Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

Jamie continues LA bun fight

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's latest plan to improve school meals in the US is running into difficulties (AP)

Jamie Oliver has vowed to keep his healthy food fight boiling in Los Angeles after his recipe for success curdled with schools chiefs.

"I've had a tough time here," the 35-year-old celebrity chef admitted wearily in an interview. "Nothing that was planned has come off (since he arrived in LA last autumn to shoot his second US TV series)."

The six-episode show was to revolve around one of Oliver's favourite causes - making school lunches healthier - but was skewered when the Los Angeles Unified School District objected to his key ingredient - TV cameras.

"We're interested in Jamie Oliver the food activist, not Jamie the reality TV star," said Robert Alaniz, the schools district spokesman. "We've invited him to work with our menu committee, but there's too much drama, too much conflict with a reality show."

School lunches are a particular passion for Oliver, a father of four, who revamped cafeteria cuisine in Britain then turned his sights to Huntington, West Virginia, for his first US-based TV show after an Associated Press poll labelled the area America's unhealthiest.

Oliver decided to set his second US series in Los Angeles, home to the nation's second-largest school district, which enrols 650,000 mostly low-income children and serves "an amazing" 1.2 million meals a day.

But the district said no, partly because of. a previous sour experience with reality show School Pride, which used re-enactments of made-up incidents and left the authority with a big bill, Mr Alaniz said.

However, West Adams Preparatory High School in Central Los Angeles allowed Oliver on campus as a curriculum addition. But after two weeks of filming, the district found out he was there and stopped the show.

"We aren't happy about it," said Mike McGalliard, president of MLA Partner Schools. "I told the district, 'You guys are making a big fuss over nothing. It's not an expose. It's an incredible programme."

Oliver planted a community garden, mentored culinary arts students, lectured about portion size, caloric intake and diet-related disease, and set up a nearby community kitchen to give free classes in cooking fare such as roast chicken.

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