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Jamie Oliver: Oliver's Twist

Sony Music // Unrated // October 14, 2003
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Phillip Duncan | posted September 9, 2003 | E-mail the Author
Jamie Oliver, or the Naked Chef (not that kind of naked-get your mind out of the gutter) is the latest import from the country that gave us both the Beatles and Ozzy. As America revels in the super-sizing of out meals, FoodTV and flashy chefs have become all the rage. All you need is a quirky attitude, a good personality, and a catch—in that order and Oliver has all three with his British flair, "hangin' with the boys" shtick and pared down (naked) form of cooking.

When compared to some of the competition, Oliver has something that sets him apart from most of his competition. Perhaps it is his attitude or the British charm, but his show is an entertaining, if not entirely truthful, creation to watch.

The show presented here is the third variation on his show (the first was The Naked Chef, followed by Pukka Tukka), of which all involve him cooking for friends / acquaintances in his home or personal surroundings.

Each show represents a refinement of his method and presentation with the latest being quite entertaining. Part of his charm is his pure British-ness, which he makes no apologies for. Each show is sure to have a few phrases (Pukka Tukka, Fry Up) that are sure to get you thinking, trying to figure out what they mean.

As I said above, each show starts with a premise that eventually move to him cooking for his friends or others for a special occasion or event. He's often shown shopping for the ingredients, which is nice. It explains what he is looking for and why, which allows any home chef to make an attempt to get the right thing or an accurate substitution.

There are seven 22-minute episodes on this disc, with descriptions to follow:

World Cup Breakfast: Jamie and his "boys" have returned from a night out clubbing and he's going to cook breakfast (a Fry Up) for them. He starts them off with a fresh bloody mary and homemade yogurt. He then moves on to blood sausage, sausage, bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms and eggs. With breakfast like this, it's easy to see why the "mates" always end up at Jamie's house.

Scarlet Division: The band gets together to practice (Jamie plays drums) and it's up to him to provide the Tukka (food) for the after practice meal. He starts off with Italian Cannelloni and has to deal with most of the band being vegetarians. He goes to prove that cooking vegetarian doesn't mean bland and tasteless. He finishes up with grilled mushrooms caps and strawberries covered with caramel syrup. The episode finishes up a performance of the theme song by the band.

The Bill: Jamie's going to cook dinner for the cast of the popular British cop show, "The Bill." Jamie starts with a roasted chili-pepper salad. The theme continues on with a rack of pork ribs rubbed with a dry chili rub and honey and then roasted in the oven. There's a hilarious moment when Jamie gets one of the macho members of the cop show to taste a piece of habanero pepper, which is the hottest chili in the world. The episode tops off with a chili and cheese quesadilla.

Wild City: Jamie and his old boss Genaro go hunting for wild fruits, vegetables and food around the English country side and Jamie learns a thing or two from his old boss. After a short bit of gathering, they head back to the house and fix a bit of fish and salad from all the picked. The fresh theme continues over to a pasta dish and everything is served garnished with more of the fresh ingredients. More laid back than others; this episode shows the nice connection the he and his mentor share.

Tiger: Jamie's grandmother (he calls her Tiger) comes to town with all her friends and he vows to show her a good time, despite the fact the she can outlast him on a night out on the town. Looking to please her simple tastes, he goes for a quiche with a mix of cheeses. Before he mixes that up, he puts together a banana cake. When baking, things can be a little confusing, as all his measurements are given in grams. The same thing is done with the quiche crust. To finish this meal up he makes a fresh strawberry jam that is quick cooked and cooled. At the end of the episode Jamie is put in his place when she tells him his tea has never been that good and he should use leaves instead of bags.

Bollywood: Easily my favorite episode, Jamie throws a boogie (dance party) with a Indian theme and that, of course, means Indian food. He starts off by visiting an Indian restaurant and picking up a collection of pickled sauces and fried dough. He decides to make a red curry, which is an involved process, so it's nice to see it from the beginning. He next makes a Indian cheese dish called paneer, which is from wine and cream and is a relatively simple process that is then fried to a finish. The last dish for the main course is a Bombay potato dish that is a simple curry, potato and tomato dish. Jamie finishes everything off while the rest of the group gets to dancing, Indian style.

Chocolate: Jamie has to cook two girls from the office a load of chocolate dishes in return for baby-sitting his baby daughter Poppy, so he and his wife can have their anniversary night out. Out of his element, he visits a chocolatier and learns how chocolate can taste different depending on where it's from, much like wine and coffee. He begins with a chocolate tiramisu and then moves on to chocolate truffles with pralines. He melts the chocolate over a double boiler while he makes a caramel with hazelnuts. That's laid out to dry and then put into a magic mix (food processor) and mixed with the melted chocolate and put into a dish to cool. This is then scooped and dipped in chocolate and dried. Finally, he finished off with a pair of massive chocolate sundaes, as the ladies are arriving shortly. They help him finish up finish the sundaes and he's off.

All in all it's a great collection of episodes that easily show why he's so popular. He constantly talks through all the shows, relating his experiences and generally being friendly while he's cooking. It's comforting and makes you feel like you could hang out with him as opposed to all the flashy, multi-restaurant chefs that dominate the Food Network landscape.

Video: The seven, 22-minute episodes spread across this dual-layer DVD look great for a television show. Jamie's apartment and surroundings are always colorful and make for a great looking presentation. But, let's face it, the video isn't the important thing here and it serves its purpose as a visual guide for the recipes.

Audio: Again, it's surprisingly good for a television show, but then again, with Jamie in a band and promoting music on his website, the music receives a little more attention than usual. It's a full and bright stereo mix that fills both speakers, yet never overpowers the vocals.

Extras: There aren't any true extras to speak of, but the disc has a browse by recipe feature that lets you select a drink, dish or dessert and the jump directly to the presentation of the recipes in those categories from the shows. It's great as a reference if you're trying to make something. Since this was a preview copy, there was no final package provided, so the only question I have would be if printed copies of the recipes are provided on the insert. This should be mandatory for all cooking DVDs, as it's a pain to write down every little instruction.

Overall: Oliver's Twist was a nice return visit to me of a show I had seen a few episodes of and had not watched in a while. True to his nickname, Jamie Oliver's recipes are simple and stripped down and seem relatively easy to prepare. With no over-inflated ego that can often accompany famous chefs (or any personality for that matter), Oliver's "hangin' with the guys" personality comes across as a true representation of who he is.

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Highly Recommended

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