Crazy for the Naked Chef

MADE GOOD: Celebrity chef Aaron Craze, who wrote his first cook book in 2008, quit school at 15, and drifted between odd jobs before joining the apprentice programme at Jamie Oliver's restaurant


    Jun 03, 2013

    Crazy for the Naked Chef

    THE Naked Chef Jamie Oliver has helped change the lives of many.

    One person who can personally say that Oliver has been instrumental in changing his life is 35-year-old Aaron Craze.

    Craze, who was the unexpected winner of reality cooking television show Jamie's Chef in 2007, is one of the many people whose life Oliver has influenced.

    In an interview with My Paper, he said that Oliver puts himself and his emotions on the line to help change people's lives.

    "We are still very close till this day, and I will never forget him for what he has done for me," he said.

    According to him, Oliver helped clean up his troubled background, transforming the youngster who dropped out of school into the owner of an Italian-inspired pub and restaurant, The Cock Inn in Essex.

    Craze, who wrote his first cook book Aaron Cooks Italian in 2008, quit school at 15, and drifted between odd jobs, from being a carpet fitter to working in a cemetery.

    After a fight that left him with metal plates in his jaw and cheek, he began looking for a different path in life.

    That was when he spotted an ad on television for Oliver's restaurant Fifteen, an eatery that recruits young, unemployed people and gives them a chance at working in the culinary industry.

    He then joined the apprentice programme, which he says changed his outlook on life.

    "I have a much more positive attitude and I'm excited for each new day," he said.

    However, he still struggled to make ends meet. Supporting his two children on a meagre wage while juggling college and 50-hour work weeks was a challenge.

    But he continued to receive encouragement from Oliver.

    Craze, who was here over the weekend to promote his first cooking show - Rude Boy Food, which explores street food around the world - tells My Paper about his favourite cuisine and ingredients.

    This is the first time you are in Singapore. What are some of the local dishes you're looking to try?

    I am looking forward to tasting dishes like chilli crab, chicken rice, and I have heard a lot of things about salted-egg dishes.

    Have you discovered any new favourite food or ingredients during your show?

    I have had some amazing street food in Mexico.

    During my Aaron Craze: Rude Boy Cooks tour in Thailand, I got to go out and eat some delicious curries and noodles.

    I love Thai ingredients, such as lemongrass. My favourite is definitely kaffir lime leaves.

    What are some of your favourite cuisines or dishes?

    I love to eat all types of curries, from North Indian curries to Thai curries. It has really been embraced as one of the national dishes in London.

    What is the most exotic food you've tried?

    The worst food I have ever had was in Mexico. I tried a sheep-and-cow-stomach soup, which is a traditional "hangover" dish there.

    Definitely an acquired taste, which I am unlikely to have any time soon.

    What advice would you give to young aspiring chefs?

    I love music. When I was younger, I had always wanted to write songs, but I didn't know how, it was only when I learnt how to play chords that I was able to write my first song.

    The same applies to food, you will need to learn the fundamentals before you can start creating your own masterpieces.

    Be patient, good things come to those who wait.

    Rude Boy Food airs on Asian Food Channel (StarHub Ch 435) on Thursdays at 11pm.