REMEMBER when Jamie Oliver was the Naked Chef rather than a national treasure?

You have to cast your mind back more than 20 years to when the cheeky chappy chef with a mop of messy hair and a moped burst on to our TV screens.

It was the height of Brit pop and Jamie was to became as super famous as many of the rock and pop stars of the time.

I remember meeting him at The Grange Hotel in York, where we conducted an interview in a very formal sitting room about his new - and first - cookbook, The Naked Chef. His first cookery TV show was also on the telly.

York Press: Jamie Oliver at The Grange Hotel in May 1999Jamie Oliver at The Grange Hotel in May 1999

He was perfectly charming, and settled into a posh sofa in his jeans and sneakers and scruffy hair as I quizzed him about the meaning of his nick name: the Naked Chef.

I've searched the archive to reproduce the interview here - and you can read it in its entirety below.

No one - and certainly not me - could have guessed the young chef would have gone on to achieve the success he has. Not only in his culinary career, but in his campaigning work to fight for better school meals for children.

Jamie has been to York several times over the years - including when he opened his restaurant Jamie's Italian in 2012 and again in 2017 before it closed in 2019.

York Press: Jamie Oliver and local fans at his restaurant in York Picture Frank Dwyer.Jamie Oliver and local fans at his restaurant in York Picture Frank Dwyer.

But there is something special about that first time. Well, for me, for sure.

I still have the copy of his first cook book - which he signed for me.

It reads, in a wild scribble: "To Maxine, all my love Jamie Oliver. Get Stuck In!"

York Press: Jamie signs Maxine's bookJamie signs Maxine's book

It's a bit tattered today, with a healthy splattering of cooking stains - so safe to say I followed the Naked Chef's orders!

Here's a look back at when the Naked Chef came to town, first published in The Press on May 15, 1999...

MAXINE GORDON gets back to basics with the latest hot-shot TV chef, Jamie Oliver

THEY call him The Naked Chef but thankfully when I meet Jamie Oliver at a plush York hotel this week he is fully clothed. Wearing jeans and a T-shirt, with a messy mop of blond hair, Jamie has that 'just-got-out-of-bed' look more associated with a Brit Pop rock star than a TV celebrity chef.

If Anna Ryder Richardson of Changing Rooms proclaimed DIY was the new sex, then Jamie Oliver surely makes cooking the new rock 'n' roll.

He is Cool Britannia: young, good looking and stylish in that 'just don't need to try' way.

So we shouldn't be so surprised that he is the hottest thing on the block at the moment - and I don't just mean the chopping block.

York Press: Jamie Oliver meets fans on his book tour to promote his first cook book in 1999Jamie Oliver meets fans on his book tour to promote his first cook book in 1999

His BBC2 series The Naked Chef (with two parts still to run) has drawn two million-plus viewers and the spin-off book is a number-one seller.

By day, the 23-year-old Essex boy, works as a chef at the celebrated River Cafe restaurant in London.

He learned to cook aged eight, working in the kitchen of his dad Trevor's pub. Dad's a chef too. Who's the best?

"We're different," smiles Jamie as he stretches out on an elegant sofa in the refined surroundings of the Grange Hotel, Bootham.

"He's old school. His repertoire is French. I'm from a different era, but I don't think: 'Oh, I'm better than you'."

Jamie's style is certainly different. The term The Naked Chef refers to Jamie's cooking style: stripping food back to the bare essentials, keeping it simple, realistic and sociable.

York Press: Jamie Oliver in 1999 - on a book tour to promote The Naked ChefJamie Oliver in 1999 - on a book tour to promote The Naked Chef

In the TV series, we see Jamie cooking at home, charging around his kitchen with gusto, peppering his speech with Nineties' exclamations such as 'pukka' and 'wicked'.

It's clear Jamie has a passion for food, but equally a passion for life.

The show has a 'docu-soap' flavour as it dips into his life. It's part how-to-do, part this-is-what-I-do.

We see him shopping in the market, cooking for his family, drumming in his band.

It's different from other cookery shows, and so is the book.

Instead of a rigid method, Jamie talks us through how to cook his dishes. "The idea is for it to be conversational," he explains. "I tried to make it as if I am standing behind them as they cook.

"Sometimes I've read recipes which are so regimental and boring it might as well be a maths exam. I wanted to make cookery impulsive, intuitive and confident. Those three qualities are all you need to become a 50 per cent better chef over night."

Jamie can't overstress enough the need to be bold and brave with food.

"If you go to a mate's house and he's made a bowl of tagliatelle with a fresh pesto sauce and there's a nice bottle of wine on the table, you'll think he's a good cook.

"If you back again and he's grilled some chicken but smeared it with his pesto sauce, you'll think he's a really good cook. He can only make one thing - pesto sauce - but it's still impressive."