April 22nd, 2010
12:12 PM ET

Jamie Oliver: What you should have in your kitchen

In case you've been trapped under a truckload of frozen chicken nuggets for the past few weeks, here's the recap:

Celebrity chef and self-proclaimed "professional s***-stirrer" Jamie Oliver came to Huntington, West Virginia - considered by various metrics (obesity, toothlessness and heart disease rates, among others) to be the unhealthiest city in America - with co-producer Ryan Seacrest and a camera crew in tow. His goal: recreate his successful U.K. campaign to overhaul school lunch menus, teach families how to cook healthier (or even just cook) at home and make the residents keenly aware that many of them just might be paving the way to an early grave with processed, overly fatty food.

Did he succeed? You'll have to tune in to the season finale on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on Friday night, but we caught up with the erstwhile Naked Chef to get the inside dish on the aftermath of his Huntington visit, the element of balance and what every home cook should have stashed in the cupboard. The following is an edited version of that interview:

What was the moment in Huntington where you first truly believed, "Oh yes, this is actually going to work?"

Has that moment happened yet? It's still a work in progress. I was in Huntington last week and saw lots of improvement in the schools. Kids from the community and in the schools were stopping to tell me about all of the recipes that they were asking their parents to cook for them - so I am hopeful - but change takes a long time. In the UK, we had planned for the school food campaign to be a 10-year project and so Huntington is still in very early days. But it's made a good start.

What is the single biggest change you saw one person make?

I wasn't really looking for one big change. I was hoping for and looking for lots of little changes. Kids willing to try new things and choose white milk over sugar-loaded flavored milk; parents and folks in the community trying to cook at least one meal a week at home using fresh food; residents of Huntington just showing up and taking a cooking class at the Huntington Kitchen. Big change comes from a willingness to make small changes. Small changes turn into better habits, and then you string better habits together, and at some point you've made big change.

Any plans to follow up to see if they're keeping up with good habits in Huntington?

Lots of plans actually. The Huntington Kitchen is up and running giving cooking classes almost every day now and we're rolled out into 24 of 26 schools in Cabell County. We're in the process of securing the funding to continue the program next year in all of the schools and my gang checks in with the Kitchen and Rhonda regularly, and we will continue training both the cooks in the school and the cooks in the Huntington Kitchen. I also have huge support from the Governor as well as others in the community including DJ Rod, Pastor Steve and recently, Alice, who are continuing the programs we started together.

If there is one food you could abolish from this earth, what would it be?

I am not against any particular foods, really. I'm all for people having a treat from time to time just so long as they balance that with good food, cooked using fresh ingredients and full of nutritious stuff. So I wouldn't abolish anything but instead I would increase people's knowledge about food so they can make good food choices more often than not.

If there is one food you wish everyone would eat more of, what would that be?

Salads. They are so easy to make and so many varieties. Kids love them.

What food items would you recommend that people have stocked at all times, so they can always whip up a fresh, healthy, delicious meal?

There's a huge list at the front of the Food Revolution book but if you just want to get a basic basketful of store cupboard ingredients so that you can always make a meal, even when you're out of fresh stuff, I'd go for: cooking oil – groundnut or sunflower, dried pasta, dried noodles, rice, couscous, tinned tomatoes, various tinned beans like kidney or cannellini, tinned tuna, sea salt, black pepper and dried chilies.

And also learn to love your freezer because there's nothing wrong with frozen veg - peas, French beans, sweet corn.

Inspired? Sign Jamie's Food Revolution petition.

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. lezzetimmm

    It is a empresed food, and thank you on the orher hand Turkish similer to this recipe http://www.lezzetim.net

    April 9, 2014 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. lezzetimmm

    It is a empresed food, and thank you on the orher hand Turkish similer to this recipe htpp://www.lezzetim.net

    April 9, 2014 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kiwi Watcher

    I have been reading some of the comments > I come from neither Britain (Europe ) but New Zealand and interesting to see that some have gone off the point a bit . Jamie Oliver is trying to raise the health of those in West Virginia USA . He is not trying to take over the world . Bringing prejuices about Europe is but a red herring , ie nothing to do with the topic . Jaime is trying to show that given a little know how it is possible to cook good nutrious food. Selling high calorie high salt high sugar ,at schools is not going to get the result of healthier people . ANd best to teach children good habits rather than wait until they become even more difficult to correct.
    Hope this is not taken the wrong way it is an obsevation but many people visting parts of the USA are amased at the size of some of your citizens .
    Bye Kiwi

    April 26, 2010 at 3:47 am | Report abuse |
  4. mel

    I don't get where millie's coming from at all. Even if the schools started serving more nutritious food and less junk, you can still make the choice to buy crap food to serve them at home. So what's the problem here?

    April 25, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. eennmm

    What are you people talking about??? Taking away choices is limiting freedom... Why don't you give kids the feedom to choose crack then?

    April 25, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. millie

    I believe Europe will overtake America if we continue down this path. I think it's great if we have healthy choices on our and our children's menues. Make them choices. People please educate yourselves and have some pride in your own country. There are many nations who look at our freedom as the ultimate goal in their lives. They sometimes die to get here. Many have. This isn't about helping people – it is about control.

    April 25, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Monica

    Millie, I'm all about freedom as well, not interested in anyone limiting my choices. However, we, as parents and communities, need to cut out junk from our kids schools. I think parents should be involved in every school, get a meeting, some kind of agenda, agree on getting at least that sugar out of there. We are in crisis at this point, our children need help. Oh, and by the way, I'm a European living in the States (thank to goodness, still) and Europe has a HUGE problem with obesity. Actually, one third of Europeans are now "obese", same as in America. In US you still have more "overweight" people than in Europe, so that's the only difference, but that's rapidly changing. England is incidentally the most obese country in Europe. Just thought I'd throw that in, I'm getting tired of people coming on here talking about "fat Americans." Americans are getting fit by a much faster rate than any other country out there, soon Europe will overtake US in this problem.

    April 25, 2010 at 5:32 am | Report abuse |
  8. Pete

    Millie – you say they are eliminating choices in schools, but the fact is that the choices are already VERY limited in schools. If it's not lunch, your choices are a candy machine or a kid selling candy. And even if it is lunch, there are two things on the menu. So your "Freedom of choice" argument is missing the one crucial ingredient – choice.

    If we were educating our kids in a Whole Foods it would be different – but food-wise we're effectively teaching our kids to eat like their options are the same as what's available at a gas station. And there are ZERO healthy options there.

    I just don't understand your resistance to this guy's efforts – he's sitting on a MOUNTAIN of clinical evidence supporting his contention that if we learn to eat healthier our lives get better. He's trying to get healthy options in front of our kids. He pretty much gave up a lucrative Food Network career to undertake this mission of his to help people make better food choices and you're saying it's UNAMERICAN? Yes, we have the right to be willful and stupid in the face of someone that's just trying to help us, the question is, WHY?

    Thank you, Jamie Oliver, for using your celebrity to do as much good as possible. It's people like you and Ty Pennington that give me hope for this world.

    April 24, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. millie

    That is all well and good. I'm happy that it is working for some of you. There is a bigger picture. Limiting choices for your child is certainly your right- but saying everyone else MUST do this also is not your right. This is what the government is now looking into doing.NANNY STATE. The French are thinner maybe because they are not getting enough to eat, perhaps.Please don't get me started on the French. American citizens should be their ideal not the other way around!

    April 24, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bruce

    We went completely unprocessed & organic (as much as possible) about 2 years ago. My son was able to go off his ADD medication, and I am off of my acid reflux medication. The main thing was to eliminate sugar (it causes huge problems with yeast – candida).

    The only thing we have that comes out of a box is brown rice pasta. Our main snack foods are fresh fruit and nuts. Raw nuts (not roasted). Think about it – a nut has all the nutrition and trace elements a plant needs to begin its life. But if you cook it – you kill some of that nutrition.

    Our kids love their diet. It's not as convenient – they have to bring food with them a lot, but they don't mind, and frankly, what they have tastes a lot better than something from a window or a convenience store.

    April 24, 2010 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  11. nikongal

    Good eating habits are learned from children by their parents. Limiting choices in vending machines teaches children how to make wiser choices. There are many products you can use for school fundraising other than candy. Personally, I enjoyed the gift/Christmas wrapping fundraisers more than the chocolate candy bar ones.

    The French are amazingly thin compared to Americans. That's because they don't need a 10 oz piece of steak on their plate. 3 or 4 oz is enough. And they eat lots of vegetables and fruit. They use sauces in moderation. And they drink wine. But they do it ALL with moderation. It's our American super-size me mentality that is killing our population.

    Oliver is a breath of fresh air in the USA.

    April 23, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Meesh

    @ Millie: Children need to have their choices limited in order to learn that they need to eat better. It's not taking away their freedom, they are kids, its up to the parents to decide what is best for the children. So if they happen to take away sugary and high caloric food, then so be it. Eliminating candy from sales is even better, because it avoids giving kids more cavities. It has been proven that schools selling Baked Chips, fruit and other healthy goodies, they will sell as well and help raise money for programs. Students can also sell other items instead of food and possibly make more money.

    April 23, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. millie

    Taking certain foods out of school vending machines is limiting choice. That's control. They also want to stop sales of candy that schools use to raise money for many of its programs. Again, that is telling people what to do not informing of better alternatives. WAKE UP!

    April 23, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jusomegurl


    "but giving them no choices or forcing them to follow your mandates" is what you wrote, however, he is not mandating anyone. He is informing and educating young and old on why America is so OBESE and what we SHOULD be doing to be healthier. How is that taking away from our freedom? From your comment it sounds like you dont want people telling you whats healthy and whats not, thats your own issues but I say BRAVO to Mr. Oliver! He's wanting us to live longer and be healthy :o)

    April 23, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. millie

    If Mr. Oliver wants to inform children about healthier alternatives and eating habits- that's fine- but giving them no choices or forcing them to follow your mandates- that's another country. Probably the one he hails from. This is the United States of America. Freedom.

    April 23, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  16. Frances

    The question that should have been asked in the article is "What NOT to have available in your home?" Children eat whatever they can find. I stress to everyone I meet when talking about food to clean out their kitchen. There are so many hidden sugars and chemicals in foods that you should not even have in your home. Fill your cabinets with high fiber, no sugar, no salt products as a beginning. From these products teach your children to prepare simple healthy foods. Special treats should have to be made. This is one of the reasons that inspired me to start my website http://www.painlesscooking.com/ to teach people to cook at home.

    April 23, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  17. Eve Lynne

    It's hard to change America's bad eating habits one school at a time. But I am really glad someone is trying.

    April 23, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  18. Sara

    FYI: when he says you should have "groundnut" [or sunflower] oil in your pantry, that means peanut oil for all you Americans 🙂

    April 23, 2010 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  19. Kim

    When he says that kids love salads, it's not that simple. Teach kids to eat salad at a young age and they will learn to like vegetables. Kids have to be taught what is good!

    April 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |

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