Jamie Oliver is the first to admit that he's the most unlikely leader of America's school food revolution. The 36-year-old tells Outside Magazine that he tried for years to recruit an American chef to make waves akin to his own successful efforts in the U.K. “I never thought I was the one for the job, because I was hidden away on the bakery slot of the Food Network," he says.
Oliver goes on to mention that seminars and cooking classes with such health food notables like Alice Waters went nowhere. “No one had the guts or inclination to engage with me on this project. It felt like the American broadcasters were too scared to potentially upset an advertiser.”
Ultimately, it was the sympathetic ear and considerable clout of Ryan Seacrest that led to the reality series "Food Revolution" on ABC. After a successful first season of transforming the nutritional value of school lunches in Huntington, W. Va., Oliver went on to tackle the Los Angeles school district for season two — and in the process, he stirred up even more controversy.
As we documented here on MNN, the school district banned the "Food Revolution" crew from filming in any of their schools, forcing Oliver to come up with alternative ways to deliver his message. As he tell Outside, the negativity of the experience hit him hard.
“I don’t actually like it. It makes me feel sick,” he says. “I have a massive and genuine belief in the American public. The stirring of the pot is very much needed. But my career’s in England. My career is being an author and a restaurateur. This is financially the worst use of my time. I think I’m an odd soldier to do this.”
Nevertheless, Oliver intends to stay in the fight — even if ABC makes official what many are expecting and cancels the reality series. "TV that is reality, and TV that gives a s**t, and TV that doesn't mind sticking its neck out to tell the truth, has a future," he says. "The food revolution will crack on no matter what."
For more on how Oliver was inspired to help create healthy meals and fight childhood obesity, check out the full interview over on Outside magazine.