Celeb Chef Jamie Oliver Wants to Start a 'Revolution'
By Denise Warner Posted Mar 24th 2010 03:30PM
Jamie Oliver traveled to what was called the unhealthiest city in the U.S. -- Huntington, West Virginia -- to educate the residents about the food "that's killing America" in his new series, 'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution,' which premieres March 26 at 8 PM on ABC. (A special preview aired on the 21st.)
During his tenure, the people of West Virginia put up a lot of resistance. A radio DJ in the town bluntly told him, "We don't want to sit around eating lettuce all day!" And the women in the school cafeteria were equally upset with the British chef's presence -- causing Oliver to break down in tears. "They don't understand me," he cried.
However, the British chef persevered, determined to make a difference in everyone's diets and consciousness about their health. Jamie chatted with PopEater about his experience on the show.
"We're not painting a perfect picture of me walking in there and going 'Da da dah.' We follow what really happened. Even to the bitter end," he says.
I really enjoyed the premiere. There are so many misconceptions about the people from that part of the country, and I think you're really helping the world to understand.
Thank you. I think Huntington comes out looking just beautiful over the series. Reality TV has got a bit of a dodgy rep, so we played with it very sensitively.
Were you expecting the kind of resistance you encountered when you first got there?
Honestly, yes. I've never done anything worthwhile involving change that hasn't gotten resistance. Change is the hardest thing in the world and resistance is normal. It's never particularly much fun, but you have to just keep going and push through it and try. It did take about a month and a half before I broke the back of it. The thing that really helped was working with individual families – them spreading the word that I was there for good reasons and I actually was changing their lives and allowing them to live differently.
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It seemed that the first family you visited were much more willing and positive about the experience than others.
All of the families that I came in contact with were never saying, "We don't want you, get lost, go." It was more of the opposite. It was, "Help, please. I feel like a bad mom. I know what I'm doing is wrong, I just don't know how to do it right. No one's ever taught me to cook at home or at school, so I'm sitting here with four kids wondering, 'What on Earth do I do?'" Telling that story is quite important. I think there are going to be a lot of parents feeling a bit bad about that. You can't really blame the parents when the whole culture and the whole horizon of food is all the same. Knowing how to shop and to cook a few things gives you so many choices to live differently.
You just want to tell them it's not all their fault.
Absolutely. It's not their fault to a point. Obviously, there comes a point when they've got to deliver. It's all right saying, "You know, you're doing it wrong," but you've got to go and do it. You have to invest time in it. It's not like when your kids learn to ride a bike, they've done it straight away. You've got to invest time in that. When your kids learn to talk or walk, you have to invest time in that. Cooking is no different. Cooking knowledge is no different. I know I'm a biased, but the way I look at it, you use cooking three times a day, normally in your life. Then, probably the second biggest amount of money that you spend in your life is at the supermarket. You might as well get good at shopping and save yourself the money. I haven't actually worked with a family yet who I haven't saved them $100 to $150 dollars a week.
You said it took about a month and a half for the people of Huntington to accept you. Will we see more struggles in upcoming episodes?
The show is very fun and natural and it is what it is. We're not painting a perfect picture of me walking in there and going 'Da da dah.' We follow what really happened. Even to the bitter end ... I'm not saying it's a happy ending. I'm saying that wonderful things are achieved. Really, the happy ending is what's going to happen in the next year or two years.
What's the best advice about cooking that you have?
Oh that's a hard one. Of course, you can keep it simple. You really only need, I call it ten recipes to save your life. Recipes that you enjoy from stew to pasta to sauces to stir fry -- knowing how to make salads taste delicious and making greens taste delicious. Everyday dishes like that, that's the kind of thing you want to have in your repertoire. And ten simple recipes, as well. The other thing is when you're shopping, organizing what you buy so you don't waste money. But one of the biggest things is -- if you turn around a pack and you don't understand what's on the back, if it sounds like a science lesson, don't buy it. That's a quickie.
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