Jamie Oliver shows off kitchen for his 'Food Revolution'
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, trying to marshal parent support to get his "Food Revolution" into public school cafeterias, showed off a Westwood kitchen that will be the site for cooking classes and scenes in the second season of his reality TV series.
Oliver has invited parents to the kitchen (1038 Westwood Blvd.) at noon Thursday for a "part rally, part meeting" to talk about how to lobby Los Angeles Unified School District to reverse its decision that he cannot use cafeterias for the series.
Whether he succeeds or not, Oliver said, his job is to "facilitate proper activism and not just in Los Angeles." With his scruffy hair, untucked blue plaid shirt, green Converse sneakers and everyman approach, Oliver said he is "slightly overwhelmed" by the enormity of the task in L.A.
"I'm one fellow and I'm only human," he said at Wednesday's news conference. "On a good day the best I can do is provoke a thought or an action."
But he's not without resources: He has an Emmy-winning ABC series and cookbooks behind him, and a new prime-time show ahead in the spring. What that series will include remains unclear, he said.
His work, Oliver said, is not a reality television show, it's a campaign. He said he has never before been blocked from a public institution and would be able to go into public schools in his native England.
Many parents are eager for change, he said. The food industry will go along with change, too, if they can make money, he said: "I know it's about the dollar."
If LAUSD, which has 680,000 students, doesn’t alter its decision -– and officials insist it won't –- Oliver said he'll try charter or private schools or another district in the area. He said he isn't yet critical of what's on the lunch line –- he just wants to get in to assess it.
But his position is not unique, he said. "Many people trying to make change in their schools are getting shut out," he said.
The kitchen, not far from UCLA, has several stations with stoves and equipment, an area with potted herbs and vegetables, and an area with screens to connect to his projects in Australia, England and Huntington, W.Va., where the first season of "Food Revolution" was set.
The kitchen is a temporary site, and a permanent one is to be located in the next few months across the street.
Asked why he didn't build a kitchen in South or East Los Angeles, he said it was in part because the kitchen is also a set for his television work. He said he hopes to open kitchens in other neighborhoods and will get a truck on the road in the spring that is being built as a mobile kitchen and classroom. "I expect to spend a lot of time in the truck," he said.
Classes, which Oliver said will be free, could begin soon, even in the temporary kitchen, and in the summer in the permanent kitchen, a spokeswoman said.
His campaign has been funded in part by donations, including $1 million from Chipotle.
His goal, he said, is to get people eating more fresh food and to improve their health. His "Feed Me Better" campaign looked at British school food, and last year ABC's "Food Revolution" won an Emmy for its episodes set in schools and homes in Huntington.
-- Mary MacVean
Photo of Oliver in "Jamie's Kitchen" in Los Angeles. By ABC/Greg Zabilski