Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution premiered last night, as most of you probably know. It was the first of the six episodes of the second season, which is taking place in Los Angeles. We can actually say is taking as opposed to took place, since the show is still being filmed, parts of it at least, and the end is yet to be determined.
As emblematic city scenes — traffic, palm trees — sped by, a dramatic voiceover narrated. “The city that invented and perfected fast food. If he could change Los Angeles, perhaps he could change the world. But this time Jamie may have bitten off more than he can chew.” At which point our hero entered, not with cape but scruffy Converse sneakers. “They did not let me into any school,” said the British chef. “Which means it's war.” Imagine Battle: Los Angeles crossed with Graham Kerr.
We began, fittingly enough, with Ryan Seacrest, who is a producer of the Food Revolution, and then segued to Jamie's Kitchen in Westwood. “We're not happy,” said Oliver, giving us the backstory of how he'd been denied access by the LAUSD to the city's public school cafeterias, which food he examined. “Imagine having airplane food every day.” Oliver held a baby. The camera cut away to a table loaded with piles of very unappetizing bits of food, supposedly smuggled out from LAUSD cafeterias. He brought in a “stunt cow” to do a beef demo. So began the shock TV portion of the program, in which Oliver demonstrated how the nasty bits of beef are washed in ammonia (mothers and kids grimaced) to produce the “pink slime” that is used in commercial food processing, and which he says routinely goes into hamburger meat.
Cut to Oliver's own crying children and his wife asking him not to get arrested if he can manage it. Signs of the apocalypse appeared in the form of a guy on the street prophesying the seventh seal (“check my blogspot!”). Recurring shots of traffic, palm trees. And thus to Patra's drive-thru in Glassell Park, an independent burger joint where Oliver worked for a time to revamp the menu and convince Patra's owner Dino Perris that fast food needn't be awful for you. “I got kind of angry,” said Perris. “Not angry to the point of harming him…” Oliver channeled Gordon Ramsay. (Read the hilarious local Chowhound boards on this episode.)
From Patra's Oliver moved to another board meeting, and to a parking lot in Carson where he filled a school bus with sand, a “stunt” (again, Oliver's term) meant to showcase the amount of sugar consumed by schoolchildren via flavored milk. At the end of which a disconsolate Oliver sat on the school bus stairs, as sand continued to fall from the steps onto the concrete, and confessed to his ABC film crew that he thought LA. may have been a mistake. Tune in next week.
So what do you, the public Oliver has repeatedly appealed to since he landed in this town with his wife and kids and camera crew, think of the first episode of Oliver's L.A. show? This is, as has Oliver himself said more than once, a documentary rather than a reality television show. It is also an unfinished one, as the chef and television personality will be returning later this month to finish shooting the show, which is still, according to ABC, a work in progress.
Do you imagine he'll get into the LAUSD? Would it matter at this point if he did? Jamie's Kitchen in Westwood is now closed, but it will reopen — with all the stoves and flatscreens and snazzy Bing-funded paraphernalia — somewhere-not-in-Westwood as a teaching kitchen in the coming weeks or months. The Food Revolution Truck is currently parked in the California Endowment's parking lot, where people are being trained to operate it, also as a teaching kitchen. As for what's to happen with the Los Angeles Food Revolution, both the television show and the movement itself, it is, apparently, up to you.