West Virginia eats Jamie Oliver for breakfast

Chef reduced to tears by US reaction to his new show about healthy eating

He swaggered into town with a can-do attitude, a cheeky-chappie smile, and a burning desire to help the world's fattest schoolchildren. But less than an hour later, the impertinent English superchef was being reduced to tears as hostile locals told him to lay off their beloved nuggets, pizza, and chocolate milkshakes.

Jamie Oliver crossed the Atlantic on Sunday, hoping to administer the sort of wake-up call that five years ago saw him invited to Downing Street to explain what the nation's school canteens should do with their Turkey Twizzlers. But like many a British star before him, he found America to be a tough nut to crack.

The Naked Chef swapped his trademark scooter for a vintage SUV and rolled into the city of Huntington, West Virginia, to launch the ABC series Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, a hybrid US version of the various TV series in which he's attempted to educate Britain about the virtues of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Bringing that message to Huntington proved to be quite a challenge: the city was recently named by the Centres for Disease Control as the least healthy city in the least healthy state of America, the most overweight nation in the developed world.

Oliver's campaign got off to a tricky start. At the local talk radio station, the "shock jock" told him to take the busybody act elsewhere: "We don't want to sit around eating lettuce all day!" said the DJ. "Who made you king?"

Complaining that he "thought miserable bastards like that only existed in England", Oliver adjourned to the local school, where children were tucking into their daily breakfast: pizza and chocolate milk. "I have never seen pizza served for breakfast," he said, shocked. Oliver then watched aghast as the dinner ladies whipped up a lunch of chicken nuggets and reconstituted "pearls" of processed potato. "It's that kind of food that's killing America," he announced.

Oliver was introduced to the morbidly obese wife and children of a local truck driver, whose entire diet consisted of fried, re-fried, deep-fried and microwavable junk. "This is going to kill your kids," he declared. The mother duly broke down in tears.

If there's one thing middle America hates it's being lectured to by sniffy foreigners. And the tense atmosphere in Huntington reached boiling point when a newspaper quoted Oliver suggesting his host country's obesity epidemic might be due to ignorance.

True? Maybe. Oliver was promptly forced to issue a grovelling apology. "They don't understand me," he declared to the camera, breaking down in tears. "They don't know why I'm here!"

Sunday's show, a preview for a series that commences this Friday, received mediocre ratings: only 6.1 million viewers tuned in, fewer than such shows as Undercover Boss, Celebrity Apprentice and Family Guy. And the reviews were also mixed. The Washington Post said the show "has all the problems of most network reality pap".

The Los Angeles Times couldn't have been more effusive, though. "Despite an accent that is usually referred to in the UK as 'mockney' and the product-tousled hair men of his age inexplicably favour, Oliver is eminently and instantly likeable," said its review. "He may in fact wind up being reality TV's most engaging star."

The programme, which was filmed last year and has not yet been scheduled for broadcast in the UK, has drawn a mixed reaction in Huntington. "People think we're all morbidly obese, walking around eating pizza," a (rotund) local councillor, Brandi Jacobs-Jones, complained to CNN. "We have 5K [runs] every weekend... We have our teeth. We have master's degrees."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam