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He'll make one hopeful young chef very, very nervous in an on-the-spot four-course-meal tryout.

He looks striking in his dark suit, dark shirt, and dark tie, nattering on his cell phone. It took weeks to arrange this interview, and the Boston celebrity chef's dizzying schedule means that this Tuesday morning in Las Vegas is the only time I can catch him.Talented, photogenic, and charismatic, English was born to reap the benefits.He's appeared in countless magazines, in the ranks of People magazine's 50 most beautiful people, on Esquire's best-dressed list, and in a Harper's Bazaar spread that gushed about the sex appeal of so-called “celebrity chefs.” Theirs is a peculiar celebrity, however.Today, Sandy Springs has been swallowed by Atlanta's suburban sprawl, but in the '60s, it was a quiet, pastoral hamlet, where brick houses dotted the gently rolling pine-treed hills.English's parents divorced when he was eight, and his mother, Patty, who came from a large Italian family with roots in the Bronx, raised Todd and younger sister Wendy on her own.It is a dizzying number of businesses to maintain, and many wonder if one chef can possibly keep an eye on so many pots. “I don't want to have an empire,” says Clio's Ken Oringer, who himself felt the klieg lights when named him to its most-eligible-bachelors list last year.“I want to be in the kitchen, and if I weren't, [the restaurant] wouldn't have the same personality.” William Todd English was born in Amarillo, Texas, but grew up in Sandy Springs, Georgia.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.Because unlike celluloid heroes and rock stars, chefs merely provide a dressed-up version of a basic human need. I have a fine time getting on the subway.” English agrees — with some caveats.“I hate the term 'celebrity chef,'” says English's friend Bobby Flay, himself the owner of two acclaimed New York restaurants and host of a Food Network show. “Sometimes I think, Did you like the lamb shank or not? But you have to use what you've got.” Since the late '90s, English has parlayed what he's got into 13 restaurants.

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