Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jamie's Food Revolution

Hindsight really is 20/20, isn't it? Since I left Toronto I have seen nothing but advertisements and promotions for Toronto-based foodie events that interest me! Now that I'm in Ottawa and discovering a vibrant foodie scene here, I can't say that I'm all that disappointed, but there have been some interesting events that I wished I could have attended. So, instead of mull over the fact that I am no longer a subway ride away from the Toronto action, I had a special correspondent (otherwise known as my sister, Wendy) report back on Jamie Oliver's recent talk at Roy Thomson Hall in my former hometown. So, without further ado, I give you Jamie's Food Revolution.

The event was the first of its kind for Chef Oliver, a Q & A based talk, sans cooking demo. On the table were subjects ranging from his career at different stages, his shows, his work with schools, and of course, his new cookbook: Jamie's Food Revolution.

Chef Lynn Crawford
of Restaurant Makeover fame did the introduction, touting Oliver's accomplishments while also pitching her new upcoming T.V. show.

What is Jamie's Food Revolution? In a nutshell, Oliver wants to change the way families view and eat food. He joins the vast numbers of Chefs, foodies and food scientists who are supporting "real food" and battling against fast food and chemically-modified diet foods. His new show is called Jamie's American Roadtrip, and it explores the landscape of food in the U.S. According to Jamie, "America is eating themselves to death". In Huntington, VA, where he filmed part of his show, the top 2 employers were Health Care and Fast Food.

It wasn't all serious though, as Jamie showed his bubbly personality on stage and entertained foodies in the crowd. During this Q & A, Chef Jamie shared funny stories about mishaps in the kitchen, did a crazy dance and answered questions with a passionate enthusiasm, discussing everything from his love of chili peppers to his new iphone app, "20 Minute Meals".

Much like our own Jamie and his local food movement, Jamie Oliver also has a passion to change peoples' minds when it comes to food. He believes that "the ability to cook can make change, social change". Having started cooking at age 8 and now being a father himself, his focus is mostly on children and he believes that food skills and life skills should be taught in schools. He provided some quick guidelines on how to get kids to eat healthy food:

  • Don’t call it healthy food!
  • No diets
  • Call it proper or real food
  • There is no rulebook, kids change their eating habits and what they’ll like
  • Have fun and get messy
  • Include kids in decisions about food, at the market, at home, etc. and get them involved by picking out foods to try
  • Focus on what they do like!

When he worked on Jamie's School Dinners, he made a tomato sauce that included 7-10 veggies and it was a great way to add nutritional value to a meal he knew the kids would like. In his opinion, the biggest problem with kids today with respect to food is pop and snacks. In his research, he has even seen Red Bull in a lunch kit for a 4 year old! During the same show, he brought in 12 everyday veggies for a class and the only ones the kids could recognize were carrots!

When faced with the question, "How valuable is it to be a gardener in order to be a good chef?", Jamie showed his passion for ingredients and having a connection to the earth. "Growing stuff makes you a better person", he said, and he promoted container gardening and his view that schools should have gardens and use them for practical learning experiences in other subjects as well, such as art and math. Kids are more excited to eat things that they have grown and harvested themselves, and they need to gain this connection to what they are eating. Jamie said he is most proud of "getting 288 million pounds from the British government for school programs".

Here in Canada we have a fantastic program called Growing Up Organic that fosters the idea of getting kids excited about "real food", allowing them to grow it themselves, harvest it and even sell it! You can read more about GUO here.

When asked what Torontonians (or Canadians at large) can do to help the food revolution, he urged that we "protect our culture and values from the U.S. because Canada has amazing world class chefs and local food."

Jamie believes cooking classes are the best way to learn, books and T.V. are helpful but one on one instruction is the best kind of training. So, what are you waiting for? Get in the kitchen! Jamie will be glad you did.

Extreme thanks go to Wendy of WHDesigns for sharing this experience and providing photos!

*All Jamie Oliver photos courtesy of Wendy, JK photo via edlynnecanada on Flickr


  1. Yes, Simply Life -- I wish I had been there! But my sister gave me a great report :)