. British kids particularly, I have never seen anything so wet behind the ears. I have mummies phoning up for 23-year-olds saying to me, 'My son is too tired.' On a 48-hour-week! Are you having a laugh?," he said.

"I think our European immigrant friends are much stronger, much tougher. If we didn't have any, all of my restaurants would close tomorrow. There wouldn't be any Brits to replace them."

Immigration is a major issue ahead of Britain's 2015 election - this month the opposition Labour party toned down its criticism of retailers Tesco and Next after initially planning to accuse them of favoring cheaper workers from Eastern Europe over British employees.

Next said it hired Polish nationals at busy times but said it did so because it could not find enough Britons to fill vacancies and it was not doing anything unethical or illegal.

"It's all very well when people are slagging off (criticizing) immigration and I'm sure there are problems," Oliver said.   Continued...

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver (C) carries out food for a G20 leaders dinner at Downing Street in London April 1, 2009. REUTERS/Christopher Furlong/Pool