TV guide: Minister of good food

2011-03-18 08:13

Jamie Oliver wants to start a cooking revolution.

Closely linked to his previous School Dinners series, Jamie’s first port of call on starting his Ministry Of Food is the home of Julie Critchlow in Rotherham.

Critchlow is better known as the ringleader of the revolt against Jamie’s school dinners and was famously captured passing fish and chips, pies, crisps and sugary snacks through the railings of her children’s school, disgusted by the “low-fat rubbish” Oliver was serving.

Now almost a year into the campaign, Oliver admits that there have been massive high and lows, but he’s still going strong.

“We were going to do the series in Southend because that’s near where I was born, or Rotherham because of Julie,” explains the 33-year-old.

“It was because of her I knew Rotherham was the right place to base Ministry Of Food. The people I met up there were honest and fun, and didn’t care about TV crews.

“Britain’s also one of the richest countries in the world, but we have the third most obese population. The National Health System is in a hole as a result. We visit hospitals in some of the episodes, and doctors there told me about 68% of all admissions are in some way ­related to diet. I think it’s a bad attitude to just sit there and watch everything fall apart,” says Oliver, summing up why he launched this campaign.

After arriving in Rotherham, Oliver visits a number of people who have expressed an interest in learning to cook, and asks them if they’d be interested in kick-starting his new movement, Pass It On.

The premise is ambitious, yet simple. Oliver teaches a class of 12 people how to cook spaghetti and meatballs, and after they’ve mastered it, they in turn teach the dish to a small group of their friends, family or workmates in a similar position.

“Pass It On is the bit that freaks people out. It depends what sort of a person you are really, whether you’re someone who likes ­measurable, tangible things, or whether you’re someone who believes people should stand up and be a part of something that can go on and on, and be bigger than all of us.”

In the first episode of the ­four-part run, Jamie meets Natasha, a young mother who’s never cooked for her children, instead feeding them on kebabs and chips each night.

“(Eating badly) is also classless. I’ve got young single moms in my class, as well as an 86-year-old ­retired gent, professionals, working couples, you name it.

“And just ­because there’s a ­camera crew there doesn’t mean it’s just TV. There are kids involved, it has to be more meaningful than that. I think the series is a good snapshot of Britain today, and we must learn from the whole thing.”

Ministry Of Food follows Fowl Dinners, which ran earlier in the year, and the School Dinners campaign, which has been running for a while. – BBC Lifestyle

» BBC Lifestyle airs Jamie’s Ministry of Food on Tuesdays at 8.25pm

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