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Tuesday, 11 April, 2000, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Jamie Oliver's naked sounds
Jamie and friends
Oliver has found success in "real" situations
By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas

Jamie Oliver has been branded a "rock 'n' roll" cook because of his youth and no-frills culinary style - but it's a title he lives up to in more ways than one.

When not working on his hit BBC Two show The Naked Chef - a new series of which starts on Wednesday - Oliver puts his energy towards drumming for his band, Scarlet Division.


I really believe we are worth listening to - we've gone past the point of just being a load of crap

Jamie Oliver on Scarlet Division

Scarlet Division are not yet signed to a record label and their following is only small.

But the band are currently playing regularly in London, and speaking before a gig on Tuesday at the Borderline club, Oliver is excited by the group's prospects.

"We've got lots of important people coming and I really believe we are worth listening to - we've gone past the point of just being a load of crap," he says.

'Absolute chaos'

The 24-year-old has won a legion of fans for his laid-back approach to cooking, and he is equally unstressed about his band, describing its sound as "somewhere between Texas, the Pretenders and modern techno".

Nonetheless, Scarlet Division have been part of his life since he was 13, when he and his four friends first got together.

Jamie Oliver and mega fry-up
Is Oliver's the best fry-up in the world?
Work and travel permitting, they have been writing songs and gigging on and off around London since those early days. It is only recently, however, that things have started to pick up.

"It's been absolute chaos," says Oliver.

"We've been playing every other week and the audiences are getting bigger and bigger - NME even gave us a pretty favourable write-up."

He denies that the crowds are coming mainly to see him. "My name has never been mentioned on any promotion for the band. I just get on with drumming in the background."

Oliver's obscurity would no doubt be threatened if Scarlet Division were to clinch a demanding record deal - as could his career as the Naked Chef.

"If it happens and the deal is good, then I would have to think carefully about what to do," he concedes.


Little gems of things, quite literally just happen naturally in a day of filming. And that to me is what the series is all about. It's massively spontaneous

Jamie Oliver

"It could mean putting the cooking to one side for a while. But at the moment I am far too busy to worry about record deals - and I could never give up cooking for good."

Oliver's enthusiasm for his art is on full show this week in the second Naked Chef series.

'Massively spontaneous'

It follows the huge success of the first series and substantial sales of the accompanying recipe book - 350,000 copies in the UK alone.

Oliver - who was "spotted", aged 21, in the kitchen of London's fashionable River Cafe - claims he has only one recipe for success: simplicity, mixed with just being himself.

"The Naked Chef is fun, easy, chilled out and real. People can see me doing the sort of things they would do - knocking up food for family and friends.

Jamie Oliver in kitchen
Oliver has made a craft of "no frills" cuisine

"Little gems of things, quite literally just happen naturally in a day of filming. And that to me is what the series is all about. It's massively spontaneous."

Among the scenarios Oliver finds himself in the new series is cooking a post-clubbing fry-up at a mate's flat. Another occasion takes him on a trip to a greyhound stadium loaded with doggy bags.

While an excursion to the seaside with his young cousins almost ends in a tantrum from Oliver.

"It was an absolute nightmare," Oliver groans. "One is 12 and the other is six and they had their friends with them.

"They absolutely harassed me to the point of near tears. By the end of the day, I felt as if I'd been beaten up in a rugby match."

More nerve-racking perhaps is the meal Oliver serves to his prospective in-laws, when they and his parents get together to discuss wedding plans for Oliver and fiancee Juliette - "Jules" - Norton.

Jamie Oliver and Jules Norton
Oliver and his fiancee Jules will marry in June

The couple met seven years ago and are due to marry in June in Oliver's home village of Clavering in Essex.

The guest-list will have a healthy helping of celebrity guests, but Oliver is promising to keep it low-key.

All the guests will be piling back to his parents' pub after the ceremony - for a meal prepared by the groom.

"I haven't written the menu yet," Oliver muses. "But it will be extremely seasonal - something nice and fresh and gorgeous."

The Naked Chef is at 2030 BST on Wednesdays on BBC Two.

See also:

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