Richard Phibbs
November 13, 2014 08:00 PM

He has big brown eyes, a seductive smile and knows how to keep things hot in the kitchen.

But Manish Dayal didn’t believe it when he was picked as PEOPLE’s Sexy Man of the Week.

“I thought there had to be a mistake,” the Hundred-Foot Journey star, 31, tells PEOPLE. “I was completely shocked.”

Dayal grew up spending all of his time at Blockbuster but never knew he was going to be an actor. Instead, he thought he would be a director and producer and studied business in college.

When the South Carolina native first tried acting, “I had no idea what I was doing, but it just clicked,” he says.

After a stint on TV’s 90210, he played the lead role as a chef in this summer’s culinary romance The Hundred-Foot Journey.

“I did feel quite sexy in the kitchen playing a chef,” he says. “And I still feel sexy cooking at home.”

He’s messy in the kitchen and admits “that can be kind of sexy too.”

That role, and his accent, even caught the attention of his costar Helen Mirren, who said, “You’re so sexy when you talk Southern” at a press conference for the movie in London.

The savvy actor has come a long way since being the awkward kid in high school.

“I still feel the same as I did when I was a kid,” he says, which is why, when asked what hashtag, best describes him, he joked, “#Impulsive.”

Look out for PEOPLE’s annual Sexiest Man Alive issue, coming to newsstands Nov. 21

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