View from here - Knives out for Jamie's new show

9th April 2010 at 01:00
Hamish W Lace reports on the naked criticism the British celebrity chef is facing as he takes US school dinners to task

The decision by a Brit to come over and lecture the United States on how to feed its school pupils was never going to be universally well- received.

When celebrity chef Jamie Oliver tried to explain his mission on a West Virginia radio station, the breakfast show presenter sneered: "We don't want to sit around and eat lettuce all day. Who made you king?"

This was among the dispiriting moments for Jamie in the first episode of his new series Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, broadcast by the channel ABC in the United States two weeks ago.

In it, he attempted to revamp the menu at an elementary school in Huntington, West Virginia, the city rated as the unhealthiest in the nation by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Just as happened when he started his crusade in the UK, Jamie was horrified by the food on offer to pupils - in this case "breakfast pizza" instead of Turkey Twizzlers. He also faced scepticism from pupils and catering staff.

When he suggested that pupils should have knives and forks to eat - rather than just spoons - caterer Alice Gue could not believe children in Britain would be allowed them: "Are you telling me, honestly, your kindergarteners have knives and forks?"

The experience, along with clashes with local residents about some of his comments on Americans, left the Naked Chef tearful. The Washington Post noted that he appeared to have glossed over the politicisation of food in the US, "the high cost of eating right, the class issues over portion size, the constant character judgments strewn between a fine meal and the drive-thru."

But Jamie's new campaign has won him admirers, in the press and in the local community. And, given that Michelle Obama has made improving children's diets a personal mission, it will be no surprise if the chef makes friends in high places.

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