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This popular television series makes its way onto our favourite format in the form of four separate discs covering the three series' so far and Jamie Oliver's stint in New York (he's the chef). Here we take a look at the first disc. Not surprisingly, it's Series One!

The Show
Young and streetwise, Jamie Oliver has always been passionate about food. But he realises that what he cooks in the restaurant is a lot different to what he cooks at home and has based his show around showing people how to make good meals using whatever ingredients lie around the house.

The Naked Chef is all about stripping down really good restaurant recipes to their bare essentials so that you can cook great food at home with maximum flavour and minimum effort. Each episode follows a hectic day in Jamie's life as he prepares food for his friends, family and work mates.

Episode One: Chef's Night Off
Watch and learn as Jamie pokes and prods a roast lamb, giving his expert tips for the ultimate flavour experience. Tossing potatoes abound as we get used to both the style of cooking, Jamie's personality and the documentary-style camera techniques.

Episode Two: Hen Night
Nobody is getting married in this one, but what we do get is a brilliant demonstration on how to create the perfect focaccia bread. I tell you what, at this stage I was getting mighty hungry. I can only imagine how my stomach's gonna feel after watching the rest of the series. There's also a lemon and lime tart, some salmon and a green mushy thing Jamie calls Basil Aioli.

Take a nice little DVD...

Episode Three: Babysitting
Jamie is stuck with a couple of kids, hence the title of this episode. He dubs this cooking expedition a "pasta-fest" and then calls his spaghetti dish a "munchy, lunchy, snacky kind of thing." It might sound a little all over the place but it's definitely worth taking a look. I've tried to cook this one and failed so good luck to all you budding chefs out there. I'll just stick to reviewing DVDs.

Episode Four: The Band
Firstly, Jamie fixes himself a bacon sandwich for brekky before heading off to a place called the "New Loon Moon" supermarket. So that's where he gets his kooky names from! With the ingredients bought from the shop he whips up a Thai green curry for his mates. Nice to see him drop a clove of garlic on the floor and get it back from an anonymous woman behind the camera.

Episode Five: Birthday Party
It's all happening for Jamie as his birthday comes around. Naturally he's having a party, but being the talented guy he is Jamie has to cook for all of his buddies. He gets his haircut to look nice and spiffy before cooking some roast loin of pork, what he calls a "funky little salsa", a mozarella and chili salad and one of his mates comes around to give us a demonstration on how to make a "jungle boogie cocktail". Obviously Jamie's not the only one with some crazy naming conventions.

The best bit is where Jamie tells people to prick the chilis before you blacken them otherwise they'll explode. Brilliant!

Episode Six: Girlfriend
Before all you girls start dreaming of big boy Jamie cooking up a storm at your place you'll have to watch this episode. His girlfriend is coming around for lunch and Jamie wants to make a bit of an impression. She's a nice girl, too, with the only tarts around Jamie's place being the chocolate ones he whips up for his sweetheart. There's a radish and fennel salad (what on earth is a fennel?), potatoes and dill (no, I don't mean Jamie) and a beautiful sea bass that looks scrumptious on the plate.

Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard....

...add a bit of "Jamie"...

Jamie is definitely a charismatic bloke. He's not one of those pretentious little chef-types who think they're God's gift to the kitchen and prattle on about cooking the food without actually teaching anyone how to do it. His words at the beginning of the disc are testament to what he is trying to do with the series. He says "cooking must be simple, it must be tasty and it must be fun."

The DVD is quite simple to follow, everything looks really tasty and you'll definitely have some fun while you're watching (if not cooking at the same time). Sadly he didn't include how to boil water or cook the perfect toasted cheese sandwich for dummies like me, but if you at least know your way around a kitchen you'll get a kick (and a full stomach) out of this one.

Video
Made for television, this disc is obviously presented in 4:3 full frame, exactly how it was shown on the box. The intro to each episode is intentionally a little grainy and edgy, probably to get that sort of feel about Jamie and the show itself. The rest of the episodes look pretty good, with the obvious softness to suit television and some vibrant colours on Jamie and in the kitchen. The transfer is very clean and free from any blemishes, while the camerawork can take a little getting used to. It's probably best described as a documentary style with a tinge of those personal interviews you often see on the telly. For this show it's far more effective, with Jamie playing to the camera very well so we don't just get some bloke standing behind a kitchen bench in the middle of the frame. The only gripe I have with this style of shooting is that we are often a little too close to the action and miss some important moves as Jamie whips around the kitchen.

...and a clove of garlic...

Audio
No surprises here. We get a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that sounds great for what the show is trying to achieve. There is never any problem understanding Jamie from an audio point of view, though some may struggle with his accent and/or lisp at times which is no fault of the disc. It seems to have been recorded quite well as all the chopping, banging and sizzling effects are captured quite well without intruding on Jamie's voice.

Extras
Hard to pick out exactly what extras are with these discs, but what we do get is an extra episode entitled Christmas Comes Early. Here Jamie mixes up some hampers for his relatives, including preserved lemons in a cool little jar, some feta cheese using his delicate touch with the herbs, a brilliant little roast chicken dish using some sort of miniature chooks and a "blinding" artichoke dish with cream and cheese that is bound to have your mouth watering in an instant.

The only other supplement is a nifty little feature called pick-a-dish where you can go into a sub-menu and choose either main dishes, accompaniments or desserts. From there you can choose to scoot straight over to the particular dish you desire. Handy little addition, that one.

...and you've got yourself a pretty nice disc!

Overall
As far as TV chefs go, Oliver is the pick of the bunch. He's got a lot more panache and style than his counterparts and the unique style of the show helps him stand out from the crowd. His dishes are accessible to those who have only a minimal knowledge of cooking and the ingredients, though a little unusual at times, can all be purchased quite readily. Nothing to complain about in the video and audio department and there are a couple of extras to add a little bit to this DVD release. I have no hesitation in recommending this disc to budding chefs and fans of many a culinary delight. Now where did I put that spatula?


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