interview with jamie: food revolution episode 3

Interview With Jamie: Food Revolution Episode 3

Tue 28 Sep 2010

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In this online exclusive, Jamie answers questions that relate to the third episode of his 6-part TV show "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution".

What do you think convinced Rhonda to let you try cooking lunch at the high school?
Iím not sure really. Was it me? I donít think so. Was it the TV show? Possibly. Or, was it because it was the right thing to do and a great opportunity? Probably. Rhonda had done a great job of organising the school food system over the years, but my message was that we needed to change the kinds of food coming into the school. So the fact that she let me in made me suspect that she kind of agreed with me and wanted to be helpful in this food revolution, which of course she was.

It was inspiring to see such a diverse range of teenagers Ė most of whom had personal experiences of obesity. At this stage did this boost your confidence and make you feel that there could be a positive resolution for the campaign?
Huntington is really no different from any other town in America, and American towns arenít that different from towns in the UK, and many other countries. What I mean is, in all these places youíll often find three or four generations of people who havenít been taught to cook at home or at school. The minute you go into a classroom and say ďPut your hand up if you have been affected in any way by obesity or diet-related disease.Ē literally everyoneís hands goes up. This was certainly the case in Huntington and lots of young people were tired of it. People in my class had had their lives wrecked by eating a life of bad food. Theyíd lost family members because of it, so it was not a joke. They were very passionate about it, and a bit pissed off about it and you need that.

How nervous were you having the kids cooking at the fundraiser?
It was a massive, massive gamble. My heart said they could do it but then my common sense said that I had absolutely jumped the gun and we were going to have a big problem. It just required magic on the day and thank the Lord we did have magic and they pulled it off brilliantly. We didnít have loads of time to do this dinner and while we were prepping and doing all of the work you could see all of the gaps in their experience, but we kind of patched those up and when we went into service a totally new game face came on. They listened, they were proficient, they were methodical, they worked cleanly, and they didnít talk too much. I set them up to work in a factory line so one person was passing plates, one was adding the protein, another was adding the garnish or the sauce etc. and they were doing this with such beautiful precision that I had to walk out and grab the principle of the school so he could come and see it. He was as gobsmacked as I was. They werenít chefs, but they came together as a team and they succeeded. Thatís why I passionately believe schools should teach kids to cook and do little projects where they get to show their creativity, use their common sense, problem solve and work as a team. The kids did a great job.

How proud did you feel when the kids came out to speak to everyone?

Well that was amazing. There arenít many opportunities on network TV where young people have a voice, especially on the subject of bad health as a result of the crap we eat. I know we are tired of hearing about diabetes and obesity and weíve seen too many statistics we canít relate to, but when these kids walked out it was like they were the voice of America and they spoke so much sense. They were full of positivity, honesty, and wore their hearts on their sleeves. They spoke so eloquently and brought the whole room to tears, which was quite an amazing moment really. I looked around and everyone was crying, the principle was crying, even the TV crew were crying. They didnít rehearse any of their speeches, and I know that because I was with them three minutes before they went out. In this whole story, I think the young people turned out to be the trump card. They got the message across and really sorted things out. If youíd put any world leader, any senator, any governor or CEO in that room at that moment to listen to those kids they would have been affected the same way.

How shocked were you to find out that a French fry is considered part of the five a day vegetable allowance for a school meal?

Itís outrageous. If the government is going to be responsible for feeding kids breakfast and lunch every day they are at school in this current climate of awful, terrible health thatís literally killing America, youíd think the nutritional guideline standards (i.e. what the government believes is responsible for school cooks to feed your child) would be based on common sense. But today, French fries are considered a vegetable. Yes a potato is a vegetable, but by the time it has been chipped up and deep-fried I donít think you can really say itís a healthy vegetable, especially when kids arenít getting enough salad and greens. It just means the food provider can tick a box and say theyíve served a portion of vegetables. Donít get me wrong, I love a good French fry, but when they are available on a daily basis and the kids can choose them over other vegetables itís a problem. I am much more interested in changing that to once a week. Itís just madness really.

About the Author: Danny McCubbin is the website editor for

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Jamie's American Food Revolution is airing in the UK on Channel 4 - Monday 10pm


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