October 02, 2000 12:00 PM

by James Oliver

England has become obsessed with fine cuisine—and the special of the day is 25-year-old TV cook Jamie Oliver, star of the BBC’s The Naked Chef, which premieres next month on the Food Network. Oliver looks like Mick Jagger but keeps his apron on; it’s the chow that’s “naked,” meaning simple, fresh ingredients unadorned with complex sauces. In other words, mostly Italian food. Although Oliver spent his youth working in his family’s pub, don’t look for shepherd’s pie in his colorful cookbook. On the other hand, devotees of Italian cooking won’t learn much from this whippersnapper either. “As far as dried pasta goes, what can I say?” he writes. Not a lot, it seems.

Oliver’s natural charm shines even brighter than the glossy pictures, and recipes for dishes like pappardelle with mixed wild mushrooms are clearly written but more difficult than he suggests. (Making your own pasta is not “quicker than walking down to the supermarket.”) He’s no culinary prodigy, but Oliver rates a polite tip of the toque. (Hyperion, $34.95)

Bottom Line: Bare-bones interest

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