Jamie Oliver, known as the ‘Naked Chef’ and star of ABC’s new reality show ‘Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution‘ (Friday, 8 p.m.), certainly has his work cut out for him as he travels to America’s unhealthiest city, Huntington, West Virginia, and attempts to revolutionize the town’s eating habits. On ‘Food Revolution’, Oliver is met with resistance as he tries to spread his knowledge of healthy eating, with many doubting how you can change ingrained habits, bureaucracy, and limited financial resources. Although the challenges are great and even cause Oliver to shed tears in the premiere episode, he remains more determined than ever to fight the obesity epidemic in America as he prepares to petition Congress with a new healthy eating bill. Oliver spoke with Fancast to discuss the obesity epidemic, where he sees America in twenty years, and give meal tips that any family can make on a recession-friendly budget.
I was just informed that you were getting signatures for a petition to go to Congress. Can you tell me about that?
Absolutely. In conjunction with the six shows we are doing primetime on ABC on Fridays, we are doing a petition to cement all of the learnings that we got from Huntington-where we based the show. Really, it’s basically saying to your viewers ‘Look, if you believe in the things I believe in, if you believe kids should be fed proper food in schools, if you believe things need to change in regards to our attitude about health or what’s to offer in terms of fast food and the food industry, then please sign the petition’ and that’s what I will be taking to Capitol Hill when I go there in six weeks time. We are trying to get a million votes at least, so we really need your help.
With Michelle Obama focusing her efforts on childhood obesity, where do you see Americans in twenty years? Is there room for change?
Personally, I think there is no choice. It’s been taken to a level in this country where it’s way too messy and way too expensive. America needs to be lighter and healthier, and just able to be itself again. I really feel like Americans have had enough. I’ve been working in America for two years now. Enough is enough. The fact that she [Obama] is pushing it and trying to get big commercial companies-the “baddies”- to improve things are all profound things to do to make a big difference. Of course school lunches, again, you can’t have a government saying they want good change on one hand, and then with military precision armies of junk every single day for 180 days of the year. I think this is a really interesting time of change. What might happen in the next six months could be really important towards the next twenty years.
Watch Oliver in action:
What is ultimately to blame for the obesity epidemic?
The thing to blame for the obesity epidemic is the fact that life has changed. Forty years ago, most food was fresh and local as opposed to being mostly processed now. We’ve got big massive industries, brands, and companies that can do whatever they want really. It’s pretty obvious to why it got to where it got. Mom and dad both work, and food culture is not being passed down the family like it has been for the past few hundred years. Schools aren’t teaching cooking, and certainly the ones that are generally seem to not be teaching the stuff that’s relevant and useful to being a young parent really. It’s exactly the same back home in England; we’ve got exactly the same problems and for the last seven years I’ve been leading the charge over there by getting the government to make new laws and invest more money. It’s a massive challenge what we’re trying to do here, and I think the program is going to inspire parents to get vocal and support this revolution.
With our economy in a recession, what do you think is the best healthy meal to cook if you’re on a tight budget?
It’s a problem if no one ever taught you how to cook. If you can cook, then time and money doesn’t make any difference, because there a million quick recipes and a million slow recipes. At the same time, if you have five bucks or ten bucks or fifty bucks you can still cook a great meal in that kind of pricing. To me, the real thing is knowledge-having the knowledge to be able to make great stews, great soups, great stir frys, great pasta dishes-since they’re all cheap! I haven’t yet worked with a family that has been living on take-aways and fast food that hasn’t saved a hundred to a hundred fifty dollars a week, which is around eight thousand dollars a year. So knowledge is the key, no matter what we talk about, because it always comes back just learning ten new recipes that could help save your life. That, especially if it gets passed down to your children, is the most precious bit of knowledge that can get you healthy and happy in the next decade.