There he is, Mr. TED Prize 2010 (he’s the one on the right). Yes, it’s British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, the Naked Chef, the man who brought his brand of sexy, slightly-messy, all-natural cooking to television–and his own sexy, slightly-messy, all-natural chef-ness for women everywhere to fantasize about greasing up with extra virgin olive oil.
Don’t worry, he’s not gonna blow the $100k on a 2-ton chunk of pink Himalayan salt. For the last few years, Oliver’s been on the front lines of fighting childhood obesity. For the last year he’s been battling state school lunches in the U.K., pressuring them to spend $1 billion to overhaul the program, and penned a lovely manifesto for schools. He founded the Fifteen Foundation, a program that trains at-risk 18-to-24 year-olds in the culinary arts, and a new show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution USA, where he hopes to bring the same level of reform to U.S. schools, will debut on ABC next year.
And maybe he’ll do it like this?
While we can’t say that Oliver’s work falls neatly under TED’s rubric of Technology, Entertainment or Design (okay, maybe Entertainment?) this does prove that our global obsession with food, farms and nutrition has reached some kind of cultural tipping point. Speakers like Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, and Carolyn Steel have been appearing at TED with greater frequency, but none of the TED Prizes have so directly addressed the topic. A nice choice for their first foodie, I suppose, but it also seems to be banking on Oliver’s star power: No love for Alice Waters and her Edible Schoolyard? Or what about that Michael Pollan?
And speaking of, why only one winner this year, you may ask? As explained below the Oliver announcement, it’s become too exhausting for the TED team to manage the
implementation of the 15 TED Prizes (3 per year x 5 years) already in progress. From now on they’re
awarding one “genius”-style grand prize of $100,000 to a single winner. Oliver will present the fruits of his winnings at TED in February.