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Jamie's revolution stalls

TURNS out Jamie Oliver's revolution won't be televised - at least not from Los Angeles school kitchens.

The second season of the crusading Brit's healthy eating reality show, "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution," started poorly when the city school district barred his cameras, a serious snag for a program that focuses on school lunches.

"I think we swam into a minefield," Oliver said this week. "I'm really disappointed that I couldn't get in there at all. I'm disappointed that as public servants, they feel they have the right to not be transparent."

But the trouble didn't end with school officials. There are signs in the first episode (airing on ABC in the US on Tuesday) that the people of Los Angeles - the city where Fatburger was founded - aren't fully embracing the revolution either. Only a modest crowd comes out to watch Oliver fill a school bus with a week's worth of the sugar added to the flavored milk served in LA schools (actually 57 tons of white sand).

Oliver dejectedly tells the camera: "This is cold-shoulder stuff."

So did LA prove too much for the chef? Hardly.

Oliver remains focused on the multi-national healthy food campaign that has consumed him for more than five years.

"You only have to affect 2 percent of the population to make radical change," he said, "and that's what we're talking about, really."

In a TV landscape cluttered with sudden-death cook-offs and flamboyant chefs, Oliver's latest show has an unusual recipe for success - asking strangers to do what's good for them.

For the second season of "Food Revolution," that entails Oliver jousting with school bureaucrats, trying to help parents and kids make better choices and lobbying for healthier food at a local hamburger joint. It's not easy. In one scene, the fast-food operator goes wide-eyed when Oliver suggests he make burgers with grass-fed, black Angus beef that costs US$1.30 per 170g patty (Oliver said he eventually was able to get the price down to 65 US cents).

Oliver had better luck in Huntington, West Virginia, where he first took his healthy food crusade. At least there he was allowed into the schools. But there were bumpy moments, too, as he tangled with reluctant school officials and kids who preferred pizza and chicken nuggets to his fresh-made coleslaw.

A Huntington school district spokesman later said that though the show was an ordeal, the process was worth it. Oliver calls his first US stop in the food revolution a success.

"The dream was to do what we did. And eventually we pulled off everything we wanted to pull off," he said. "In LA, you know, it's a completely different kettle of fish. I was banned from every school before I even touched down on the airport."

Still, he plans to go back to Los Angeles later this month. He wants to check in with families he worked with. Also, a new school superintendent starts later this month and Oliver, ever the optimist, wants to meet with him. Maybe they can start a dialogue, or maybe something more.

"I'd be lying if I told you there was a big master plan," he said.


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