Jamie Oliver, the star of Britain’s highest-rated cooking show, The Naked Chef, is looking over his breakfast tray. He has just arrived Stateside for his show’s U.S. debut on the Food Network November 4, and he’s prepping for an 8 a.m. studio appearance with all the Hudson Hotel has to offer: a crusty prune danish. “I’d prefer to eat my own feet, to be honest,” says the dismayed Oliver. “But I’ve done worse things, mate. Last week, in Japan, I was eating cod semen!”
Oliver, 25, is not, in fact, naked (the epithet, also bannered across his just-published cookbook, is a reference only to his stripped- down ingredients). Instead, he’s dressed like the rock-star-size sensation he is in England: Adidas trainers, a T-shirt reading let’s dance, and a caramel leather jacket with crisscross stitching. “It’s my scooter jacket,” says Oliver, who rides a retro Aprilia Habana Custom scooter to the grocery store in many of his episodes, rain or shine.
Instead of the chef’s whites he once sported as a sous-chef at London’s River Cafe, in just a few hours he’ll be wearing this same scrappy getup – a typical cooking costume – as he flips American-style blueberry pancakes for his taped-in-America Christmas special.
In just two years on the airwaves, Oliver has become a one-man culinary cottage industry: adviser to Sainsbury’s grocery chain, executive chef at Monte’s in Knightsbridge, columnist for both British GQ and the Sunday Times. (“Did we get the Letterman show in?” he asks his publicist. “Not that I know who that is, but I know it’s important.”) Oliver’s laddish charm plays well on the small screen, where he might cry “Easy peasy!” while banging a coconut with a rolling pin.
He’s even managed to live up to his rock-and-roll persona by drumming for an actual band, Scarlet Division, “a cross between the Pretenders and Garbage” that is about to release its first CD. His posse of mates like Fatboy Slim and the Prodigy just adds to his MTV allure. But it turns out that screaming teens aren’t the only ones with crushes on the Naked Chef. “When I was in Sheffield, I got mobbed by a bunch of OAPs – old-aged pinchers,” he says, rolling his eyes. “They were all touching my ass!”