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Chef Jamie Oliver’s recipe fails L.A. schools test

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

LOS ANGELES — British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has perfected his anti-obesity recipe over the years: Blend a passion for nutrition with reality TV, garnish with a catchy moniker, et voila! — “Food Revolution.”

But Oliver’s recipe has curdled since he arrived last fall to shoot the second season of his ABC series, debuting April 12. “I’ve had a tough time here,” he conceded wearily. “Nothing that was planned has come off.”

The six-episode show was to revolve around one of Oliver’s favorite causes — making school lunches healthier — but ran under a rolling pin when the Los Angeles Unified School District objected to the key ingredient: TV cameras.

“We’re interested in Jamie Oliver the food activist, not Jamie the reality TV star,” said Robert Alaniz, district spokesman. “We’ve invited him to work with our menu committee, but there’s too much drama, too much conflict with a reality show.”

Oliver’s concept is simple: Obesity kills and cooking meals from scratch using fresh ingredients will save lives. School lunches are a particular passion for Oliver, a father of four. He revamped cafeteria cuisine in Britain and then turned his sights to Huntington, W. Va., for his first U.S.-based TV show after a poll labeled the area America’s unhealthiest.

Part of the show focused on a menu makeover in Cabell County Schools. It wasn’t easy, said Jedd Flowers, district spokesman.

Oliver’s recipes didn’t adhere to state standards, food costs were higher, staff had to be rejiggered and equipment bought to stick to the freshly prepared mandate.

“The quality of the food is much better,” he said. “But the TV show was quite an ordeal. It was disruptive and used gimmicks.”

Oliver decided to set his second U.S. series in Los Angeles, but the nation’s second-largest school district said no. A previous sour experience with reality show “School Pride” factored into Supt. Ramon Cortines’ decision, as well as reports from Cabell County Schools, district spokesman Alaniz said.

But West Adams Preparatory High School in Central Los Angeles, which is operated under a contract with the school district, allowed Oliver on campus. After two weeks of taping, the district learned of it and booted the show. AP

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