He's a prominent chef and TV personality and now England's Jamie Oliver is taking his passion one step further in ABC's Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (Fridays at 9/8c). Beginning his tour in Huntington, W.Va. — which the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled America's unhealthiest city in 2008 — the 34-year-old went into the kitchens of different schools to see what kids were being fed and demonstrate how to change. Oliver talked to TVGuide.com about the resistance he faced throughout his mission, how schools are serving children "street food," and what people can do to help the cause.
TVGuide.com: Why did you want to make this show?
Jamie Oliver: Ten months ago, stuff started to change. I'm not sure if it was to do with the Obamas or just because Americans are generally fed up with all the bad news and want to do something, but the opportunity came which was obviously exciting but a shock. This is something I'm really passionate about and America is a country I care about. America is a country that affects what other countries do as well and I'd be mad not to do what I've done before in England.
TVGuide.com: You were met with a lot of resistance in the first episode. Does that continue throughout?
Oliver: It does continue, but you just can't be scared of it. Just because people give you crap about something and don't want to change, doesn't mean you've got to stop. If you know in your heart what you're talking about is right and fair, I think you've got to keep putting your head down and working at it.
TVGuide.com: What was the worst thing you saw served in the schools you visited?
Oliver: I think having pizza for breakfast and then cereal next to it with milk with nearly as much sugar as it can have and then going off to nuggets. Just to scare you some more, Huntington standards, as far as normal cooking standards in the whole of America is concerned, is some of the best. I've seen way worse. Huntington's had the spotlight on it for a few years now so they've improved a lot of stuff, [but] it just seemed to me like constant street food. nuggets, sloppy joes, corn dogs, pizza, burgers, patties — it was highly processed food. A lot of it was imported from a long ways away full of all sorts of blubbering ingredients, and ultimately all I wanted the cooks to do was cook. How can it be that hard?
TVGuide.com: What do you want viewers to gain from Revolution?
Oliver: Throughout the six shows you're going to laugh, you're going to cry, you're going to throw things at the bleeding telly, you're going to be shouting at certain people because some of it's quite frustrating, but ultimately what the show does is, it informs you. It empowers you to have a really clear opinion about what's right and what's wrong and just see in clarity that certain things that have become normal really do affect and change the way we live and our kids live and our kids grow up. By [Episodes] 3 and 4, teenagers and kids start having the opportunity to say their minds and speak from the heart and I don't know how often that happens in prime-time TV. Hopefully, the show's going to get people [angry] — and they should be.
TVGuide.com: Do you still believe kids' diets will change?
Oliver: All the right people and all the parents, the kids even, want change. I know the show can't achieve everything, but if the show could empower people, cooks, parents, kids to feel that they're confident enough and it's OK and it's right to have an opinion — I want America to want more, to expect more, and they deserve more and when you take it right down to elementary school kids, it puts it in perspective. You can't, on one hand, have the first generation that kids are expected to die before their parents, and then on the other, with military precision, feed them junk every day from the age of 4 to 18 — it's not right.
TVGuide.com: What can people do right now to help the cause?
Oliver: There's a petition at Jamiesfoodrevolution.com. We're trying to get a million signatures for me to take to the White House.