CLAIM TO FAME: Italy’s Gabriele Rubini, aka Chef Rubio, a heavily tattooed former rugby player, is scoring stellar ratings on Discovery Channel Italia’s DMax station with street-food show “Unti e Bisunti” (Greasy and Greasier), in which he travels the Italian peninsula extolling the sensual pleasures of tasty treats like fried pizza, tripe panini and stewed frogs, all of which he eats with his hands.

SCHOOL DAYS: “I’ve always loved food viscerally since I was a child, but I didn’t see it as a career,” Rubini, 30, recounts. Gradually, he decided to abandon rugby to attend Italy’s renowned Gualtiero Marchesi cooking school. “But I’ve also washed dishes, I’ve diced onions, I’ve worked my way up, which I think is necessary in any career.”

SOCIAL SATIRE: Chef Rubio started making YouTube videos that made fun of Italian celebrity chefs and their shows. “If you want to make art, use clay, wood, glass, not food,” he says. In one video, he flushed a toilet while reading one of Antonella Clerici’s bestselling cookbooks. A series of clips titled “Fish and Chips” eventually caught the eye of production company Pesci Combattenti.

WHAT’S NEXT?: His earthy looks and Roman accent are making him a local sex symbol for women and gays, and his celebrity has just spawned a graphic novel. Mainly, though, he’s focused on his cooking skein. “My goal is to bring the show to other countries,” says Rubini, who speaks English. Another ambition: to make a documentary, inspired by U.S. director David Gelb’s “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” It might not be pretty.