But this time, it not what we're allowing our children to be served in the school cafeteria, as was the case on Food Revolution. It's what we're serving them at home. It's what we're cooking. It's the fact that clearly we can't be trusted to navigate a market or wield a knife without his oversight. As such, the British chef has stepped off the reality TV train and back into the land of cooking shows to give us some no-holds-barred guidance via Meals in Minutes, which premiered last week on BBC America.
Strange but true: up until mid-April, this show was called 30-Minute Meals. Really? We thought that had been covered. Good think Rachael Ray isn't the litigious type. Or, wait...
Per a press release, here is Oliver's tough love approach to cooking:
If you want really great food, and fast, then do EXACTLY what I say. The years of me making pleasant suggestions are gone; I am going to tell you what to do, what to buy, when to turn your oven on and how to make these dishes. If you listen, you'll end up with a feast of beautiful things on your table in less than half an hour. This is about making people brilliant, on a daily basis.
In watching his show, however, we find Oliver's bark is (again?) worse than his bite. He's jovial and enthusiastic in the kitchen, perhaps because he's at home there. There are no publicity stunts to coordinate or school boards to fight. It's the Jamie Oliver we remember, which is nice.
Like Ray, Oliver puts together a full meal within a half hour. Also like Ray, he takes a few helping hands from the grocery store. He uses store-bought puff pastry dough. He uses salad in a bag. He uses a microwave. (Not without a semi-defensive disclaimer that it's for cooking and not reheating, mind you.) He also leaves on the skin on the chicken and includes dessert. With the way he crusaded against obesity, we're somewhat surprised he'd go near those things.
Still, his recipes are good. He keeps dishes like Piri Piri chicken and Portugese tarts or Thai curry prawns with jasmine rice simple and clean, and uses mostly fresh ingredients. His instructions are clear, and he keeps things accessible, yet inspiring, which is exactly what home cooks want to see in a cooking show. He's back, basically. And in the kitchen, we're happy to see him.
Air times for Meals in Minutes vary. Check BBC America's local listings.