Jamie Oliver is angry at critics who say he isn’t serious about health, write Darren Devlyn and Colin Vickery
Jamie Oliver’s toughest
JAMIE Oliver’s a difficult man to rile. But the boyish charm that propelled him to international fame disappears when he’s responding to people who criticise his campaign to stop obesity.
He weathered severe criticism for Ministry of Food, a series set in Rotherham, Yorkshire. He was left looking pale and battle-weary after Rotherham residents accused him of portraying them as ‘‘ dumbos’’ and ‘‘ numpties’’.
Oliver hit back, saying he’d been knocked by a minority of locals who saw his show as a
‘‘ vanity project’’ rather than a genuine campaign to help those whose diets were so appalling that they were eating themselves to death.
One critic said Oliver was focusing on people in Rotherham who had ‘‘ heads so squishy that their eyes look like someone has poked them into Play-Doh with a screwdriver’’. But Oliver maintained there were victims of fast food-related obesity everywhere.
‘‘ I don’t benefit from bulls---ting,’’ a defiant Oliver said of his critics. ‘‘ I go through (in editing) every f---ing scene we film because if I can’t justify every scene in the show then
people like you (media) will tear me to pieces.’’
Oliver has courted more controversy in Jamie Oliver’s
Food Revolution, which takes his healthy eating campaign to what is reportedly one of the unhealthiest towns in the US. One in five middle-aged residents of Huntington, West Virginia, has heart problems and half the elderly have no natural teeth after gorging on sugary foods all their lives.
Oliver was brought to tears when he felt he was failing to get his message across.
‘‘ They don’t understand me . . . they don’t know why I’m here,’’ a teary Oliver said. A production source said: ‘‘( That) was the lowest we’ve ever seen Jamie. He is normally so upbeat, but the scale of this challenge got to him.’’
Oliver was also filmed, head in his hands, asking pupils to identify fruit and vegetables.
Holding up a vine of tomatoes, he asked what they were, and they replied: ‘‘ Potatoes.’’
It would be easy for Oliver to run his restaurants, make cooking shows and take the money. So what drives him to run social campaigns such as Food Revolution?
‘‘Food Revolution to me was really an extension of what I’ve been doing in the UK with school dinners and Ministry of
Food, which is now coming to Australia, of course. What makes me do it? I think part of it is that I just want to do something that helps people.
Though half the residents in Huntington, West Virginia, are clinically obese, they are not interested in Jamie’s tips
The restaurants are successful, the books are best-sellers, but I need more than that. I want to be able to make a positive difference.
‘‘ It surprises me and shocks me, of course (that so many know so little about nutrition). A few years ago I did an experiment with British kids to see if they knew their vegetables and hardly any of them knew things like courgettes or beans, but at least most of them knew their tomatoes and potatoes.
‘‘ I did the same thing in an American school for this series and they didn’t even know tomatoes. That’s why I’m pushing for food and cooking education in schools.
‘‘ To be honest, I’m not against these (junk) foods from time to time as a treat. Treats are fine, we all love treats. But the problem comes when treats become everyday food.
‘‘ It’s always a proud moment when you hear about successes — kids loving the new school food, parents and teachers giving great feedback, hearing that the Ministry of
Food centres in the UK are booked up for months in advance.’’ Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Channel 10, Friday, 7.30pm
JUDI AND ROBERT BLAKE TAKE PART IN JAMIE’S PROGRAM