In the third episode of his “Food Revolution,” Oliver spends a lot of time at Patra’s Charbroiled Burgers, an old-school drive-through whose owner is reluctant to change the food his customers have bought for decades.
The British celebrity chef offers the owner, Deno Perris, time on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show to pitch his restaurant (Seacrest is Oliver’s producer), as well as “$30, $40,000 of equipment” to spruce up Patra's. All Perris has to do is change the meat he serves to one Oliver wants him to use.
“If we can get him to turn, then maybe others will follow,” Oliver tells the audience.
But it doesn’t look easy: “I have a core of customers. What if they don't want that patty? ... I’m not going to change 33 years of a business for a countertop or a paint job. I’m not going to do that,” Perris tells Oliver. Oliver in turn judges the decision this way: "Deno doesn’t believe his customers deserve better.”
Life is not much easier for Oliver at West Adams Prep. Oliver had been unable to get the Los Angeles Unified School District to give him permission to tackle its cafeteria food in any school. But at West Adams, he was told he could teach the high school students in the culinary classes.
So he gets them to turn out 150 meals of chicken, salad, macaroni and cheese (whole wheat pasta) and fruit –- and plans to offer lunch to the students. But he’s stymied, told he cannot serve food in competition with the cafeteria’s meals.
When he tells the kids he’s been “shut down,” they look sad and defeated. And when he tells a group of parent volunteers what happened, he tears up.
Later in the episode, Oliver is quite impressive in a nutrition class that he makes smart and funny and effective. It’s easy to see why the students like him -- and shocking what they don't know about where their food comes from -- honey from a bear?
In his “Food Revolution,” Oliver is nothing if not persistent. He brings Deno to his Westwood teaching kitchen to meet one of the West Adams students, a teenager who tells him that her parents and younger sister are diabetic because of “the fast food that was around us.” She fears she is to be diagnosed next.
Deno, while full of sympathy, says he doesn’t “feel that I’m directly the cause” of the problem.
But this is TV and there’s jubilation and more tears ahead at Patra’s before the credits roll.
-- Mary MacVean
Photo: Jamie Oliver teaching nutrition. Credit: ABC