Benjamin Li
Mar 5, 2014

Jamie Oliver butchers Cantonese in tongue-and-cheek YouTube promotion

HONG KONG – Mischievous British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver plans to open his new Jamie’s Italian restaurant in Hong Kong this July. To promote the location, he uploaded a YouTube video to contrast his poor grasp of Cantonese with his real skills in the kitchen.

The video (above) appeared on 3 March and has already topped 33,000 pageviews. To promote the Hong Kong location, Oliver makes a humorous attempt at speaking Cantonese, telling fans, “I am very excited to open a cool Italian restaurant in Causeway Bay this summer”. Though his pronunciation of Causeway Bay (銅鑼灣), the part of town where the eatery will open, seems too tricky for him as he tries it four times.

“His creative team must have considered using a local TV channel to do an interview,” Ken Cheung, associate director of Media Palette Hong Kong told Campaign Asia-Pacific. But in that case the station “may have only covered his logo in the background, and it may involve some marketing charges, and not everyone could watch it”.

Posting on YouTube, Cheung continued, frees him from such restrictions, allows Oliver to control his key messages, widens the potential social-media audience and lets him have some fun—even to the point of including some naughty words. "And as he speaks Cantonese instead of Putonghua, that gains extra credit with Hong Kong people,” Cheung added.

The Big Cat Group will be in charge of running Oliver's new restaurant, which is to open in the Midtown Mall this July. The 200-seat branch claims to have an organic and healthy menu as well as an open kitchen.

According to Oliver’s own site, his Italian restaurant chain has international outposts in Australia, Russia, Sweden, Singapore, Ireland and Turkey.

“Jamie Oliver is a TV host himself, so his opening a restaurant in Hong Kong is already a talking point," Cheung said.

But as far as the talking goes, perhaps Oliver should stick to the international language of food, and leave the Cantonese to the locals.


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