Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, ABC’s newest reality program, wrenches at the heart more than Extreme Makeover: Home Edition did at it’s peak. Following renowned British chef, Jamie Oliver, as he tries to change the food situation in Huntington, VA the show is as much an exploration of the problems with the food industry as a charming tale of an outsider trying to help the locals. More than anything the show sheds light on just how pervasive the problem is in our country, and how ingrained improper eating is to not just the kids but the adults as well.
Back when “The Naked Chef” first caught the eye of Americans he was full of charm and charisma; making cooking at home a fun event. Oliver’s charm is still abundant, but in recent years he’s taken to leading the charge on changing food. First he started in England, where his school food programs have been successful. And now he’s looking to bring his ideas into a city that sees him as a meddling outsider.
That’s where, as a television program, Food Revolution shines. Forget for a moment that what Oliver is trying to do is a monumental and necessary thing. What we see in the show is that the people of Huntington react caustically to the British interloper telling them they’re doing it all wrong.
The premiere episode focuses heavily on the school lunch program as Jamie enters the kitchen of an elementary school, only to butt heads with the cooks. Sue, who doesn’t like being called a “lunch lady” while falling into all the clichés of being one, provides the antithetical argument to what Oliver is doing. She’s the voice of a town that doesn’t understand what’s so wrong with the processed food being served. When Jamie shows them a box of processed meat from the freezer at the school he asks what food is present, to which Sue immediately says, “Ground beef. It’s the first ingredient.” But as Oliver points out, there is a laundry list of unfathomable items that is in this so called food.
What’s going on with the school food on the show is sad, and it happens at nearly every school in America. The countrywide problem is briefly touched upon when Jamie’s planned fresh food meal is ruined by a lack of two-grain servings. The orders for the food don’t come from a chef at the school; they come from the USDA. I also can’t understand why any normal thinking person would serve a child both rice and bread. You don’t need two starches at a meal.
Food Revolution takes a moment to tackle on a smaller scale what Jamie is trying to do when he visits a local family. He assesses what they eat on a weekly basis, then puts all of it on the dining table for them to look at (a moment that is exactly like what happens on the BBC America show You Are What You Eat). Afterwards he helps the family to start changing their food habits. It’s the one bright spot in the episode for Oliver, who is constantly beaten up by the locals.
But it’s the very fact that he doesn’t get spiteful when challenged that makes chef Oliver the best choice for this program. He’s on a mission in life now, but that easy going “Naked Chef” many may still remember lies beneath his mission. He never forgets he’s an outsider, and more importantly he never ever forgets that there’s a community of families who need someone to stand up and say that there needs to be a change.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: Series Premiere
Starring: Jamie Oliver
Executive Producers: Ryan Seacrest, Jamie Oliver, and Craig Armstrong
Premieres: Sunday, March 21 at 10:00 PM ET/PT on ABC. Repeat airing in series’ regular timeslot on Friday, March 26 at 9:00 pm ET/PT on ABC.