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Last Updated: Friday, 13 February, 2004, 11:00 GMT
Naked Chef takes on haute cuisine
Jamie Oliver
Oliver: "Public seem to like me"
Jamie Oliver is fast becoming flavour of the month among French foodies - but the "pukka" chef's no-frills style is leaving some Gallic gourmets simmering.

Oliver, honoured with an MBE by the Queen in October, is in Paris promoting his latest book, Rock 'n' Roll Cuisine. His series, The Naked Chef, is now the most popular cookery show on French TV.

But not everyone across the Channel is shouting: "Lovely jubbly!" and some say this "rosbif" Anglo-Saxon invasion is an audacious affront to French cuisine.

One of the country's most influential food critics, Francois Simon, of Le Figaro newspaper, told BBC News: "In France we are quite upset to see this English boy in our kitchen, 'What he is doing there? Not to cook - that's our job'.

"The French people, who are so lovely, arrogant people that we could not imagine other people could cook."

Oliver acknowledges the culinary conflict he is causing.

It could be quite fun to see what he does in his kitchen, and show him what I do in mine
L'Arpege chef Alain Passard

He told BBC News: "Some of the journos and chefs have been a bit upset that it's an English boy coming in doing some stuff."

But he added: "I can handle it.

"The public seem to like me because it's easy, simple and tasty, and looks nice."

But not everyone in the French food industry is sharpening their steak knives ready to defend their traditional territory from the humble Englishman's down-to-earth style.

Alain Passard, chef at L'Arpege, one of Paris' best restaurants, boasts three Michelin stars - the highest accolade in haute cuisine.

He told BBC News: "In France and in England, we all need advice on how easy and fast it is to prepare a meal, so why not have some advice from a young man like him, full of talent and innovation?

Always a nice chunk of an interview was explaining why the English are so bad and making fun of it - and you know what, for the past year and a half it's stopped
Jamie Oliver

"I would like to share a meal with him and talk - it could be quite fun to see what he does in his kitchen, and show him what I do in mine."

So could this be the beginning of a beautiful relationship?

Has Oliver found the recipe for a new gastronomic harmony between Britain and France?

Can the Naked Chef teach the French a thing or two about the art of cooking? Or will they tell him to put his clothes back on and go teach their "grandmeres" to souffle eggs?

At his live cookery demonstrations, Oliver tries to win the hearts and minds of tough Paris audiences by telling them: "Feel free to ask any questions. Don't be polite. The English aren't."

Respect

He was building new respect for British cuisine after years of disparaging comments, he told BBC News.

"Always a nice chunk of an interview was explaining why the English are so bad and making fun of it - and you know what, for the past year and a half it's stopped.

"England has come a long way.

"We've got wonderful produce, we've got some of the best farmers in the world and I'm proud of them and I'm proud of the food I cook.

"When you're proud of the things and you mean it and you're not being patronising, it's contagious."

Lovely jubbly!


SEE ALSO:
TV chef Oliver's '12m film' plan
24 Nov 03  |  Entertainment
TV chef collects MBE
29 Oct 03  |  London
Oliver's pukka life as chef
13 Jun 03  |  Entertainment


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