Naked truth about TV chef's £7 beans on toast

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The Independent Online

Naked Chef Jamie Oliver has admitted taking part in a secret deal with food manufacturer Heinz which resulted in his restaurant being accused of conning customers by selling beans on toast for £7.

Naked Chef Jamie Oliver has admitted taking part in a secret deal with food manufacturer Heinz which resulted in his restaurant being accused of conning customers by selling beans on toast for £7.

The television cook, whose celebrity status is used to endorse the Sainsbury's supermarket chain, has claimed that he was paid £15,000 to put baked beans on the menu of his celebrated restaurant Fifteen.

However his version of the traditional TV dinner, which involved serving the beans mixed with olive oil and parmesan on ciabatta bread, caused indignation among culinary critics and customers who thought they were being "ripped off".

Now the 29-year-old chef has turned his back on the tinned pulses claiming they have no place in "a restaurant with integrity".

Oliver yesterday confessed the beans dish had been a "publicity stunt" and admitted he should not have got involved.

"I should have been brighter," he said. "Baked beans have got absolutely no place in any restaurant with integrity. Heinz came to us and offered £15,000 for us to put something cool made with baked beans on the menu. That funds one student for a whole year. Am I going to do it? Of course I am," said Oliver.

At the time Oliver claimed that a trainee chef, Zoe Brotherton, had created the dish, called Best Baked Bean Bruschetta, while experimenting with everyday foods and that it had impressed him so much he decided to put it on the menu priced at £7.

Although the ingredients also included cherry tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar, red chillies and rocket leaves, the restaurant claimed it was an ideal example of how even the most simple food could be healthy and exciting.

But despite his experience in making advertisements for Sainsbury's, Oliver now claims he was the victim of a publicity campaign by Heinz and says he regrets getting involved.

"What I didn't realise was that Heinz's marketing department was also working on it and next thing I know we've got giant baked beans running across the restaurant and paparazzi outside shouting 'Oliver's a wanker!'. It was quite surreal," he said. "If I'd known, I'd have given Heinz their money back."

Oliver, who is in negotiations over a Hollywood movie being made based on his life starring Brad Pitt, was recently attacked over his endorsement of farmed salmon.

Fellow television cook Clarissa Dickson Wright recently branded Oliver a "whore" over his involvement with an advertisement for Sainsbury's farmed salmon, a product which he refuses to serve in his restaurant.

In the advertisement Oliver visits a Highland salmon farm and smokehouse, claiming its salmon are "healthy because the loch is so cold". Opponents of salmon farming question the healthiness of farmed fish.

"He's a whore; it's as simple as that. I would never endorse a product that I would not use," said Ms Wright, a long-time critic of farmed salmon.

Yesterday a spokesman for Heinz denied paying any money to Oliver and said they were "both surprised and disappointed by his comments". Spokesman Michael Mullen said: "At no point was Heinz involved in setting a price for the beans in the restaurant," adding that the company had never made any secret of their marketing plans following the deal. "We had meetings with Jamie's representatives and showed him all the details of the marketing," said Mr Mullen. "Heinz did not make any payment to Jamie Oliver or to Fifteen.

"We made a charitable donation to his charity, Cheeky Chops, set up to aid and develop cooking skills in today's youth."

The east-London restaurant, which trains young chefs, was described as "amateurish" in Harden's London Restaurants 2005 guide. One visitor was quoted in the guide saying: "Just because it's a charity doesn't give them the right to rip people off."

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