As a chef, I love his simple approach to cooking – it is very much like my own. Who needs an overly complicated recipe – toss stuff together – mix and match – know the elements and go for it. Enjoy the food.
Take his bread recipe, for example. It drives Garbanzo nuts that he can spend so much time and energy trying to perfect bread making and still fuck it up more times than not. Jamie’s recipe just speaks to me – about this much flour, about that much water. Nothing is precise – yet it turns out perfectly.
As a person though, I began admiring his passion for teaching. He has a couple restaurants now that teaches troubled kids how to become chefs. Hell, the restaurants are run by his trainees. And he rides their asses too – trying to help spark motivation and passion – to help them realize it is time to help themselves versus expecting others to do it for them.
His efforts in England with trying to get good food back into the schools – get parents to stop compromising on nutrition is amazing. (Even if it is controversial.) He loves kids. He loves food. And he hates seeing what food is doing to people with increased rates of obesity and obesity related health issues. So, instead of teaching strict nutrition – he’s teaching people how to do it. How to take that stuff – make it good to eat – fast.
Jamie has recently started bringing this message to the US. His wish is simple:
“I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”
And here is what I like – the fact he realizes at the root of the problem is the fact we as a society have lost our connection with food – lost our connection with home cooking. Fast food and prepackaged meals have become too prevalent because of the societal changes that result in people feeling they have less time to actually cook meals. Homecoooked meals get sacrificed in the time crunch. While the heart of the decision may be understandable, the unintended consequence is much greater.
His movement in the US is to teach kids how to cook. Instead of throwing them into nutrition classes, he wants them to learn how to cook. Learn how to apply it. Learn that you can throw something healthy and good together in 15 minutes if that’s all you have. He also wants to connect the kids back to their food.
A few weeks ago, there was an article about how he went to a school in the US to teach the kids. He quickly learned the kids didn’t even know their basic vegetables. In fact a potato and a tomato seemed to stump most of the kids.
When Garbanzo taught at the inner city school for the first 5 years, he used to teach the kids to cook. He started using it as a way to teach the kids about math – fractions, specifically. He ended up evolving it into nutrition as well as the cost of buying the food to make these things. Most of those kids were on public assistance of some sort – free lunches, food stamps, subsidized housing, food boxes, etc. As they started cooking, he realized how little understanding the kids had around food and the cost of it. They made a huge vat of soup one day – I think the cost for a classroom of 25 kids was maybe $10. This blew his minds of his 11 year old kids. He fed the whole class on $10. They wanted the recipe. They wanted to go home and make it for their families. All of these kids were acutely aware of the financial situations of their families. And this was astounding to them being able to do this.
Seeing that this was blowing them away, he took them to the grocery store on a field trip. He taught them how to shop for food. How to look at the cost of rice, for example, and know which was the best deal. The kids were eating it up. In fact, the parents started asking questions because of what their kids were saying. When the parents started talking about it, our friend who was the on site social worker at this school (yes, this school was THAT bad that the county put an on site social worker in the school) – she decided that maybe they should do an after school cooking class for the parents. So, they did. And, it went extremely well.
Did it work long term? Hard to say. Seeing the short term effect on the kids was pretty inspiring though. And with Garbanzo, he just accidentally stumbled across it – all because he wanted to teach them math. But, it makes me appreciate the approach Jamie Oliver is taking. Get the kids excited about food – get them asking for veggies because they tried it and loved it. Who can argue with that?
Jamie Oliver was officially awarded the TED prize last week for his efforts around these causes. Check out his speech. No, seriously, go right now and listen to it. It is seriously inspiring and eye opening! And I think what he says can hit close to home for everyone. I know it did for me.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. It is a non-profit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Their website contains videos of some inspirational people. Their idea is to do exactly what their tag line says: spread ideas.
- Clifford Stoll who is teaching college level physics to 8th graders. Amazing guy and an absolutely amazing talk.
- Aimee Mullens who is a record breaking sprinter and model – oh, and an amputee who works with scientists to help think of prosthetics in new ways. She has legs for all occasions. Check her out.
- Scott McCloud who talks about comics and computers as an infinite canvas.
- David Blaine who spoke about how he held his breath for 17 minutes and the process behind it. His speech lasted slightly longer than his record.
If you peruse the website, you will find that a great number of well known people have spoken. I know I could spend hours just watching and listening to their ideas.