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Jamie Oliver's 'Food Revolution' makes its case with teenagers

June 11, 2011 |  8:25 am

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Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver takes two steps forward, one step back as the "Food Revolution" forges ahead in its mission to reform poor eating habits without the support of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Just when it seemed like Oliver had found a way into one high school in Friday night's episode, he got his worst bum's rush yet from the district.

Oliver, who set the second season of his Emmy-winning reality show in L.A., starts out the episode on a positive note. The people who run West Adams Preparatory High School tell him they've found a way for him to cook lunch with a class of students to serve the whole school. That's a switch from an earlier episode, when Oliver was stymied in that effort. As he says, "I needed good news."

Oliver's hands-on style works great with the teenagers at West Adams, a high school near downtown. Last week he got the culinary class to cook 150 meals in a morning and showed them what's in some of the sundaes they eat. This week, a class gets to understand calories in a personal way: Oliver offers them all sorts of snacks, and then tells them to walk around the track to work them off -- three times for an orange, 11 for a candy bar.

It's inspiring, and likely that those teenagers will at least know when they're eating unhealthfully from now on.

Later in the episode, he brings together some students with some adults who have suffered from diet-related diseases, including a man who had a leg amputated because of diabetes. Everyone is moved to tears, the kids talk about relatives they fear will get sick and die. As Oliver puts it, they wonder, "Are they going to be at your wedding? Will they see your children?"

He also spends some time with Denny Barrett, the good-hearted single dad of two boys who apparently have subsisted on not much but fast food. Dad tearfully talks about a diet he knows is "gross," and Oliver starts them on their way out of "all the stinkin' junk." That's the family's house, above, filled with the junk food they consume in a year. With the help of some cooking and shopping lessons, Dad vows to change.

But the episode ends on a low note when Oliver learns that his permit to film at West Adams Prep has been revoked. He's angry and, he says, "hopeless." But he vows, "It's absolutely not going to stop the 'Food Revolution.'" And he goes back to the school board in hopes of making his case. Ramon Cortines, who then was the superintendent, shuts Oliver down, sternly accusing him of making the school district a "stage."

Of course, it's Oliver's show, and he gets the last word to close the episode: "Ramon Cortines, you should be ashamed of yourself."

School food and Oliver watchers know that Cortines soon leaves the district and his replacement is much more open to Oliver's agenda.

 -- Mary MacVean

Photo: Jamie Oliver in the Barrett home, surrounded by the junk food they consume in a year. Credit: ABC

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