UPDATE 2-Chef Jamie Oliver cooks up global expansion for Italian chain

Tue Jun 4, 2013 11:20am EDT

(Adds revenue figure for restaurant division, pre-tax profits)

By Victor Coupe

LONDON, June 4 (Reuters) - Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver inspired home cooks across Britain with his "pukka tukka" or nutritious food recipes and now he wants to expand his profile internationally by opening up to 20 of his Italian restaurants around the world.

Oliver, 38, whose book, television, and restaurant empire has made him an estimated fortune of 225 million pounds ($334 million), on Tuesday unveiled plans to increase the number of his Jamie's Italian restaurants overseas to 20 from 4.

The international projects are in various stages but restaurants already announced this year include in Australia's capital Canberra, in Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia, Istanbul in Turkey, Singapore and a second restaurant in Dubai.

He also has his sights set on restaurants in Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

"In 2013 we will continue our international restaurant expansion and delivering outstanding products with real added value, great customer service and a range of delicious and nutritious meals," John Jackson, chairman of the Jamie Oliver Group of Companies, said in a statement.

Oliver's five-year-old restaurant chain has bolstered the wealth of the Essex-born chef, posting profits of 7.8 million pounds in 2012 on Tuesday, up 7.5 percent from a year ago.

In Britain, the chain boasts 34 restaurants and overall revenue for the chain surged 30.3 percent to 93.9 million pounds in the year ending December 30, 2012.

Oliver's book and television work added another 10 million pounds to his pre-tax profits last year as popularity continued to grow for his "pukka tukka" food, his catchphrase to describe good or authentic food or tucker.

Overall revenue for this unit, Jamie Oliver Holdings Ltd, rose 13.3 percent during the year to 35.3 million pounds aided by strong UK and international sales for his "15 Minute Meals" and "30 Minute Meals" cookbooks.

Oliver's love of Italian food stemmed from his first job at Antonio Carluccio's restaurant in London but it was London's River Cafe restaurant in 1997 that set the charismatic young chef on the path to fame after he made an unscripted appearance in the TV documentary "Christmas at the River Café".

His first TV show "The Naked Chef" was released the next year.

But the chef hit global stardom on the back of his quest for healthy school meals in Britain that earned him an MBE award from the Queen in 2003 and was expanded to the United States with his TV program "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution".

This September Oliver publishes his 15th cookery book, "Save with Jamie", focusing on low-cost meals, shopping techniques and using left-overs. A TV series will support the book. (Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

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