Maintenance Phase

Jamie Oliver

April 04, 2024
Show Notes Transcript

[Maintenance Phase theme]

Michael: I have no tagline suggestions [chuckles] because all I have is problematic jokes about British people. 

Aubrey: Oh. 

Michael: Because I lived there, I feel like that gives me a license to be kind of mean. [laughs] 

Aubrey: I'm guessing some British listeners will disagree. 

Michael: It's very funny. It's like whenever anybody asks me about some country I haven't spent much time in Thailand, I'm like, "Oh, a beautiful country with noble people." But if they ask me about Britain or Denmark, I'm like, "First of all--" 


Michael: Have this long rant ready. 

Aubrey: That's true. I did ask you if I should go to Denmark for a work trip, and you were like, "absolutely not."

Michael: Absolutely not. [laughs]

Aubrey: That is not something you need in your life. Keep it moving. 

Michael: The minute you asked, I was like I tapped on my little keyboard. I was like, "all caps. I need all caps for this answer." [Aubrey laughs] No. But okay, does Jamie Oliver even have, like, a catchphrase? I was going to use one of his little cooking catchphrases, like bam or whatever.

Aubrey: He's got a few. It's less of a catchphrase and more of, like, a lexicon that he'll call things like wicked or slamming. 

Michael: Welcome to Maintenance Phase, the podcast that is wicked, slamming. 

Aubrey: Oh, look at him go. 

Michael: We can cut everything before this and make it seem like I knew, I knew his little catch words. 

Aubrey: I'm Aubrey Gordon. 

Michael: I'm Michael Hobbes. 

Aubrey: If you would like to support the show, you can do that at Patreon or you can subscribe through Apple podcasts. It's the same audio content in both places. 

Michael: Same stuff.

Aubrey: Today, Michael.

Michael: At long last. 

Aubrey: At long last. 

Michael: Talking about Mr. Jamie Oliver. 

Aubrey: We are talking about Jamie Oliver, and we're particularly talking about his influence in talking about school food and kids' diets.

Michael: Oh, yeah. 

Aubrey: Mike, tell me what you know about Jamie Oliver. 

Michael: He's a TV chef who started with a show called The Naked Chef-

Aubrey: Yep. 

Michael: -which I genuinely believed was a naked man cooking for a very long time. 

Aubrey: Oh, tiny baby gay was like, "I'm listening."

Michael: Yeah, exactly.


Michael: I was like, "When exactly is it on in America?" He became, like, one of the early sort of TV chef celebrities. He then did a TV series where he was going to reform school. They say school dinners, which is kind of confusing, which I was actually very into. I was like, I was Jamie Oliver pilled. 

Aubrey: Were you? 

Michael: We talked about this before were recording, but, like, I have kind of a soft spot for Jamie Oliver because-

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: -he seems like a genuinely nice guy who is, like, trying. But then I know that since I've kind of stopped paying as much attention to him, he's made a series of blunders that are, like, less defensible, but I don't actually know, like, the scope and nature of the blunders. 

Aubrey: Yeah, I will say I came in similarly. I did not have a soft spot for him, mostly just because he was part of that wave of, like, late 2000, early 2010s. Like, the problem is fat kids-

Michael: 100% yeah.

Aubrey: -kind of media and as someone who at that point was, like, a fat person in their 20s, that felt too close to home for me. 

Michael: And then you went on a film tour in the UK, and people in the signing line were like, "You should do an episode on Jamie Oliver 200 times." 

Aubrey: I told people I was thinking of doing an episode on Jamie Oliver. I used the sign lines to ask people,- 

Michael: Okay.

Aubrey: -like the closest you got to defenders was, I guess his heart's in the right place. And for the most part, people were just like, "Fuck this, dude. Fuuuck." 


Aubrey: It really felt like when you had talked to people from the UK about James Corden before the Balthazar thing happened. 

Michael: Yeah, yeah. Or me talking about Elon Musk at any period up until the present.

Aubrey: [laughs] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. The world has finally caught up to you, Michael. 

Michael: This is becoming a California High Speed Rail podcast [Aubrey laughs immediately. This was always in danger of becoming such a thing. [laughs]

Aubrey: So, Jamie Oliver was born in 1975. He was born and raised in Essex. His parents ran a pub. He went to a grammar school, which is, like, a sort of middle classy thing to do.

Michael: It's so confusing. 

Aubrey: There are so many kinds of schools that they're [crosstalk]

Michael: It's like public and private, but they mean different things. 

Aubrey: He starts off as a pastry chef at Neal Street Restaurant and over time moves on to become the sous chef at the super acclaimed River Cafe. Are you familiar with the River Cafe? 

Michael: This is in London? 

Aubrey: Mm-hmm.

Michael: Oh, no. I had no money, and I ate out of the sales bin at Sainsbury's on my way home. Because they had sandwiches for 49 P.

Aubrey: Did you get the smoked salmon one? Why don't we have smoked salmon sandwiches here? [Michael laughs] It's at the River Cafe that he makes his first TV appearance in a show called Christmas at the River Cafe. He sort of pops on screen is sort of the way that this story gets told, which, like, I believe it. He's a charismatic dude, right? 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: That leads to his first TV series, the aforementioned The Naked Chef, which premiered in 1999. In 2005, he launches a campaign called Feed Me Better, which is his campaign to change school children's meals. 

Michael: Okay.

Aubrey: As a result of that, they have a Channel 4 viewers poll, and they name him the most inspiring political figure of 2005. 

Michael: Ooh, political figure. That's a transformation. 

Aubrey: Right. I think there's a little bit of a sort of Dr. Oz leaning story here of, like, by all accounts, he's a very good chef. 

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: And he gets into hot water when he veers away from that thing. [chuckles] 

Michael: Yeah. And also, he's very likable. He has the sort of the combination of fine dining and then this everyman quality. 

Aubrey: Right. Since the sort of start of his career, he has published 32 cookbooks. 

Michael: Oh, wow. 

Aubrey: He has presented 44 TV shows of more than one episode and 19 single episode specials. 

Michael: He's almost like a Twitch streamer at that point. [Aubrey laughs] It is on, it is on. 

Aubrey: He has also faced, in that time, more and more critique. In addition to getting more and more successful, he's faced more and more critique. When I started this episode, I texted you and was like, "Hey, I think I'm going to do Jamie Oliver." And you were like, "Oh, cool, influencer episode." I was like, "Yeah, it'll be like a light little influencer episode." 

Michael: Okay. [laughs] 

Aubrey: No. It was like Gwyneth Paltrow volumes of media that have been written about this guy. Think pieces, Op-Eds. So much ink has been spilled over every little thing that Jamie Oliver does. Some of it, I think, is really, really on point.

Michael: Okay.

Aubrey: And some of it, I think, is like, as you would say, "We're in bitch eating crackers territory with some of it." 

Michael: Yeah. This is always the thing with British influencers, is that some of them are really garbage. But then, on the other hand, they have a super garbage media environment, [laughs] and so it's hard to separate. Does this person suck or does the coverage of them suck? 

Aubrey: Yes. So, we're going to do a little rundown of some of the things that he has been criticized for. And then we're going to dig into our school dinners stuff. One of his big critiques is he's been criticized many times for being a hypocrite. He had a whole show about the conditions in which chickens are raised and produced. After making the show about chickens, he then signed a multi-million-pound deal with Sainsbury's, who at that point, did not conform to the RSPCA standards at the time. In 2015, he worked with the UN Environment Program as an "environmental champion." Two years later, he signed a 5-million-pound deal with Shell.


Michael: Woo, okay. Again, it's money. That's quite bad.

Aubrey: There are also plenty of complaints about racism, colonialism, and appropriation in his recipes. This is from a piece on CNN, pa pa pa pa pa it is a brick.

Michael: In the Sunday Times interview, Oliver acknowledged that his empire roast chicken, a chicken recipe involving coriander, turmeric, garam masala, and cumin would no longer be appropriate today. In the episode titled Empire Roast Chicken, Bombay roasties, and amazing Indian gravy, Oliver set out to celebrate what he called our Indian love affair by making a full-on collision between beautiful British roast dinners and gutsy Asian spices. Oliver also celebrated the trade routes he said led to Indian spices making their way into British dishes and which he used in his lemon-scented roast empire style tandoori chicken. Toward the end of the episode, while carving the chicken, Oliver said, "This is empire food. You can use your hands and then raised a toast to the empire while clinking beers with members of his camera crews." Although originally billed in the episode as lemon-scented roast empire style tandoori chicken, the recipe has now been renamed on Oliver's website as Spiced Roast Chicken. Ooh, this didn't seem that bad to me until we got to the- 

Aubrey: No.

Michael: -let's toast to the empire. [laughs]  

Aubrey: Right, right, right. There are so many versions of this kind of thing that have happened, there have also been critiques. And perhaps the most pervasive critique of Jamie Oliver is around class and classism. If you sort of talk to people about Jamie Oliver, one of the big things that comes up is they're like, "He's charging 8 pounds for beans on toast." For us listeners who are unfamiliar with beans on toast, it's literally canned baked beans on a piece of toast.

Michael: [laughs] For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, it is exactly what it sounds like. [laughs]

Aubrey: His version is definitely dressed up. It's on ciabatta, there are cherry tomatoes, there's basil and arugula and balsamic and all kinds of stuff, but it's still beans on toast. He has since sort of reconsidered, but he's also kind of doubled down. He tells the BBC, "I should have been brighter." Heinz came to us and offered 15,000 pounds for us to put something cool made with baked beans on the menu.

Michael: Oh, it's more money stuff, Jamie.

Aubrey: That funds one student for a whole year.

Michael: Jamie.

Aubrey: Am I going to do it, of course I am. 

Michael: Oh, my God. He's doing that speech from Schindler's List [crosstalk]. 


Michael: But also, it's such a weird defense. Because, like, whatever, if you don't want to buy the $8 fucking beans on toast, don't buy the $8 beans on toast. 

Aubrey: Right. 

Michael: These sorts of things don't really bother me that much. It just seems like rich people, dumb shit. And I'm a cheapskate, so I would just never go to this restaurant anyway. 

Aubrey: This is where we start to get into bitch eating crackers territory, where I'm like, "Why are you monitoring his menus? I don't really care." 

Michael: I don't give a shit. 

Aubrey: But I will say the classism stuff also sort of seeps into how he shows up politically. In January of 2022, he stages this protest outside of Number 10 Downing Street because of what he calls the "government's U-turn on obesity policies."

Michael: Oh, I remember this. 

Aubrey: What do you remember about this protest, Michael? 

Michael: Wasn't this whole Boris Johnson getting COVID and being like, "If I wasn't so fat, I wouldn't have had this problem or something." And then they were going to do a bunch of stuff and they just didn't do it or something. 

Aubrey: Sort of. 

Michael: I feel like you're being nice, and I'm totally wrong. I don't want to say that. [laughs]

Aubrey: No, no, no you're not totally wrong. You're not totally wrong. So, Boris Johnson gets COVID. He has all of this messaging about how, like, "This wouldn't have happened if I weren't fat." So therefore, we have to have a "obesity plan." Jamie Oliver, in January 2022, the government, he says, is doing a "U-turn on their obesity policies." And the thing that he is mad about, the policy in question is that the government had pledged to restrict higher calorie foods in supermarket promotions of buy one get one free items. 

Michael: Okay. 

Aubrey: He's mad that people are getting high calorie foods for free.

Michael: Okay? 

Aubrey: So, he stages this big protest outside 10 Downing Street. And the theme for the protest is this policy is a total eating mess.

Michael: Oh.


Michael: That's actually not that bad. 

Aubrey: Sorry, pardon me, excuse me. 

Michael: Look, I am a man with a podcast that has never had a good tagline. If there's one thing, I know its wordplay.

Aubrey: [laughs] Okay, okay. You're like, "Wow, he really did a thing that we have not delivered-

Michael: -that we've not achieved." 


Aubrey: So, I'm going to send you a little screen grab from Sky News of this protest. 

Michael: What the fuck? Oh, my God. [Aubrey laughs] So, it's Jamie Oliver in the front of a crowd, and he's holding an 'Eton Mess.' 

Aubrey: Yeah, a giant trifle dish full of Eton mess. 

Michael: But then one of the signs that somebody has in the background is Give Peas A Chance, which is also good. 

Aubrey: There's Boris, Keep Your promise. 

Michael: That one's bad. 

Aubrey: There are a number of signs when you sort of zoom out on these pictures, of, like, "This policy is an #EtonMess." And they all have hashtags. 

Michael: Yeah. The hashtag doesn't work if you're writing it in real life, you can't click on a hashtag. 

Aubrey: In addition to and sort of overlaying this classism critique are some genuine sort of reporting's about what I would consider to be wage theft. 

Michael: Oh. 

Aubrey: His restaurant chain, Jamie's Italian, which was sort of a high street chain, closed in the 2010s with debts of 83 million pounds. And he gets big headlines at the time for closing his restaurants without having paid his staff. 

Michael: Ooh, that's bad. That's real bad. 

Aubrey: They lay off 44 employees at Christmas. The last two sort of general critiques. Oh, my God, Mike. This has been the longest ramp up. [laughs]

Michael: Yeah, I know the longest table. They were still table setting. 

Aubrey: So I texted you this morning and was like, "Oops, I need another hour." And then I was like, "Oops, I need another half hour." It's because I was sorting through, just like, dozens and dozens and dozens of these stories being like, "[unintelligible 00:13:57] for this." [Michael chuckles] On top of all of that, he's kind of cringe. 

Michael: [laughs] We finally get to people's real beef with this person.

Aubrey: In 2012, this is so fucking funny, Mike. It's not like every corporate restaurant chain has shit like this where they're, like, famously, at Chick-fil-A, for example, if someone says, "Thank you." You don't say, "You're welcome." If they ask you for something, you don't say, "No problem." You just say, "It's my pleasure." 

Michael: Really? 

Aubrey: Yes, absolutely. 

Michael: Oh, I've never been to Chick-fil-A.

Aubrey: Oh, look at you. 

Michael: I don't think we have in Seattle. 

Aubrey: We have one in Oregon. And I went one time, and then I was like, "Sorry. This is the reason that people are so worked up about," like, "Oh man, I love gay people. But that chicken is so good." I'm like, "It's a fast-food chicken sandwich." [Michael laughs] Get a hold of yourself. Especially in a world of Popeyes chicken sandwiches. Get out of town. [Michael laughs] So in 2012, a tweet goes up. It gets picked up by media that is allegedly a list of words that servers at Jamie Oliver's restaurants are supposedly required to use. 

Michael: Okay.

Aubrey: I am sending you a link to a piece from Eater that has the list in it. 

Michael: Oh, man. Okay. It says, "Servers at Jamie Oliver restaurants told to use words like scrummy, slamming, wicked." 

Aubrey: [00:15:22] I saw this list of words, and I was, like, immediately transported to the, like, pieces of flair scene from Office Space-

Michael: Yeah, yeah. Totally [crosstalk]

Aubrey: -If you're going to subject people to this, pay them, like, $100 thousand a year. 

Michael: Oh, God. 

Aubrey: What? 

Michael: I just noticed the third entry on this list. 

Aubrey: Pimp. This food is pimp.


Michael: Yeah, it says, "It's just a list." It says, "Melted mouth, fresh pimp, juicy, legendary, messy, magic, dollop,-

Aubrey: Whatever.

Michael: -silky, wicked, radical treasure."

Aubrey: It could not be more 2000s if it—right.

Michael: Yes, I know, exactly. Remember when the word deadly was going around as, like, cool? Like, "Ooh, that's deadly." The new album is deadly. I was trying to make malignant happen for a while. Like, "That band is malignant."

Aubrey: [laughs] Fuckoff.

Michael: I'm so mad that it never caught on. Anyway, it's never too late. It's never too late.

Aubrey: One of the things that is cut off from this list are some other phrases, including proper rustic. 

Michael: Ooh, yeah, that's hella artisanal. That's homemade, no cap for real, for real.

Aubrey: Mega is on the list and so is scrummy. 

Michael: Yeah, that's something British people say, even though it sounds like an STD.

Aubrey: Boy. Oh, fuck. This is like calling it crimbo, not Christmas crimbo. [Michael laughs] What's happening here? What are you guys doing? 

Michael: You know what I've started to spot in the wild lately is unforch. 

Aubrey: Oh. 

Michael: Oh, "I can't make it on Thursday, unforch." 

Aubrey: You really saved yourself a lot of time [Michael laughs] by shortening that. I mean, I think the headline about all of the Jamie Oliver stuff is he is a polarizing dude. 

Michael: Yes. 

Aubrey: People really love him or they really hate him. 

Michael: This honestly just seems kind of, like, standard to me. 

Aubrey: Yeah. 

Michael: Like, he sort of becomes famous as this kind of everyman, working class guy making fancy food, and then eventually he becomes a multimillionaire and a giant empire. And, of course, that's going to attract scrutiny. 

Aubrey: Yes. 

Michael: And like, most public figures and most corporations do not hold up to scrutiny. 

Aubrey: I think you're in a similar place that I was at this point in the research. 

Michael: You're taking me on a journey. 

Aubrey: None of them are, "Get this guy off our TVs immediately." Kind of shit, necessarily, right. It's a tale as old as time that, like, dudes like this get to make big mistakes that would absolutely end the careers of people who had less power and less privilege than him. And yet he just gets more money. He just gets more famous. Like, all of these things just sort of keep accruing and accruing and accruing.

Michael: Question, how does he generally deal with these things? Because, of course people are going to fuck up as public figures whatever. Does he just like, apologize. Like, "Yeah, I shouldn't have done the empire toast. It was fucking cringe. I'm really sorry." Or is he, like, weird about pushing back against his critics and all this kind of stuff? 

Aubrey: He gets really defensive and I think that's part of what sets people off. There's a quote that he gives at one point where he's like, "Sometimes I think it would actually be easier to be somebody like Gordon Ramsay, whose persona is, like, a miserable bastard." 

Michael: I think he's correct about that, honestly. [laughs] 

Aubrey: I think he's right. But he's saying it after. He's talking about, like, wage theft. [chuckles] 

Michael: Yeah. After he's like, he's using it as a defense. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Aubrey: And you're like, I think you're right, but I don't think that's the main issue. 

Michael: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Aubrey: So those are the general critiques of Jamie Oliver. We're about to dive in to Jamie's School Dinners and Jamie's Ministry of Food, his two UK shows about feeding kids. 

Michael: Both of which I've seen. 

Aubrey: You've seen both of them? 

Michael: Yeah, back in my Jamie Oliver days. I mean, this would have been like more than 10 years ago though. I mean, I saw them when they aired. 

Aubrey: I'll tell you what, I have not because that shit has been scrubbed from the internet. 

Michael: Wait, really? 

Aubrey: Even if you have a VPN, even if you're willing to pay for it, even if, even if, even if-

Michael: What?

Aubrey: You can find little clips, but you cannot find the whole shows? It's wild. 

Michael: That and plandemic are the two [laughter] recently [crosstalk] that are scrubbed from the Internet. 

Aubrey: Plandemic, you can get at their website. It's actually-

Michael: Yeah. That's true.

Aubrey: -arguably the easiest thing to get. You just can't get on YouTube. 

Michael: No way. 

Aubrey: I want to sort of take you through a little bit of the genesis of school meals in the UK and sort of how they-- like what the policies around those have looked like. Primary school like just as education isn't made mandatory in the UK until 1870, it was not uncommon at that point for students to go to school underfed or just unfed entirely, particularly poor and working-class kids. By 1880, this becomes enough of a known problem that they actually start piloting free school meals. And the first free school meals are served to poor folks and students in Bradford. The meal is just straight up porridge, that's oatmeal and bread. [chuckles] 

Michael: Okay. 

Aubrey: The cost was limited to one penny per student, according to the independent. In today's money, that'd be about 37 pence. By 1906, a liberal government passed the Education (Provision of Meals) Act, which allowed local governments to serve free school meals. Most of them ultimately did not provide those free meals. And by the start of World War II, you know, decades later, only half of local schools in the UK offered free school meals. 

Michael: Hmm.

Aubrey: Again, this is just like allowing people to do it should they so choose, and many of them do not so choose. In 1944, a new law was passed requiring schools to feed all children, not just low-income kids, but like all kids. They also had nutrition standards that required them to provide 40% of the kid's daily protein and 33% of their daily calories. That usually looked like steak, two veg and a rhubarb crumble, which sounds so fucking good. 

Michael: Yeah, we got hamburger and fries for a $1.25.

Aubrey: We got Tater Tot Tuesdays. 

Michael: Oh, yeah. I remember tater tots too. I have, like, not eaten tater tots since. 

Aubrey: What?

Michael: That's such a, like, school food for me. Like, in my mind, turkey tetrazzini and tater tots are, like, school food and cannot be consumed elsewhere.

Aubrey: Turkey tetrazzini.

Michael: I've never seen that on a menu anywhere else in my entire life.


Aubrey: There are a couple of foods I met for the first time in college. We did not have turkey tetrazzini at school. So, I saw that for the first time at college, and I was like, "What the fuck is this fancy ass name for this goopy ass--"

Michael: Dude, it's like prison food. It is goop.

Aubrey: Midwesty food. 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: The other thing I met for the first time at college was I went through there was, like, a little sandwich bar. You know, there's, like, all the savory stuff and then also the sweet stuff for making sandwiches. And I was like, "Guys, somebody really fucked up. They put some marshmallow fluff out."


Michael: Oh. 

Aubrey: I was going to school in New England, and they were like, It's a fluffernutter." And I was like, "What are you talking about?" And I absolutely thought that people were pranking me that they went to school with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches. [chuckles] 

Michael: Dude, I still think that's a prank. 

Aubrey: Candy sandwich. 

Michael: I feel like it's something like rainbow parties [Aubrey laughs] where it's something that, like, there's a name for it, but nobody's ever actually done it, and nothing will convince me otherwise. 

Aubrey: In 1971, Margaret Thatcher is around. She removed free milk from schools. This is sort of the-

Michael: Oh my God, Jesus.

Aubrey: -beginning of the erosion of the school lunch program. 

Michael: Just a fucking nightmare of a person. 

Aubrey: So, she gets this nickname in the press that is "Thatcher the Milk Snatcher." [laughs]

Michael: It is fully just like taking fucking milk away from poor children. 

Aubrey: Yes. 

Michael: It's like cartoon evil. 

Aubrey: By 1980, Thatcher passes her Education Act, which ended the requirement to provide school meals.

Michael: Of course.

Aubrey: From here on out, only kids whose parents were on benefits or income supplements qualified for school meals.

Michael: Of course.

Aubrey: That is a really, really low-income threshold. 

Michael: And also, it stigmatizes the kids, because if it's only the poor kids, it basically announces to all of your classmates that you are the poor kid-

Aubrey: Yes.

Michael: -who doesn't have to pay for a school lunch. 

Aubrey: And actually, they later pilot-- like, within the last, I don't know, 15 years, they piloted a free school lunch program again in the UK, and they found that uptake of school lunches was higher amongst students in all income brackets when it was free for everyone. 

Michael: This comes up in America too, where there's something so fucking weird about this thing where we are providing children with free education to the tune of billions of dollars. [chuckles] 

Aubrey: And then you're like, "These freeloaders want a lunch too." 

Michael: And then it's like, "Oh, but feeding them is, like, where we draw the line and they have to fucking pay for it." It's like, "Why, is this the fucking hill we want to die on?" Like, "We don't charge kids to ride the school bus." 

Aubrey: So in 1986, the Social Security Act passes that may seem unrelated, but because school meals are now means tested, right? And, like, tied to an income level and a level of benefits, they're cutting people off of benefits, which means that the kids of those people are losing access to free school meals. 

Michael: Of course.

Aubrey: As a result of this Social Security Act, half a million kids from low-income families lost access to free school meals. 

Michael: The thing is, you've stacked the deck because now, compared to Margaret Thatcher, Jamie Oliver seems fine. [Aubrey laughs] He hasn't taken food from millions of children. 

Aubrey: He's not a political supervillain. 

Michael: Yeah, the wage stuff doesn't seem so bad now. 

Aubrey: Without that national mandate to provide free meals, the systems around food shifted really dramatically throughout the 1980s and 1990s in Britain, schools aren't funded the way that they need to be at any point in this certainly not school food programs. So, there's kind of a race to the bottom, price wise that happens where schools are like, "Ah, fuck, our federal mandate went away, which means that some amount of federal funding went away, which means we got to get this shit on the cheap," right?

Michael: Mm-hmm Right.

Aubrey: And this is also when a famed star/villain depending on who you ask of UK school food comes around, the Turkey Twizzler. 

Michael: Oh, God yes. This was a big thing in the show. 

Aubrey: This was a big thing in the show. We'll talk about the Turkey Twizzler in a minute. 

Michael: Oh, my God. Do you know what I remember about the West Virginia One? The version of this that he did in America? 

Aubrey: What? 

Michael: There was a whole thing where it was like kids were bringing Lunchables to school, but the show had to bleep the word Lunchable. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: I don't know what the legality is or if they were just like too chicken shit, but it was like Jamie went on this big, long rant about, like, "Kids bringing fucking Lunchables to school because they're so unhealthy." But it was like, "They're bringing [beep] to school" But you could tell he was saying Lunchable. 

Aubrey: They replaced Lunchable with packed lunch. 

Michael: Oh, really? 

Aubrey: As a person who just watched it.

Michael: They dubbed it.

Aubrey: There is such funny ADR in the US one. It's so funny. 

Michael: That's like remember when you used to watch Die Hard on TV and it would be like, "Yippee Ki-Yay, terrible person." [laughs] 

Aubrey: Melon farmers. Yeah. [Michael laughs] By this point in the early 2000s, nutritional standards for school meals in the UK have been pretty well decimated. They're not nonexistent, but they are a shell of their former selves. That's when Jamie's School Dinners premieres. Jamie's School Dinners is a four- episode docuseries that airs on the BBC in early 2005, February and March of 2005. It is set at Kidbrooke Comprehensive School in Greenwich, which is a borough of London. Comprehensive schools are sort of like US public schools. The daily budget for students at Kidbrooke was 37 pence per child per day. Adjusted for inflation that is functionally the same budget as those 1880s meals in Bradford.

He gets into the schools; he does this sort of song and dance that he ends up doing at several other schools. This is part of the US one as well. He revamps the school menu. He has a day where the existing school menu goes head-to-head with his new healthy menu and all the kids pick the foods they know. Aw, shucks. And he's like, "Okay, well, then we just have to keep going and we got to make even better "healthy food." Weirdly, almost every meal that I see him serve in these clips, includes a green salad with plain vinaigrette as one of the options. And I'm like, "Buddy, in what world did you think six-year-olds were going to be like, yum-yum eat it." 

Michael: Yeah. Get them some carrots or something? Like, some nice roasted veggies.

Aubrey: You could do so-- make a stir fry that has vegetables in it with a good sauce. Like, there's a bunch of ways to do this. A, like, French style, lightly dressed, bitter green salad is, like, maybe not the, like, easy entry point. 

Michael: I'm a 42-year-old man, and I would skip that. 

Aubrey: So, one of the most famous images that comes out of this is not only of students sort of rebelling against the menu, but of parents. I'm sending you a picture. 

Michael: Oh, I know what this is going to be. 

Aubrey: You do? 

Michael: I do. Because this is such a big deal in the British media. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it is. [laughs] This is this fucked up thing where, like, parents would pass their kids candy bars, like, through the school fence. 

Aubrey: Yeah. People report different things. This one appears to be burgers. People say, "Oh, they were passing in chips." 

Michael: Okay.

Aubrey: Whatever it is, it's like, "Foods that those kids shouldn't be having." To the point that there are Daily Mail pieces, about the woman who has foregrounded the mom in this picture being like, "Now her kids are fat. Now what? And you're like, "Fuck off." 

Michael: Oh, my God. If parents want to send their kids to school with whatever food they have, that honestly seems fine to me. Like, whatever. But it's like, if kids are in your care, you should be feeding them healthy stuff that's not fucking deranged. But it's weird that these became stories. I feel like the right-wing media was really against him doing this in this way that, "How dare this celebrity meddle?" But it's also like, "He's trying to get kids to eat fruits and vegetables. Are you really fucking against this?" 

Aubrey: I think another thing that happened in Jamie's School Dinners, and this also happens in the US version, he is dramatically increasing the workload of school cooks and-

Michael: Of course, yeah.

Aubrey: -then sort of characterizing them as sticks in the mud and/or lazy. 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: They object so strenuously that some of them threatened to resign. 

Michael: To be fair, having some fucking reality show person coming in and fucking cameras in my job. 

Aubrey: Yes. 

Michael: I feel like I would also rebel against this. [laughs] 

Aubrey: 100%. And it's like some dude with a bunch of money telling you, without a bunch of money and resources how to fucking do it. 

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: You'd be like, "Give me a break, dude. Get out of town."

Michael: It also shows the extent to which these problems are so entrenched that even somebody with the clout of Jamie Oliver can't really come in and fix them. Because on some level, yeah, you want to be feeding the kids healthier food, but it's really not a problem of, like, the lunch ladies being better. It's like a much broader problem of, like, they should be hiring more lunch ladies and having different training. And it's like, "You just can't solve this stuff by berating people in the school kitchen." 

Aubrey: Can you solve it with a boot camp for school cooks-

Michael: Oh, no.

Aubrey: -run by the catering division of the British Army? 

Michael: Is that what they did in the show? 

Aubrey: They bring in the catering division of the British Army to show them how to cook large amounts of food efficiently? 

Michael: Oh, my fucking God. [laughs]

Aubrey: As I learned this, I was like, ah yes, the famously delectable food of the army." 

Michael: Of the British Army. 


Aubrey: Hell, first. [chuckles] 

Michael: Now I get why this was taken off the Internet. This is really bad. I do not remember all of this, like, problematic shit. Probably because I was really problematic back then. [laughs]

Aubrey: Sure. Well, so here's the other thing. And they really don't, like, they sort of acknowledge it in the shows themselves, but they never really dig in on it. He just fucking explodes the budget. 

Michael: Oh, right. Of course. 

Aubrey: He just blows the fuck. He's not making these meals for 37 pounds. He's just not--

Michael: Right. 

Aubrey: He's making much more expensive foods and is working folks really hard without any additional extra staff or pay. And then he's like, "Look how easy it is."

Michael: Oh, yeah.

Aubrey: And people are like, "I'm tired. I'm not getting paid more, and we don't have the money for this shit." 

Michael: Yeah, and that's the whole fucking point. Is that people would be doing better meals if they had the resources. You can't just come in and be like, "You should make better meals without the resources to match."

Aubrey: As part of the show one of the things that happens on the show is that he confronts a dude from one of the nation's largest distributors of school foods. It's called Scolarest or Scolarest. They're the ones who make Turkey Twizzlers. 

Michael: Okay. 

Aubrey: A Turkey Twizzler is like a chicken nugget kind of thing, but instead of being in boot or oval shape, it is in a corkscrew sort of shape. It looks like a little pig's tail. It is a mainstay of UK school meals at this point. 

Michael: Yeah, there's like a deep fried breaded, like, turkey thing. 

Aubrey: Turkey thing. It is worth noting that Turkey Twizzlers are a distinctly classed food in the UK. I would think about for US analog, I might think about Mountain Dew. 

Michael: Oh, is that classed? 

Aubrey: If you say Mountain Dew, there's like a gender, there's a race, there's a class, there's like a kind of person that comes. 

Michael: Wait, really? Is there. I was not aware of this Mountain Dew at all.

Aubrey: Do you not think about this? Holy shit.

Michael: I used to drink like three Mountain Dews a day. [Aubrey laughs] Are they from 5'4 gay men? Is that the way that they're classed 

Aubrey: No. I mean, I think Mountain Dew is often used in political cartoons and shit like that to denote a stupid, poor person. 

Michael: As a member of the drinking Mountain Dew community.

Aubrey: Mountain Dew community. 

Michael: Wow, my people. 

Aubrey: The response for the company is really funny and silly. It's always fascinating to me when terrible actors, appropriate anti-diet rhetoric or sort of like wind up using it. The company said in a statement, "We believe that there is no one food that is bad for you and it is the balance of food you eat that makes for a good or bad diet."-

Michael: Oh, I've seen this. 

Aubrey: They're doing sort of like an all-foods fit sort of approach. 

Michael: Hashtag, all foods matter.

Aubrey: Here, I'm going to send you a little example of the way that people were talking about Turkey Twizzlers in the media following this show. 

Michael: Okay? It says, "One third turkey, two thirds twizzler. The product contains turkey 34%, water, pork fat, rusk, coating, and then it lists like 4000 fucking ingredients. Vegetable oil, turkey skin, salt, wheat flour, dextrose, stabilizer, mustard, yeast extract, antioxidants. Hey, it's good for you. [Aubrey laughs] Herb extract, spice extract, and color." So, it's just like a bunch of shit. It's like, this list of ingredients is probably like, I know 25 things. 

Aubrey: This appears in like every article about Turkey Twizzlers at the time. People are just like, "Get a load of this list of ingredients." And it is doing this really facile, really common critique of foods at the time. This is sort of the, "Frankenfoods era, right?"

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: It's easy to go. These are scientific and therefore sort of foreign sounding names. The implication of stuff like this is that if you don't recognize the name of an ingredient, it is inherently sinister and also harmful to your health, right. But there's not any real analysis of, like, "This thing is in it at this quantity which is known to have these effects." Like, people are not doing that. They're just like, "Look at this fucking load of shit." 

Michael: Yeah. Also, the thing is when you have to feed kids for fucking 37P, you're going to have food with a bunch of, like, fillers in it. 

Aubrey: Yeah. 

Michael: This is the output of, like, the choices you've made politically. 

Aubrey: So, the company that makes Turkey Twizzlers ends up first cutting the fat content in Turkey Twizzlers. They're like, "Okay, okay, okay. We'll make them lower fat." Which is like a very 2000s thing, right? 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: There's a quote from the managing director that I'm like, "You're a piece of shit who runs a giant food company." But also, you're not wrong in this one instant. I'm going to send it to you. 

Michael: "The then managing director, David Joel, insisted at the time that the company had been unfairly treated. "Turkey is the least fatty of all meats he said." The new twizzlers have only a third of the fat level of the average pork sausage, yet you don't hear Jamie Oliver telling people not to eat sausages." 

Aubrey: This is true. [laughs]

Michael: That's, like, a fair point. 

Aubrey: That is a fair point. Like, pork sausages, a real cornerstone of British cuisine, right. 

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: Pork sausages would have been served in his parent's pub, right. Those are like, okay foods. And Jamie Oliver is not telling people not to eat sausage. And in fact, in a number of these schools, he goes in and he's like, in the US one he goes, "Oh, they're having pizza for breakfast." And he says at one point, "It's not so much what's in the pizza, it's the fact that it's pizza for breakfast. It's sending all the wrong signals." 

Michael: Okay. 

Aubrey: And then he goes in and makes a meal. And one of the first things that he makes is pasta with red sauce and cheese. 

Michael: So basically, pizza-- [laughs] 

Aubrey: Pizza with boiling water instead of an oven, right? 

Michael: Yeah, yeah.

Aubrey: He's doing this sort of very 2000s and 2010s thing of, like, "We got to handle the number of fat kids. There have to be fewer fat kids. Therefore, just throw shit at the wall. And the shit to throw at the wall is the stuff that feels right to you." [chuckles] 

Michael: Yeah, yeah. 

Aubrey: Right. It feels right to you that these sort of, like, foods that are processed in this way and that have this long list of ingredients are worse than a pork sausage, which is also very processed. 

Michael: I mean, the thing is, I'm actually like, I don't think kids should be eating chicken nuggets, which is basically what Turkey Twizzlers are. Like at school I also don't think they should have chocolate milk at school. I think they should be getting very nutritious, well-made meals. I also feel like another very early 2000s thing about this is that there was this fantasy that you could solve these problems without investing extra money. 

Aubrey: Yeah. 

Michael: I feel like the school lunches problem is mostly a problem of money. [laughs]

Aubrey: This is the credit where credit's due section. The show really leads to some real change in the UK. On the show, he meets with Tony Blair, who's the prime minister at the time. He secures 280 million pounds for school meals. That is genuinely a huge deal. It's really good. It shouldn't take a celebrity having a TV show to do it, but it happened, and that's like, a good-- that's a net benefit, right? It also leads to the establishment of a National Children's Food Trust, which was operational from 2005 until 2017. There's also some conflicting data on the impact of Jamie's School Dinners and that whole sort of shift. 

Michael: Okay. 

Aubrey: There is one study over the course of a year that shows that more students, like, slightly more students it's like 5% or 6% more students get kicked into a higher-grade bracket. 

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: Like, they're sort of, like, generally scoring higher than they were, but it's small. 

Michael: Yeah, yeah. 

Aubrey: And then there's a bunch of other studies that show some backsliding, like, almost immediately. 

Michael: Oh, okay. 

Aubrey: So, the effects on student performance, I think, are disputed and murky at best. One of the great finds in my research on Jamie's School Dinners and Ministry of Food was a phenomenal piece from a former student at Kidbrooke that was published in Eater London, who was like, "I was at this school when this show was filmed." One of the famous sort of scenes in the show is him showing vegetables to kids and them guessing incorrectly as to what those vegetables are. And he's like, "Oh, no."

Michael: I remember that. Yeah.

Aubrey: The Eater piece says, "In another memorable piece of sneering superiority, friends of mine were pulled into a classroom and asked to identify vegetables. What the editors decided to air was a blooper reel of misidentified broccoli edited together to make it look like the burger fiends had never seen fresh food. The reality was that there were students in the room who identified produce correctly. But in most cases, these examples were not included in the montage which aired." Which, like, of course [crosstalk]

Michael: Of course. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's where they, like, where they walk around a mall or whatever, and they ask Americans, like, "Can you find Iraq on a map?" 

Aubrey: Yeah. 

Michael: And it's like, they only use the times that people can't do it to be like, "Oh, Mary, look how dumb Americans are." 

Aubrey: Like, it is very standard issue reality TV antics and sort of cherry picking of like the most dramatic shit. I don't want to like overblow it on that front, but it's stepping into a context of classism that is reinforcing really regressive, shitty ideas about poor and working-class people. 

Michael: This is such an amazing example of how, like, when you have a real social problem, a celebrity and a reality show are literally the worst ways to address it. 


Michael: Because you would imagine like a documentary about the same thing that would have actually, like, educated the audience. Whereas a reality show, of course they're going to fucking edit it in this way. Like, of course they're going to set up these fucking stunts. 

Aubrey: There's a scene in the West Virginia season where he, like, opens up this mom's fridge and freezer and there are just like a bunch of frozen pizzas in it. And he's like, "This is disgusting. I can't believe you're feeding your kids this. You're killing your kids by feeding them this stuff." And he then cooks all of the food, he fries all the corn dogs, he bakes all the pizzas and he piles them up on their kitchen table and is like, "Look at this. Look how disgusting it is. Look how--"

Michael: It's like a month's worth of food, Jamie. Anything is going to be big pile on the table if you cook it all at once.

Aubrey: Right. And he's like, "It's all brown, it's all the same color and ba da da da da." 

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: This is a very frequent interaction that he has on each of these shows. 

Michael: Oh, my God.

Aubrey: And actually, we're going to watch one of them from Jamie's Ministry of Food, which is the one in Yorkshire. 

Michael: Okay. 

Aubrey: So, in Ministry of Food, Jamie Oliver says, "That he wants to make Rotherham the culinary capital of the UK." And the way that he's going to do that is by teaching its residents how to cook. 

Michael: Okay.

Aubrey: We're going to watch a little clippy clip of one of the many trips that Jamie Oliver makes into the homes of, like, low-income moms.

Michael: Okay. God. 

Aubrey: Yeah, sorry.

Michael: It's going to be really bleak.

Aubrey: Sorry, pal. 

Host: Natasha has never cooked a meal for her children, Kaya and Robbie. Dinner is nearly always a kebab. 

Jamie: Give me the lowdown then, because like, the fact that you've sort of left, let us turn up tells me that you're open minded and-

Natasha: I'm sick of this.

Jamie: -you might. Yeah, right-

Natasha: I'm absolutely sick of it.

Jamie: So, you're sick of the junk food, you're sick of the repetition. [crosstalk] Right, in what sort of way? 

Natasha: Well, she's out there. She has been in twice, once to eat, because they've rotted. They've gone bad.

Jamie: Right. 

Speaker 2: What's your favorite pot?

Natasha's Daughter: Dr. Pepper.

Natasha: Dr. Pepper, we love it, don't we? 

Jamie: And what happens if you don't do nothing about it? Where do you see it going? 

Natasha: I see her being obese. I see her being really, really unhealthy, really and it's not good. 

Jamie: So how much-- are you on a budget?

Natasha: Tight budget.

Jamie: To be honest, if you're spending 12 quid, 10 quid a night, seven days a week, that's 70 quid. 

Natasha: I know.

Jamie: That's quite a lot of money, actually, just on food. 

Natasha: [crosstalk].

Jamie: So, you get 80 quid.

Natasha: I get 80 pounds. I'm on benefits.

Jamie: You're on benefits.

Natasha: Yeah. As you can tell, I'm spending more than what I get. I don't know. I just know I can't keep doing it. I really don't want to do it. Don't want to do it ever again. I want to learn how to cook and just be healthy.

Jamie: Yeah.

Michael: She is uncomfortable. 

Aubrey: This thing happens in every episode that I was able to see. There was a great op- ed that I read about this that was just like, "When you are this poor, your entire life is no."

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: Your kids are having a birthday. Can you have a birthday party? No. A new movie is coming out and you want to see it. Can you see it? No. Food is, like, one of the only affordable pleasures that people have when they have absolutely, like, deeply limited access to almost everything else in their lives. 

Michael: Right. 

Aubrey: His response to this isn't to go, "Oh, holy shit. You are benefits and you only get 80 pounds a week." 

Michael: Yeah, yeah. 

Aubrey: He's like, "You got to get a cooking class." 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: This is a show that's produced for an audience, and this plays into a long-standing dynamic of more class privileged people sort of leering at what poor people eat. 

Michael: Dude, I know. It feels really Victorian. 

Aubrey: This is, like, a fundamentally conservative approach, and fundamentally, like, not an upstream approach. It says it's talking about systems, and it's proposing, once again, as so many things on this show have, an individual solution to a systemic problem. 

Michael: There's also an interesting shift in him too because the first show seemed, like it, at least somewhere, acknowledged that, like, this is a resources issue and we need to go right to the top and talk to Tony Blair about giving more money to this. But then by the time we get to Ministry of Food, it seems like he's basically abandoned that, and it's like, "Let's teach people to cook." 

Aubrey: It just feels like he is sort of losing the thread-

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: -and/or he's following the threat of reality TV and losing the threat of, like, policy solutions, right. 

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: And, like, actually fixing the problem. Because ultimately, his job is to make a TV show. 

Michael: Yeah, yeah.

Aubrey: At the end of the day, the people who are paying him are people who are paying him for a TV show, right.

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: In the same way that, like, our bottom line is to release episodes for our listeners, right? 

Michael: Which we're good at, which we're really good at, which we've never failed. Just remember, we're just like-

Aubrey: We're so fucking good it, we never miss-- 

Michael: -our schedule's perfect. 

Aubrey: So, following his TV success in the UK, Jamie Oliver follows the James Corden path [chuckles] and comes on over to the US. 

Michael: They're like, look, "We have poor people in America that we also love to gawk at. Let's send Jamie to West Virginia." 

Aubrey: The first season focuses on Huntington, West Virginia-

Michael: -which is the fattest city in America. Isn't that why they choose it? 

Aubrey: It was listed as America's unhealthiest city. 

Michael: Oh. 

Aubrey: Somebody's like, "Well, who decides that?" And he's like, "It's a government statistic based on death rates."

Michael: Oh, really. What?

Aubrey: Mm-hmm. But also, there is, like, it is true that at this point, Huntington had the nation's highest rates of heart disease, diabetes. They had the highest rates of seniors who had lost their teeth. 

Michael: Oh, God. 

Aubrey: This show really sort of opened the door to some very naked anti-fatness and classism and made way for the time-honored tradition of people outside of Appalachia sort of gawking and telling them how they're doing it wrong. 

Michael: Yes. 

Aubrey: So, Jamie Oliver heads to an elementary school in West Virginia and essentially does Jamie's School Dinners all over again. 

Michael: I remember this. He's, like, berating the lunch ladies. And then there's one lunch lady who's like, "You're a celebrity. You don't care." And he starts crying. He's like, "I swear on my children. That I care."

Aubrey: Right. He says, "I swear on my children's lives." And she just shakes her head and goes, "Don't do that."


Aubrey: Like, I was so hard on the school cooks team, I was like, "Yeah, man." At one point, he says, "So they get pizza for breakfast and chicken nuggets for lunch. Welcome to America." 

Michael: Oh, nice. 

Aubrey: He's also doing the whole, like, "Americans are gross and fat and dumb thing." 

Michael: Also, I make fun of Britain constantly, but also, like, the problems that Britain has are the same as the problems that America has.

Aubrey: That's so similar.

Michael: I'm in no position to, like, talk shit. And Jamie is similarly in no position to talk shit. 

Aubrey: So, he does his usual sort of set of things. He does the thing where he shows kids vegetables and they can't say what they are. Or he does a thing where he takes there's, like, a dump truck of fat, and he empties it into a dumpster in front of a bunch of parents- 

Michael: Oh, I remember this, why?

Aubrey: -and kids and are like, "This is how much fat you're eating." It's like Oprah's wagon of fat on steroids. 

Michael: But now, like, two decades of reality TV have [chuckles] gone by, everything has to be fucking amplified.

Aubrey: He does a bit where he shows kids how he says chicken nuggets are made. What he does is he butchers a chicken. He takes off the breasts, he takes off the legs, he takes off the wings, blah, blah, blah. He puts the whole chicken carcass, bones and all, and sort of trimmings into a food processor. He strains out the solids and ends up with this bowl of pink goo. And then he adds in flour. He calls it stabilizers. And I was like, "that's just flour."

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: You're just adding flour. And then he's like. And then you have to add a bunch of flavorings and spices so it doesn't taste terrible. And then you get to this very famous clip of him asking these kids, "Do you think that's good for you or bad for you?" And the kids all go, "Bad." And then he goes, "Would you still eat it?" And they go, "Yeah." [Michael laughs] Like, all of their hands go up, like, 100% of them. And then he says, "Why would you eat it if you know it's bad for you?" And one of the kids says, "We're just hungry." 

Michael: Yeah. I wonder if this is the real difference between Britain and America, because the famous thing about this is that the kids are supposed to be like, "Eww, gross. No."

Aubrey: He leads into it by saying, "I'm going do an experiment. And this experiment works every time." [laughs] 

Michael: The kids are supposed to say, "No, we don't want to eat it, because it's like, he's put all this gross shit into it." But then I wonder if the real linchpin of this is just like, "Are the kids hungry or not? Are you doing this at lunchtime and they haven't eaten?" 

Aubrey: This is a real marshmallow test moment. 


Aubrey: It's worth noting that in addition to being totally fucking hilarious, this moment also leads to a humongous lawsuit. 

Michael: Wait, really? 

Aubrey: A 1.2-billion-dollar lawsuit-

Michael: What? 

Aubrey: -filed by Beef Products Incorporated. [chuckles]

Michael: Of course. 

Aubrey: They're a processor in South Dakota. They sue ABC. ABC ends up settling the suit for 177 million dollars. 

Michael: No way. So, it was easier just write a check, I guess.

Aubrey: When you watch it now, there is a very clear ADR insert of Jamie Oliver saying, "Luckily, this is not the way they're made in America."


Aubrey: It's so clumsy. It's clearly like the room tone is all wrong. His voice is all wrong. I'm like, "Buddy, you're running this ship like a podcast. Get it together." 

Michael: Yeah, this is like us. And we have to fact check something. Like, everything completely changes. [laughs]

Aubrey: Come on. Like a youtuber who cuts in and is, like, "Editing me." 

Michael: Yeah. [laughs] 

Aubrey: There is also an incredibly funny scene that happens at the opening of the show where he goes on a local radio show and the DJ is super antagonistic and says things to him like, "What are you going to make us do? We don't want to sit around and eat lettuce all day." 

Michael: Okay.

Aubrey: And at one point in the radio interview, he goes, "You got to tell us what to do. Who made you king?" And I was like, "Ooh."

Michael: Yeah, yeah. He unfortunately went on Paul Revere radio. Dammit, yeah.

Aubrey: [chuckles] This is the thing. It's both very funny, but also, it's sort of a hallmark of these shows that he is framing this up as the core problem is that people know what's good for them and they just won't do it. 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: At one point, he talks to the food services director for the school district and is like, "Why are you feeding these kids such terrible food? It's unconscionable." And she's like, "Well, we have to meet USDA federal standards and we have a really tight budget." And his response is genuinely, "Well, I just came here to feed kids. I didn't know I had to take a math test." 

Michael: Oh, my gosh. [laughs] 

Aubrey: Like, "Why is it so complicated?" 

Michael: He's like, "Okay, Poindexter," 

Aubrey: You just got a hundred of millions of dollars from Tony Blair. [Michael laughs] You know that there will be math at some point. And also, it's not a math test. She's just like, "You have to serve a certain amount of protein and you have to serve a certain amount of starch." And, like, this is not an uncommon thing. But he's like, "Oh, shucks, I'm just a guy who showed up who wanted to cook for some kids and you're giving me all these rules." 

Michael: I'm just a guy who's made this my number one social issue for years now. You can't expect me to know what a budget is. 

Aubrey: [laughs] Yeah. Yes, the radio DJ becomes this sort of, like, recurring character in the show, and he's like, "I got to get this guy on board. He's the biggest naysayer and I got to get him."

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: He takes the radio DJ to a funeral home to "See where we've gotten with health in this country." And they talk to the funeral directors and they turn a corner. And then you just see a very large casket for a very fat person. It is filmed and presented as ludicrously large. The funeral director walks through how it won't fit in a hearse, and you actually have to get a cargo van, and none of the equipment that they have works with it, ba da da da, and I'm like, "You're just saying that you're not prepared for fat people." 

Michael: Yeah. Shouldn't they just be set up for fat people? 

Aubrey: In addition to that funeral home moment, he also does a whole personal stories segment. He brings in this young woman and her mom, who says that her dad died of being overweight. 

Michael: Oh. 

Aubrey: Then she tells the story, and she's like, "He was so concerned with his own weight that he decided to go have gastric bypass. And then a week after gastric bypass, he passed out in the hall. They rushed him to the hospital and he died at the hospital." And I was like -

Michael: Oh, wow. 

Aubrey: "-I don't think that's a death of being fat. I think that's maybe a death of complications of a major surgery."

Michael: Yeah. Holy shit.

Aubrey: That's actually a point against [chuckles] what you're arguing here. I think the darkest moment on this show, and this is where I was like, "I need to stop watching and cry for a while." As with other shows, he picks sort of a family to, like, follow around and talk to about their food choices. In this family, the dad is a trucker. The mom raises the three kids. All of the kids are fat. This is the house where he cooks all their frozen food and dumps it on the table and pushes this mom until she weeps about how she's, like, killing her kids. He takes their deep fryer and buries it in the backyard. And then he turns to the mom, and he's like, "You're a church going lady, right? Why don't we pray over it?" And then later, he tells the camera that he did that just for a bit of a laugh.

Michael: It's like, "I hate these people." [laughs] 

Aubrey: They're like, gross. He then takes this family to a doctor, who tells them on camera and in front of their children that their 6th grade middle child may already have diabetes. That is the language that they use on the show. The doctor talks about all these things, and he's like, "Well, that just means he's going to have amputations. He's probably going to go blind." Like, he names all of these things that are possible outcomes of diabetes, but they are outcomes when diabetes is not managed or treated.

Michael: Right. 

Aubrey: He is presuming and understanding that these are folks who will not have access to healthcare, right.

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: And he's painting this, like, ghoulish picture. At this point, he hasn't even taken a blood sample. He hasn't even run, like, an A1c test. He hasn't done anything. He's just like, "Oh, he's got this ring around his neck that can sometimes be characteristic of elevated sugar levels. So, he might already have diabetes. And if he did, these are all the things that would happen." He says, "We're talking about shortening their life by 30, 40 years. They may be dying in their 30s." He says to a mom about her own kids in the absence of any test results. 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: They're doing this on camera for a show that's going to be primetime on ABC. And you just watch this kid wither and recede into him. Like, you just watch the wave of shame take over him. And, like, the message is that what fat kids need is stigma.

Michael: It's a scared straight thing, which is one of the least effective ways to motivate people to do fucking anything. It doesn't work for drugs. It doesn't work for food. It doesn't work for anything. And also, if it's a kid, that kid doesn't have a lot of control over what he's eating anyway. 

Aubrey: Jamie Oliver is using a kind of rhetoric around school food and parents. He uses some of that in a New York Times piece that runs at the time called Jamie Oliver Puts America's Diet on a Diet.

Michael: Okay.

Aubrey: Here's an example of the kind of rhetoric. I just sent you a quote. 

Michael: It says, "We came across a table of Krispy Kreme donuts. They're a treat. They're to be loved, he said, but start having them every day, job done. It's harsh to say, but these parents, when they been to the doctor and keep feeding their kids inappropriate food, that is child abuse. Same as a cigarette burn or a bruise." Dude- 

Aubrey: Right. 

Michael: -just tone it down, Jamie. 

Aubrey: It's also worth talking about the results in Huntington. We talked a little bit about the results in the UK. In Huntington, after this all went through, 77% of kids who were part of West Virginia schools who were part of this program said that they didn't like or eat lunch anymore. 

Michael: Oh.

Aubrey: Many of the kids were just straight up throwing the lunch away. 

Michael: Right. 

Aubrey: So there's, like, a couple of problems there. One is, this is a town with a high level of poverty, which means a lot of those kids are reliant on those meals. Like, that's how some of those kids are just getting fed, period. And the other problem is that because no one was buying lunches, staff started to get laid off. It started to be seen as, like, a less essential position. And they're really strapped for cash, so they're not going to pay people to make lunches the kids aren't eating. On top of all of that, his menu changes didn't meet the USDA standards and was way higher than the budget that they had. 

Michael: Oh. So, he did the same thing where he just like, "Hey, yada, yada, yada is over, like, the actual constraints they're operating under.

Aubrey: Right. And he's like, "Look at how much better it can be." And it's like, "Yeah, if you ignore the law and money, I guess."

Michael: It's actually really easy to feed kids if you don't have to think about those two things. [laughs]

Aubrey: Yeah, totally, correct. Sure, dude. Whatever. 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: There's a couple of things to know about sort of the ending of the show. It ends with a big celebration in Huntington. They do, like, a big, high production value, sort of, like, festival in the town. At that big celebration, they get a gift of $80,000 from US foods, which is like a big food supplier to schools in the US. And they're like, "We're so proud to present this giant check for 80 grand." And then you find out, first of all, that it's 80 grand, and second of all, that it's meant to be split amongst all the schools in the county. There are 26 schools in Cabell County, West Virginia. So that is a one-time payment of 3 grand. 

Michael: Right, right And then if you break it down, like, kid by kid, it's like 75 cents per kid.

Aubrey: It's not anything. And it's, again, one-time payment, right.

Michael: Right. 

Aubrey: And they're like, "Oh, my God, what a victory. Rascal Flatts concert."

Michael: How much did they pay Rascal Flatts? More than 80k. They should have just given that to the fucking kids. 

Aubrey: Jamie Oliver is very proud to tell the camera, "You know how much they did this gig for? Nothing. Because they get it." 

Michael: Because they want the fat kids to be thin heroes. 

Aubrey: Because they're going on ABC and it's a press gig-- laughs] 

Michael: Because they're getting a shitload of free promotion. 

Aubrey: Great. At the end of the final episode of the US one, Jamie, like, receives this, like, reporting from the US that he's like, "Oh, my gosh. They're trying to go back to processed foods in Huntington, West Virginia. I can't believe it. After all the work that we put in." And then I looked up the article that they're referencing and they also end up saying this on the show. They're like, "Yeah, we had a year's worth of food sitting in our freezer that we had paid for and this dude just rolled in." 

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: And was like, "Make everything different." And they're like, "We already paid for this food."

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: They were talking about, like, "What if we just do it on Fridays? Is like, chicken nuggets and fries or what?" Like, "How do we get rid of this food? How do we use it up and not contribute to further food waste?" He's like, "Well, what do you need in order to do that?" They're like, "We need them to take the food back or to trade it out for healthier food or something. We got to work out a deal here. This is not an issue of like we're just being willful." And then he leaves that meeting and comes out and tells the camera, "Imagine being an alcoholic and saying, it's all right to have a drink on a Friday." [Michael laughs] Again, people have been like, "There are real constraints here, we need to figure out what to do with this food. We would like to have other food. We would like to have the staff to cook it and to pay for it. We would love to have all of that money. We do not have all of that money."

Michael: He seems to think that people want to feed the kids shitty food. I feel like it's like they just don't have a lot of other options- 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: -but then he just keeps being like, "Well, you should have other options then." It's like, "Yeah, they should." [laughs] 

Aubrey: 80 pounds a week on benefits. 

Michael: So is the epilogue to this, that everything just reverted back to where it was? 

Aubrey: Pretty much like, a lot of stuff is just sort of back to where it was before it made a big splash. It made some short-term changes, mostly for, like, a few years at a time that Tony Blair funding was not necessarily, like, renewed at the same level. [laughs] 

Michael: Yeah, I know. That's always the problem with these things. Yeah.

Aubrey: I live in a town where every two years, we're passing a new library levy. 

Michael: Yeah, same, same thing. 

Aubrey: Like, "Save our libraries." And it's like, "Buddies, we should just agree that libraries need money, and we should just give them the money that they need, what?"

Michael: Dude, Seattle had a fucking referendum of, like, to build a sea wall down on the waterfront so, like, the city wouldn't slide into the sea. And it got, like, 75% of the vote. 


Michael: It was like, "Should the city have, like, a giant disaster befall it." And, like, some people were like-- 

Aubrey: Not saying yes, but I'm not saying no.

Michael: Yeah.


Aubrey: So, the place that I wanted to, like, leave us for this episode, living by his own values and his own code, I think Jamie Oliver really thinks he's doing the right thing.

Michael: 100%. 

Aubrey: The problem is he has come to that decision about doing the right thing that focuses on fat people and fat kids, and he simply will not listen to them.

Michael: Right, right. Exactly.

Aubrey: He's not listening to fat people. He's not listening to poor folks. He's not listening to black and brown people. All of these folks who have really legit critiques of him and really legit requests of him.

Michael: Right. 

Aubrey: He is sort of either begrudgingly fulfilling them or getting kind of defensive or just shutting down and refusing to acknowledge it. 

Michael: Right, right. On some level, I think the defense of him with this stuff is that he is up against massive systemic barriers. The fact that one fucking celebrity with one TV show couldn't fix the problem of school lunches in the UK. Well, yeah, of course that's not how you're going to solve a problem like this. But also, it seems like people for two decades have been telling him, "Yo, these problems are systemic. They are bigger than you." And he keeps just being like, "Well, I can solve them." And like, doing basically the same thing over and over again. 

Aubrey: Right. Have you tried using a walk? 

Michael: [laughs] Yeah. Maybe the people yelling at Jamie Oliver just need to put it in terms that he understands and be like, "Jamie, if you could incorporate the realities of the United Kingdom into your work, that would be wicked scrummy." [Aubrey laughs] I don't think that's correct. I've learned nothing. [Aubrey laughs].


[Transcript provided by SpeechDocs Podcast Transcription]