Fat Americans slam Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution
America’s fattest townspeople aren’t sure they want to be lectured to by the TV chef
Will TV chef Jamie Oliver fall flat in the US? The first episode of his new series, to be broadcast on Friday, apparently sees him reduced to tears by the outsized residents of America's fattest town - and critical reaction to a preview of the show has been mixed.
Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is an attempt to provoke over there the kind of national debate about school dinners he engendered in 2005 over here. And its preview screening has already stimulated angry reaction from critics and dieticians, with one reviewer lambasting his "imperious" tone and "crocodile tears" before asking, "Is this a man you would trust your child's nutrition to?" because Oliver doesn't know what the initials USDA stand for (United States Department of Agriculture).
Meanwhile, the US School Nutrition Association rushed out a more measured press release observing that they "share a common passion with Jamie Oliver" but saying he is missing "a few critical ingredients" of the story – the work they are already doing to improve school meal standards. The LA Times was positively effusive, saying Oliver could become "reality TV's most engaging star" despite his "inexplicable" product-tousled hair.
In the first episode of the ABC series, which is a hybrid of the various concepts Oliver has taken to UK television, he meets with resistance from the community of Huntington – the town with the worst obesity levels in Virginia, which is the state with the biggest fat problem in the US. Interviewed by a local radio shock jock, Oliver is told, "We don't want to sit around eating lettuce all day! Who made you king?"
Later, the mockney chef is reduced to tears when he is forced to issue an apology to the town after the local paper criticises him for daring to suggest ignorance could lie behind the obesity problem - this after he has watched with incredulity as school kids sit down to enjoy a breakfast of pizza and chocolate milk.
But Jamie is used to tackling tough audiences. Making his original School Dinners programme in the UK, he encountered stiff resistance from the parents of schoolchildren – some of whom, in Rotherham, allegedly pushed burgers through the railings to the playground at lunch time. And it's clear the show's producers are depending on some level of umbrage to provoke interest and bring in viewers – the question is whether they will get away with a "condescending" Brit telling fat Americans how to eat. ·
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