Here’s one big, fat challenge: get Americans to eat right. Millions of people tuned in to ABC’s six-episode Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution to watch the Naked Chef attempt this task, beginning with the nutritionally broken school-lunch system in Huntington, West Virginia. (A similar effort by Oliver has produced significant changes in Britain.) It wasn’t hard for him to see where to start–“Take vegetables,” he says. “French fries count as a vegetable?!”–though it was just a start. Fortunately, Oliver, 35, has patience. He has launched a nationwide petition to press public officials for reform, and he opened Jamie’s Kitchen, a community center offering cooking classes and food education in downtown Huntington. He also has the high profile that a global empire brings. In addition to his TV series, cookbooks, restaurants, and a bimonthly magazine, he has branded cookware, ingredients, home fragrances, and bath and body products. Through the Jamie Oliver Foundation, he provides opportunities to disadvantaged youth, including apprenticeships at his high-end restaurant franchise Fifteen. “I want to find a way to empower other people through food,” he says. “I was rubbish in school and have serious dyslexia. I can still barely read. Cooking was the only thing I was ever good at.”
As soon as I was old enough to peer over the worktops, I remember being fascinated by what went on in the kitchen. It just seemed such a cool place, everyone working together to make this lovely stuff and having a laugh doing it.
… all I ever wanted to do was to make food accessible to everyone; to show that you can make mistakes–I do all the time–but it doesn’t matter.