x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Jamie Oliver cookbooks to get Arabic flavour

The British celebrity chef is to get mouths watering across the UAE as a media company in Dubai prepares to launch one of his cookbooks in Arabic.

It is not yet clear how “pukka”, Jamie Oliver’s famous catchphrase, will translate.

That is a dilemma for Takhayal Entertainment, the Dubai media company that recently signed a deal to publish one of the celebrity TV chef’s books in Arabic. The company, which runs the Fatafeat food-orientated television channel, says it expects the Arabic-language Jamie Oliver books to be available in January.

“We licensed his seminal book, Cook With Jamie, at the Frankfurt Book Fair last week,” said Youssef el Deeb, the chairman and managing director of Takhayal Entertainment.

“He’s a household name. People love him – he’s a megabrand,” said Mr el Deeb, adding that the publishing deal was formed directly with Penguin Books. The UK-based publisher did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

Oliver, the British chef who shot to fame through his TV show The Naked Chef, has published more than 15 books, many of which hit the bestsellers’ charts.

Mr el Deeb did not rule out the possibility of launching other Jamie Oliver titles in Arabic. “We sign one book at a time. But if they give you a brand, they like to continue with you on the brand,” he said.

Takhayal, which has offices in Dubai Media City and Cairo, said it had also secured the rights to republish Jamie Oliver recipes in its Fatafeat magazine, starting in December.

Takhayal also has a publishing deal with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the US businesswoman’s media and merchandising company and plans to publish an English-language regional version of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, which is set to launch at the end of the month.

The Dubai company started publishing an Arabic version of Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine in August. “We’re launching Martha Stewart Weddings. Even though it’s for the Arab world, it’s in English,” said Mr el Deeb.

He said the bimonthly magazine would be in English because the content “does not translate” well in Arabic. However, the company plans to produce a “quarterly special” in Arabic. “We’ve signed with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in New York. We are working with them on a variety of projects at different stages. We’re licensed across all the Arab countries.”

Mr el Deeb said the company had plans to launch other magazines and books. “We have a lot of other licensed titles coming in,” he said. “We will be doing other books.”

The publisher plans to launch another food title under licence. “We’re launching on December 1 a magazine called La Cucina Italiana, an Italian food magazine that’s 81 years old. We’re publishing that in Arabic.”

Fatafeat, the Middle East’s first 24-hour free-to-air food channel, was launched at the end of 2006.

Mr el Deeb said the distribution of the books and magazines would be region-wide. “We don’t do anything for one country only. Everything we do is across the region.” Despite 20 per cent of all print publications in the GCC having closed since the beginning of last year, several licensing deals have been signed by Middle East publishers over recent months.

Rolling Stone Middle East and Forbes Middle East, both published under licence by local media companies, are set to launch later this year. And a regional edition of National Geographic hit the newsstands this month, published by the Abu Dhabi Media Company, which also owns and publishes The National.