Belfast Telegraph

Naked chef Jamie Oliver's best-seller helps to feather Penguin's nest

By Clare Weir

The world of publishing seems to be weathering the economic storm - with a little help from some friends in the kitchen.

Mockney cook Jamie Oliver has reportedly helped propel Penguin to a record financial performance thanks to time-poor galloping gourmets snapping up 120m copies of Jamie's 30-Minute Meals, the fastest-selling non-fiction book in the well-respected stable.

Oliver's rise to fame has seen him transform from the fresh-faced, fast-talking Naked Chef to an over-emotional social campaigner, weeping buckets over the poor diets of school children, the overweight and the unemployed and banishing Turkey Twizzlers from the dinner table.

His success in revitalising school dinners and factory canteen lunches in the UK, as well as helping underachieving teenagers get a leg up in the food industry, has carried him across the pond where he now stars in shows like Jamie's American Roadtrip and Jamie's Food Revolution.

Jamie's 30-Minute Meals, launched in late September, was the Christmas number one and the top-selling title of 2010.

While books are still continuing to sell well despite the advent of digital e-readers, there have been tough trading conditions - bookseller Waterstones revealed recently it is to close up to 20 stores in the UK following dire high street sales in the last quarter.

Offsetting this decline, Penguin has also reported soaring sales of digital "ebooks", which trebled in the first three quarters of the year.

Penguin parent Pearson, which also owns The Financial Times - where paying digital subscribers recently topped the 200,000 mark, a 71% yearly rise - upgraded its profits forecast for the group including for the third time in the past half-year and expects underlying profits to rise by around 20% to £850m in 2010.