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Swiss get a taste of "Naked Chef's" pukka grub

Lovely jubbly: Jamie Oliver is said to be worth over £25 million (SFr59.6 million)

Jamie Oliver, the celebrity British television chef with a social conscience, is expanding his business empire to Switzerland.

This content was published on April 4, 2007 - 10:42

The 32-year-old Essex lad, who has become one of the most famous chefs in the world, has teamed up with a leading supermarket chain to sell "kitchen kit and cupboard stuff" to the Swiss.

Jamie Oliver seems to be the current golden boy of culinary television.

His TV cooking programmes have become cult viewing in 51 countries and his seven recipe books are bestsellers - some 14 million copies have been sold worldwide, translated into 26 languages.

He also runs four restaurants, advises the British government on school dinners, and now sells his own-label food and kitchen equipment.

"Well I've actually calmed down from a few years ago so I can spend more time with the family," he told swissinfo. "I just do what I do and people like it. It's amazing when I think about all the places where the books are bought and people watch the shows on TV."

Coup for Coop

Switzerland is a fledgling market for the Jamie Oliver global brand. His TV programmes and books are growing in popularity, mostly in the German-speaking part of the country.

"Most of his books are best-sellers," said Denise Stadler, category manager for Coop supermarkets. "But we are trying to raise his profile."

For Coop, which has started selling the Jamie Oliver food and kitchen kit range at its larger supermarkets and department stores, the celebrity chef is a major marketing coup.

"His values perfectly match ours: inspiration, creativity, fun, authenticity, freshness and openness," added Stadler.

Oliver had his own take on his public appeal.

"I think people know that I'm passionate about what I do and that I won't give them any crap," he explained.

"Right at the beginning with [my programme] the Naked Chef it was all about getting people to think about food a bit more. It's the same now, even though it's moved on a bit to bring in school food and growing your own fruit and veg."

Matti Weinberg, director of the MGM Group, the Swiss licence holder for Jamie Oliver products, said despite his "difficulties with his rather crude style of cooking" it was clear what made Jamie Oliver stand out.

"He was unconventional, unique, communicative and enthusiastic," he pointed out.

Man on a mission

Oliver's confidence, boyish banter and sprinkling of good luck got him noticed by a TV producer when he was working at the River Café restaurant in London at the start of his career.

The result was "The Naked Chef" cooking programme in 1998, which brought Oliver worldwide fame. More television programmes and book deals have since followed.

In 2002 he also set up a foundation to train young people in catering, taking wayward young kids off the streets and turning them into passionate, motivated chefs.

And his award winning "Jamie's School Dinners" project in 2005 convinced the British government to grant an extra £280 million for school meals.

For Stadler, Oliver's school dinners campaign is not really an issue for Switzerland.

"Food quality and awareness of food in Switzerland, also in schools, is much higher than in Britain," she said.

Oliver, who refers to Switzerland as "a brilliant country" that he has visited for skiing, hopes to inspire the Swiss to "tweak" their cooking "with a few more herbs".

His own-label range of 50 different products – "not the cheapest, we've gone for quality across the board" - includes extra virgin olive oil, rosemary and caper rub and a pasta machine.

But no fondue set?

"I do love fondues, so maybe it's something for the future!"

swissinfo, Simon Bradley

In brief

Jamie Oliver started cooking at his parents' pub, the Cricketers, in Clavering, Essex, at the age of eight, and has since worked with some of the world's top chefs.

He now runs four restaurants, in London, Cornwall, Amsterdam and Melbourne. The London restaurant was the subject of a television series "Jamie's Kitchen".

The programme covered the launch of the Fifteen foundation in 2002 and its first restaurant. The foundation provides training and mentoring for disadvantaged young people.

In 2005 he began an ongoing campaign to improve the quality of school dinners in Britain. Through the "Jamie's School Dinners" TV series and "Jamie's Dinners", the Feed Me Better movement has resulted in substantial government policy change.

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Jamie Oliver's business

Sweet As Candy, the firm owned by Oliver and his wife Jools, earned £5.9 million (SFr14 million) in pre-tax profits from TV royalties, book sales and advertising fees in 2005.

In June 2003, Oliver was appointed an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

From 2000 Jamie Oliver became the public face of the Sainsbury's supermarket chain in Britain, appearing on television and radio advertisements and in-store promotional material.

The deal earned him an estimated £1.2 million per year. In the first two years it is claimed the publicity earned Sainsbury's an extra £1 billion in sales or £200 million in gross profit.

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