I must start by saying that I have a lot of time for Jamie Oliver and I believe that he does many things for the less fortunate full of good intentions. There are many detractors that seem to think he only does some of his shows to promote his own image and product, but I am not one of them. I believe that Jamie Oliver has a passion for food and cooking and he knows that this gave him his breaks and success in life and he believes that others can benefit if he passes his experience onto them.
Jamie has done several programs and projects in this vein. Jamie’s Kitchen in 2002 took several underprivileged and unemployed youngsters and trained them as chefs. The top fifteen being offered a job in Jamie’s London Restaurant Fifteen. This program was has been repeated each year since off air and has been replicated in several other locations including Melbourne Australia.
Jamie’s School Dinners in 2005 was an even bigger project where he attempted to change the whole approach to school lunches in the UK. Moving them away from the processed, fatty, salty and sugary meals that were served, to fresh healthy and appetising food. Along the way the plight of the health of children in the UK was highlighted and the fact that less was spent on the midday meal of a British School child than a prisoner relinquishing at Her Majesties pleasure.
The bar was raised again in 2008 when Jamie attempted to change the eating habits of the entire British public in Ministry of Food. Here Jamie used a form of the pass it forward movement by training individuals and groups to cook healthy food and asking each of them to train someone, or several others what they had learned.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution follows very much the same lines as Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food and also combines elements of Jamie’s School Dinners, but this time in the USA. He starts his campaign in Huntington, West Virginia which is statistically one of the unhealthiest places in the USA. Once again I believe in the concept and condone Jamie Oliver’s efforts. I have only seen one full episode of this series, the one screened on Channel 10 on 6th August 2010. Now I know all of these reality series have some degree of scripting involved, but this one was so obvious and poorly applied it was embarrassing.
As Jamie played the hero in the Food Revolution a bad guy was required. Up steps local radio DJ the Dawg in the morning. He is all anti Jamie’s ideas and tells him we don’t want to be eating lettuce leaves. Jamie bets him he can train 1000 people to cook by the next Friday and they bet a beer on the outcome. So Jamie goes about various tasks to try to hit the number using this as his motivation. Well that is highly unbelievable. I mean a single beer is not much motivation and their enmity is not really believable, especially when Jamie recruits the Dawg at the end of the week, when it looks like he isn’t going to make his numbers. And when Jamie tells the DJ he is going to show him something really shocking I was expecting vastly overweight people with gross diseases from overeating. But the show is too politically correct for that. He took him to a funeral parlour where the patrons showed them coffins the size of double beds and said that these people required two plots when they are buried and they can not be cremated. I didn’t quite understand their explanation of that, as again I think they were being too coy.
Another thing that I didn’t like about the show was the milking of the emotion which is evident in all reality shows from Survivor to Idol. The tears in this case came from two school girls, one had lost her stepfather due to being overweight and the other was overweight herself and saw Jamie as her saviour, despite the fact that previous diets and exercise programs had not worked for her.
I must say the highlight of the show for me was the song and dance number at the local University Quadrant. All of the participants milled around nonchalantly until a signal was given, then they all immediately started the dance number. Burners were produced from nowhere and quick stir fry meal was produced by each of the participants, all in time to an up tempo dance tune. The students who were not involved were all suitably stunned and impressed and could be seen recording the action on their mobile phones.
Now I applaud the concept of Food Revolution and the efforts made by Jamie Oliver and everyone else involved. But personally I would like to see less emotional blackmail, more hard hitting facts and a bit more realism in the motivation for their efforts. That said keep up the good work Jamie.
By Max Power