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When he finally blows in, he spots me and without pausing his conversation or breaking his pace, he waves for me to catch up.Las Vegas is a particularly appropriate setting for our meeting. He's been up since 6 and already jammed in an all-out 40-minute workout.Actually, we never nailed down any formal plans, but I know where he's supposed to be today, and I have one chance to hitch a ride on his windstorm.It's the site of Olives Las Vegas, the first restaurant English opened outside of his hometown.The first colony of the English empire, if you will. But English has just passed through the most difficult year of his life, which included lawsuits, reports of shrinking earnings, a soured partnership, a rocky marriage, health-code violations at the flagship Olives, an intervention by friends alarmed at the effects of all this stress, and enough bad press to bring Rome to its knees.Todd English blazes into the lobby of Las Vegas's Bellagio hotel and casino, better dressed and moving faster than anyone else at this early morning hour. I've been in the lobby for the better part of an hour, waiting for English to show up.

“A lot of people think I'm arrogant,” English says. Thanks to exposure from the Food Network, the cloning of upscale restaurants in far-flung places, and six-figure book deals, chefs are famous in ways they weren't 20 years ago, when they toiled facelessly in their kitchens.

In conversations, he possesses that seductive Clintonian gift of making you feel special, particularly if you're female.

In our interviews, he leans in close, speaks softly, conspiratorially, always keeping eye contact.

He dreamed of going pro himself, and, true to his reckless persona, was fearless at the plate.

“Even when he was little, he'd come to bat, and everyone in the outfield would just back up,” recalls Wendy.

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