Heavy duty

Jamie Oliver is an­gry at crit­ics who say he isn’t se­ri­ous about health, write Dar­ren Devlyn and Colin Vick­ery

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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


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