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Jamie’s Italian is coming to Covent Garden. The nation’s richest TV restaurant chef is set to open the seventh branch of his new chain this summer, reports the Daily Mail.

The opening will be the real test of whether Jamie Oliver can bring something special to mass-market dining, as – in spite of all the fame and money – he has never demonstrated any special skill as a chef/restaurateur. The Harden’s survey has tended to suggest over the years that his much-trumpeted Fifteen, however well-intentioned, has always been something of a triumph of hype over experience.

But was the first branch of Jamie’s Italian, in Oxford, not hailed by the nation’s critics as a real breakthrough when it opened last year? Indeed, but this didn’t really tell us much one way or another. At the time, Jamie’s mentor Gennaro Contaldo – name chef at Fitzrovia’s now defunct Passione – was very much hands-on in the kitchen. It’s one thing to run a single restaurant with a star chef at the stove. And quite another to maintain anything like the same standards at the various outposts of a fast-growing national chain.

A visit to “Jamie’s”, however, looks set to become an essential part of any tripper’s day out in Covent Garden – in the short term at least, whether the place is any good or not is unlikely to have any effect on its success.

PS Jamie and Gordon Ramsay were both in the news over the weekend, on the latter’s ejection from the Sunday Times ‘Rich List’. A Times article contains the interesting statement on behalf of Ramsay that “he was set to earn more than $10 million (£6.8 million) in the US [by implication, from TV and media] this year alone” – considerably more than he appears to be earning from his UK restaurant activities.

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