Now Oliver sets his sights on fat Americans

British chef takes healthy eating campaign Stateside to convert one obese city
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Jamie Oliver is to take his healthy eating campaign to the US, where he will urge citizens of the world's wealthiest nation to swap their hamburgers, hot dogs and colas for hearty home-cooked meals.

Oliver has signed a deal with the ABC network for a prime-time series where he will try to convert to healthy eating the schools, workplaces and homes of an as yet unnamed town. The series will be a mélange of his two British series, Jamie's School Dinners and Jamie's Ministry Of Food.

In Jamie's School Dinners four years ago, Oliver prompted the Government to spend £500m on school food after finding pupils in Greenwhich were being fed turkey twizzlers. In Ministry Of Food last year, he held cookery lessons to coax people in Rotherham to abandon takeaways and ready meals.

He could find the citizens of smalltown America a tougher test than Yorkshiremen and women. The US is the fattest major nation on Earth, with 119 million people overweight. About a third of American adults are obese compared with 24 per cent of Britons.

Oliver is, however, known to millions of people in the US where his Channel 4 shows are screened on the Food Network. His books are also popular; sales figures in the US follow only those for the UK and Ireland, Germany, and Australia and New Zealand. He has also been a guest on Oprah and The Jay Leno Show.

His spokesman, Peter Berry, said Oliver had been thinking of doing a healthy-eating show in the US for years but now felt the time was right; partly due to the election of the slimline President Barack Obama, who has planted a kitchen garden in the grounds of the White House.

"I believe that now is the time when America is ready for big change," said Oliver, 33, yesterday. "I've been working on ideas for the American series for five years now, inspired by what has been achieved by the wonderful people in Greenwich and Rotherham.

"This is without question the most important and challenging thing I'll ever do in my life but I truly believe that I can at least plant the seeds of change in America in terms of helping a community to cook better, feed their kids better and save money.

"I'll be using everything I've learned over the last 10 years."

Filming for the new series, a co-production between Oliver's TV company, Fresh One, and Ryan Seacrest Productions, begins later this year. The show will air in the US in early 2010.

Neville Rigby, an obesity consultant formerly with the International Association for the Study of Obesity, wished Oliver well but warned him that Americans were even more unhealthy than Britons in their eating habits.

"Fast food, junk food, fizzy drinks are seen as normal in America but if he can teach them how to tell the difference, good luck to him," he said. "Maybe his charm will seduce them."