The Jamie Oliver juggernaut rolled into Perth yesterday for a brief visit so the superstar chef could see, for the first time, the most successful Jamie's Italian restaurant in his 45-venue global chain of restaurants.
The multimillionaire chef was ushered in through a basement loading dock while breathless fans, smart phones at the ready, and paparazzi staked out both entrances of the William Street restaurant to try to catch a glimpse of the "Cheeky Chappie".
Inside the restaurant, Oliver's staff were waiting with barely concealed excitement as the father of four made a fashionably late rock star entrance.
Oliver's Perth restaurant "does better business than all the others" in Dubai, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, Sweden, Hong Kong and Britain.
"When we started Jamie's Italian five years ago there was very little good, well-priced food at the middle tier of the restaurant business," Oliver said.
"Between restaurants and cafes there wasn't a lot of value around. It was our dream to put good food on people's plates for moderate prices. Perth people just got it. They understood exactly what we were doing."
During a wide-ranging interview with _The Weekend West _yesterday, Oliver expressed his abhorrence of traditionally accepted bullying in restaurant kitchens, his plans for the future - including an "incubator fund" to get young people into their own restaurants - and how he has no more ambitions for "the Jamie Oliver brand", preferring instead to look forward to spending the next 20 years working with young people in the restaurant game.
When pressed about future expansion in WA, Oliver hinted that his upmarket London steakhouse Barbacoa may be headed for Perth because, "no one gets good steaks cooked over coals like an Aussie".
"I've got a scaled down, hybrid version of Barbacoa in development, which would be perfect for a first outing in Perth," he said. "We cook everything on coals. No gas. No electricity and just the best meat we can find."
Oliver - who has 17 cookbooks, 23 television series, a range of global endorsement contracts and an MBE for services to the restaurant industry under his belt - has recently completed a pilot for an incubator fund which he hopes to roll out around the world.
Oliver's connection to WA includes members of his extended family who are living in Perth and an affection for WA based on a chance encounter in 2001.
"I was on a plane coming to Perth and I happened to be sitting next to this lovely old bloke called John Roberts," Oliver said.
The late John Roberts was the founding chairman of the billion-dollar international construction firm Multiplex. He died in June 2006.
"I didn't know who he was and he didn't really get the Naked Chef thing, but we nattered away about racing form and restaurants," Oliver recalled.
"Anyway, he called me later and said he'd like to show me around Perth. It was about the same time he was building Wembley Stadium and he was on the phone doing the deal."
"Dad was really chuffed to meet Jamie," the construction industry giant's son Tim Roberts said. "We caught up with Jamie for breakfast this morning."