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Mar 28, 2010 05:50 PM

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

I don't watch TV much and I have never watch Jamie Oliver's in my life, although I have heard that he is one of the best celebrity chefs.

Yestersday, I just happened to tune in and watch bits and pieces of Jamie Oliver's new show: Food Revolution.

I hate it. Jamie just rubbed me the wrong way over and over. I agree with his messages, but, man, can he deliver the messages in any more top-down arrogant way? I hope he does not do this in his normal shows.

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  1. Mark Bittman made it a point to higlight today how Oliver's work has impacted school children in Britain citing this artilcle:

    21 Replies
    1. re: junescook

      I think Jamie needs a new editor. No doubt he is making a huge impact but he does come off sounding condescending and arrogant. i don't know the guy so I can't say if this is him in real life, but as I have said before, he is not doing his cause any good by keeping the kind of presentation he is doing as it is.

      1. re: Phaedrus

        You're right. It's as though he's trying to alienate people rather than convince them. He seems overly taken with the superiority of his own ideas (and consequently with the inferiority of those of us here in the US).

        Personally, if I were a kid, I think I'd rather be going to school in Paris:

        1. re: junescook

          Maybe he did this just for the show? Kind of like Simon Cowell in American Idol or Gordon Ramsay in Hell's Kitchen. A little drama help. Yelling and insulting people in the beginning of the show and have people agree with you and thank you at the end of the show. That being said, the Jamie Oliver's style is just not as intersteding as the Cowell and Ramsey styles. It is funny to watch Cowell and Ramsey lecture people, but Oliver lecturing people is just poorly done. He would lecture people how to eat in one minute and then broke down and cried in the next minute. Something is wrong there.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Longer thread here with lots of opinions - he's done the same thing in the U.K., with good results. I don't think it's "just for the show".


            1. re: LindaWhit

              I think the different reactions are due to different ways we view the problem. I don't think anyone disagree with the assertion that the school lunches are disgusting and unhealthy. BUT, I am also realistic enough to know that after the cameras and lights are packed up and Jamie has gone home, the problem in the minds and habits of the people involved will persist. Long and slow slogs, while undramatic, are far more effective. The histrionics method employed by Jamie and this show will get initial attention, but where is the followthrough? Where is the education and enlightening information and persistence in pushing the message.

              The fear is that the histrionics will turn a lot of people against the message.

              Its like fad diets versus a change in life style for losing weight.

              1. re: Phaedrus

                But how do we know that Jamie will just give up? What if he continues to lobby Congress in various ways to see what can be done about school lunch programs? How do we know he's not going to follow through in other ways, i.e., that education, enlightening info, and persistence? He didn't just drop everything in the U.K. - it looks like something's been accomplished there...why not here? Because he's British?

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  We don't. But since he is British, lives there, has a life and career there, chances are he won't be doing the same thing the same way here. He may surprise me but I doubt it.

                  The part about being British is yet another dimension to the picture. There is a bit of the arrogant continentals coming to lecture the ignorant colonials in there.

                  The fact that he is trying to do this through a reality show also casts doubts about his real intentions. If there is no attention, if there is no hefty paycheck for the reality show, would he still do it?

                  This gets into a lot of other issues, but I have always been more impressed with those who give generously out of the limelight and be recognized after their demise than someone who puts themselves in front of a camera touting their own generosity, saintliness, and largess.

                  1. re: Phaedrus

                    And by and large, I don't disagree with you on your last paragraph. However, to get this specific message across to the general public, a larger medium is necessary, IMO, vs. attempting to do this out of the limelight. I'm thinking a visual b*tchslap upside the head is sometimes the only way to get people to wake up.

                    As for the perception of arrogant continentals lecturing the ignorant colonials? Come on - I think we Americans are more than capable of getting past the redcoats vs. the Minutemen mentality after 230+ years, don't you? After all, we won that fight, didn't we? :-) I just don't see it that way. I see it as someone who was successful in his own country (albeit a much, much smaller one!) in making changes, and wanting to help others do the same thing.

                    Hey - if Jamie's done after this year with this show and doesn't continue trying to help the American school system to change the way they feed their students in other ways or recruit others to continue the battle, I will be sorely disappointed. And then you can say "I told you so." But I'll still be very glad he's tried, and hopefully, he will have changed some people's mindsets and prompt them to do something on a smaller scale.

                    But I'd rather give him the chance to do what he's doing vs. dismissing it out of hand.

                    1. re: Phaedrus


                      I think you are right. I think the fact that this is done through a reality entertainment show really calls into the question of its effectiveness if not the intention. If someone here want to convince his/her children to eat right, is bring in the camera the bring way to do it? Probably not. I think in a year or so, we will know if this is just "for the show and for his own profit".

                      As for lobbying Congrss is another problem, are we going to treat processed foods like tobacco. Are we going put a tax on these fast foods and microwave food not? Keep in mind, such tax is actually a regressive tax and not a progression tax.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        You have a point about the money behind the show. Ryan Seacrest is the producer, and that guy is about making money. This show would not be on the air if it didn't sell advertising space. But that said, they chose to do this show and not any number of other ideas that could fill that spot. So why not use the most powerful medium in America to get this message out? There is no more effective way to communicate with Americans than through the TV.

                        1. re: Shane Greenwood

                          Actually, Ryan Seacrest -- who was an obese child himself -- has spoken out on the topic of childhood obesity before this show ever was on the drawing board. So it's not entirely about the money.

                      2. re: Phaedrus

                        I know this is old, but Wow. Just Wow.

                        Jamie Oliver was severely dyslexic and couldn't access learning in any traditional way. He made it as a chef the hard way - by cooking in his dad's pub and then working on the line until he was discovered and given a cooking show. Since then, he's used his fame to do the following:

                        1. Change the entire school lunch program in the UK, to the point that test scores on standardised tests are actually higher than they were before the changes were made...that was the basis for the Food Revolution in the US. It was never about "taking control" - he was sharing the knowledge and experience he built up through grassroots efforts in the UK. It was successful there, and he saw the scale of the problem in the US and thought he could help, as he'd been through it all once.

                        2. Jamie took a bunch of young adults who left school with no qualifications and had few job prospects, and many of them even had a criminal record or were living on benefits. He then paid for them to be trained as chefs and personally helped to train them, then GAVE them a restaurant to run, and they ended up moving on to jobs with Thomas Keller, Alice Waters, etc. He continues to run the restaurant and training programs and has helped hundreds of young people become chefs. He has one in Australia as well.

                        3. Jamie championed the issues surrounding pig farming and especially raised awareness of sow cages - which are quite possibly one of the most disgusting thing that factory farming have ever used. He brought awareness to the British public and has helped lobby for changes to farming legislation. He also gave a huge loan to a childhood friend to develop one of the biggest and most successful organic pig farms in the UK.

                        4. He did the same thing for the intensive factory farming of chickens, and worked with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to advocate for free-range organic poultry and to eliminate the worst factory farming practices. This has resulted in a massive increase in organic and ethically-farmed poultry sales.

                        5. He built and ran a kitchen in a town that taught cookery for free, and he taught nearly the entire town at least a few dishes that were healthy (he did something similar when he did the giant cook-along in FR). He funded the whole thing, and helped get the council to continue running it. I believe it's still open to this day.

                        Jamie is certainly odd, and a little naive and special. But he's really like that. Nothing is put on for "dramatic effect" - he REALLY cares about the people he encounters, and the emotion is genuine. Sure, his lack of "traditional schooling" has meant that he's said a few things in ways that maybe weren't smart or diplomatic, but it isn't because he is horrible, and it certainly isn't because he's "British." Honestly, the LAST thing I'd ever call Jamie is superior - he's the first to admit that he isn't "book smart" but everything he does is about showing people that someone who isn't "smart" can cook, and thus ANYONE can cook. He isn't arrogant. He isn't condescending. He's just Jamie Oliver. And I for one am glad to have him working to help school children (and their parents) eat more healthfully. I'm a high school teacher, and am disgusted with what my students consume daily...but most of them did see Jamie's program, and it was a turning point for many of them. Hell, they caught me out the few times I had soda with my lunch because it has "evil" high-fructose corn syrup! Success! :-)

                        1. re: guster4lovers

                          guster, thank you for posting this. i've never had anything but the utmost respect for JO, and i hated reading all the negative posts about him and the show.

                          1. re: guster4lovers

                            guster, BRAVO! It is refreshing for someone to outline the tremendous accomplishments and positive societal influences of a media personality. I was unaware of JO's learning disability. He is an inspiration.

                            1. re: globocity

                              Wow...I've grown quite used to people violently disagreeing with me about British celebrity chefs. Bless you, globocity and goodhealthgormet. I'm friending the hell out of you both....or whatever the chowhound equivalent is. :-)

                              To be honest, I didn't really know anything about him either until I started dating (and eventually married) a British guy. Since being exposed to all the shows he's done, I've been awed by Jamie Oliver and really respect him. Watching the Food Revolution from that perspective seems to be incredibly different than how most people saw it (and him). Sure he's a little dumb sometimes, but his intention is always good and he's genuinely a good person. Can't always say that about celebrities.

                              1. re: guster4lovers

                                "I've grown quite used to people violently disagreeing with me about British celebrity chefs."
                                British or not, and celebrity or not, he's an inspiration. i guess i can't really fault some people for being turned off by the silliness and commercialism of the show, but i wish they were able to see PAST all that and recognize how valuable & *relevant* his work is.

                            2. re: guster4lovers

                              I'm a high school teacher, and am disgusted with what my students consume daily...but most of them did see Jamie's program, and it was a turning point for many of them. Hell, they caught me out the few times I had soda with my lunch because it has "evil" high-fructose corn syrup! Success! :-)
                              I love this! And THAT is what this show was about.....get the kids thinking about what they're eating/drinking, perhaps getting them to change the way they eat.

                              Your overview of Jamie and his life/career/accomplishments are really pertinent to the whole conversation about what he's trying to do, as well. Thanks very much.

                  2. re: junescook

                    The fact is, his ideas are superior, the food being served in many schools across the country remains inferior, the kids he is trying to help are eating crap, and many of the administrators and other personalities are reacting defensively.

                    The fact also is, delivering the message is difficult, and without using a verbal bazooka, it isn't always easy to change things.

                    Many of the case stories being highlighted are heartbreaking. When an obese mother and father are feeding their kids fat-laden crap day in and day out ,and said kids are already obese and in immediate danger of shortening their life, it is difficult to deliver a message tactfully.

                    I applaud his efforts.

                    1. re: stevenb30

                      I like that term "verbal bazooka". :-)

                  3. re: Phaedrus

                    "I think Jamie needs a new editor"
                    nah, he should've never worked with seacrest.

                    "Simon Cowell in American Idol or Gordon Ramsay in Hell's Kitchen"
                    unfair analogy as one is a great cook and the other a critic - one creates, the other destroys (hehehe)

                    "Actually, Ryan Seacrest -- who was an obese child himself"
                    not surprised given how bloated his productions are. that's one guy who'll put the first decade of this century in the books as being tacky, hyper-emotional, frivolous, and basically full of crap.

                    did they really need to zoom-in and focus on the fat girl crying in the mortuary? so many documentaries have gotten across the point of better eating without such painful sequences. besides, if you don't read the labels as you shop and end up fat - whose fault is that? and how does a bunch of tv-appearance-hungry kids dancing-while-cooking reduce morbid obesity? what reflects reality more: chefs yelling in the kitchen? or dancing cooks? this is why jamie is the butt or gordon's jokes all the time.

                  4. re: junescook

                    Good golly! I've watched the entire series, so far, and got the COMPLETE opposite reaction: his compassion, his willingness to try again and again and again to win people over (even when they treat him like dog doo), his ability to work with those misfit teens, his joy at relating to the little children, and his passion to keep on going no matter what strike us as extraordinarily wonderful and "populist."

                    He's practically a saint <g>, putting up with what he does, and never losing his temper, always coming back to try again to win people over...

                    I LOVE this show, and I have profound respect for Jamie Oliver because of it.

                  5. Being British has a lot to do with how he comes across. My mom-in-law is British & can still be very hard to take in the way she addresses things.
                    He may not come across as 'Mr. Nice Guy' but he's done pretty well considering the brick walls he keeps coming up against. Didn't you see the one where the principal (or maybe whoever's over the cafeteria) told him his healthy pasta dish made with veggies (which the kids were eating) didn't have enough veggies (needed 1 1/2 cups) so she made them serve french fries?! What kind of message does that teach our kids? My 15 year old has NEVER liked school cafeteria food except for about 4 things they served. Her elementary school threw enough food away to feed the school all summer long. How sad is that?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sassylassy

                      I agree. I lived with a Brit for many years so I interpret them differently than the average American. As such, I don't think Jamie comes off as stuffy or holier than though or as though he is using a "verbal bazooka" or any of those other things, not at all! He is the same way he is in all his cooking shows or any other place I've seen him. Honest, straightforward, enthusiastic and frankly, I think it's pretty nice that he's this concerned, that he's left his home and family to work on a big American problem. I wish people would quit picking on him for his "style" and help work on the problem instead. At least he's doing something!

                    2. The show just won Best Reality Show in the technical/creative Emmy Awards ceremonies that are held a week before the televised Emmy special (Aug. 29).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: greygarious

                        nice! so glad the show was recognized. the honor is well deserved :)

                      2. the original brit version (jamie's school dinners) was much better. i've never really admired his food but his campaigns are truly admirable and jamie's been very effective in re-educating brits in getting healthier by eating better food.

                        i strongly believe the tacky vibe was due to the ryan seacrest touch: the dancing-while-cooking routine was beyond the pale, it was desperate and certifiable lunacy.