BEHIND THE BESTSELLERS : Someone's in the Kitchen With Oprah

Any channel surfer might understand why "In the Kitchen With Rosie" has been on the Times bestseller list since its official release May 1. For a mere $14.95, readers get 129 pages of recipes from the chef who helped one of the richest and largest television personalities ever slim down to a svelte size 10.

Despite her wealth, glamour and fame, Oprah Winfrey is every woman. The millions of people who view her daily talk-show have watched her get fat, get skinny, get fat (like so many of them), then get skinny and stay that way. She has somehow managed to both lose more than 70 pounds and keep eating the food she loves. And if Oprah says it's good, it must be.

"Oprah is literally a walking advertisement for this book," explains Knopf publicist Nicholas Latimer. But even Knopf had no idea "Rosie" would become one of the world's fastest-selling books, says Latimer. The first printing produced 400,000 copies. By May 24, when the book entered its 17th printing, many stores had already sold out.

In less than a month, the number of books ordered for printing totaled an astounding 3.6 million. "We're printing as fast as we can," Latimer told us. Knopf may not have envisioned such ferocious sales, but it did do its homework.

This little book is packed. First, there's the introduction from the legendary entertainment mogul. Oprah recalls how she discovered the author, chef Rosie Daley, at a spa near San Diego where 300-calorie meals actually tasted good. (After six months of invitations, Rosie agreed to become Oprah's private cook.)

Next, there are 50 of Rosie's low-fat, low-sugar and low-salt recipes, including Oprah's much publicized "unfried favorites," catfish French fries, crab cakes and chicken. Revamped into what Oprah calls "clean eating," the recipes include fat levels and calorie counts punctuated by several bright color photographs.

Tips from Rosie complement the recipes, with hints ranging from how to make a skinny meal look pretty to "Taming Jalapeno Peppers."

The dishes are tasty and relatively uncomplicated, but Rosie offers no estimates of preparation time and some recipes may take more than an hour to fix. Strict dieters may be frustrated by the lack of serving size listings.

But if Oprah can dine well and lose weight--the cash registers seem to be singing--so can countless Americans who have likewise struggled with liquid diets and other drastic measures. Oprah has stressed, however, that exercise is a key ingredient in reshaping her physique. A 10-mile jog, 45 minutes on the StairMaster and 350 sit ups daily practically obliterates the almost four grams of fat from a slice of Rosie's Chocolate Tofu Cake.

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