The show opens with him visiting the grammar school where he’s taken over the lunch program to see how it’s going. They’ve had to hire extra kitchen help to assist the five lunch ladies. Millie is appreciative and supports the program but Alice Gue, who runs the kitchen, continues to grouse about the extra work. ”Alice has a combative nature,” explains Millie. ”But she’s got lots of good qualities.”
The kids seem happy munching away on broccoli and shephard’s pie and Principal Patrick O’Neal is pleased with the changes. All is well (except for Alice) and Rhonda McCoy, Director of Food Services for the town’s entire school system, gives permission for Jamie to tackle the lunch program at one of the high schools and he heads over there to get the lay of the land.
Moving Into the High School
Other than the quality of the food being served, the setup is pretty impressive. The high school serves 1,000 people a day, with four lines of food choices available through lunch period. Jamie points out that in the grammar schools there’s only one lunch and you serve it and that’s it, but in the high school “you gotta work with the students,” and he sets off to find ambassadors of change, a “gang” of kids who have all been touched by obesity.
Through interviews we learn that Marisa Clayton lost her Dad to obesity issues when she was 13; that Brittany Stevens is very overweight and has health issues; and that Ryan Jenkins has been in child services for a few years and has some serious anger management issues. The group is filled out by Emily Hill, an aspiring chef, Brian Zepp, a young student with a lot of energy, and Rob Redman, the football player.
The kids all get together in Jamie’s Kitchen, the downtown cooking center that Oliver has established, and get a quick lesson on how to make a one-pan dish of chicken and vegetables. After they prepare the meal (no catastrophes, everyone did well), they sit together for a “chin wag” and discuss how obesity has affected them. It’s clear from the conversation that Brittany is struggling with her size and is desperate for help. A group hug brings the kids together and Jamie declares them “a little family now.”
“This is not a few seconds on the news,” he says. “This is your kids … and they all have been touched and wounded and hurt and abused by food.”
We’re Going To Need Money
The show returns to the grammar school kitchen to show Food Services Director Rhonda’s interaction with the lunch ladies. She asks Alice if they can handle the food prep once the extra help stops assisting in the kitchen and Alice is emphatic they won’t get the food out on time. ”No one can deny that cooking from scratch is better,” says Rhonda, “but we are going to need to train our cooks to cook from scratch. I don’t know who is going to give us money for that.”
She discusses the dilemma with Jamie and they conclude they need to raise about $80,000 for the training needed to roll out a “from scratch” training program to the 27 schools in the system.
A Farm and a Favor
Jamie strolls through a farm with his high school cooks in tow as they look at bison and take in nature. They have a cookout as the sun sets and eat bison burritos for dinner. He tells them he’s preparing a fundraiser, a fancy dinner for 80 people at a local restaurant, and he needs their help to cook the meal. The kids are on board but Jamie is worried. In the past, he usually has a few months to train kids before he has them attempt something like this, but these kids only have a few lessons under their belt.
French Fry Wars
Back at the high school, Jamie prepares his first meal for one of the four choices at the cafeteria. It’s a chicken teriyaki stir fry with noodles and veggies and fresh fruit for dessert. Rhonda shows up and points out there’s not enough fruits and vegetables to qualify for the USDA-required standards of a cup and a quarter per meal. To remedy the problem, they throw french fries on the line because “that’s a vegetable.”
Jamie is disgusted. He asks how his dish with seven different vegetables included is deficient while the fried chicken sandwich and french fry offering is okay. Rhonda explains the kids have an optional salad that counts as part of the total, but literally none of the kids are taking any veggies; just “carb, carb, protein” as Jamie says as they pass.
Jamie has his food ambassador students pass around his dish and lots of kids try and enjoy the samples. He’s starting to make some headway with the high schoolers, but he’s still burning mad about the french fries. He says to camera, “I’m going to get medieval!” and closes the french fry line. He then goes from table to table and snatches plates with fries, declaring “as of now, french fries are gone.” We won’t find out until next week what he’s replacing them with.
Going to the Big Wigs
We head over to Frankie D’s Italian Chophouse for the fancy dinner served to 80 influential people in the area. The menu includes garden salad with local apples, slow cooked pork crostini, roasted pumpkin risotto, and wild berry almond tart with homemade ice cream.
The kids are game but brand new to commercial cooking and find it challenging to keep up with the pace that Jamie sets. Emily and Marisa put their heads down and work hard. Ryan is struggling with the risotto and the bread, Brian is in the weeds with prep work, and Rob takes off after only 15 minutes because he has a football team walk-through for tomorrow’s game. Jamie is peeved that he has to adjust the schedule to make sure everything gets done on time, but Rob does return and pitches in and all is forgiven.
Brittany starts to struggle a little bit before the guests arrive and Jamie feels for her. ”An hour for her is like five hours for us given her physical weight and drain,” he says into the camera. “She’s digging deep.”
The guests arrive and the meal comes together. We see happy diners delighted with the meal and to have a celebrity chef cook for them. Jamie comes out towards the end of the meal to say, “I lied. I didn’t actually cook a thing. Let me show you the real chefs.” And the kids walk out to great applause.
The Kids Share Their Stories
Each have the chance to tell their story. Marisa moves the restaurant with her tale of losing her Dad to obesity. Ryan tells the crowd that a program like this has helped his anger management issues and he wishes the state had something like this for troubled youth. Brittany steals the show though when she speaks.
“I’ve had my weight issues all my life,” she says. “I just found out recently that I have spots on my liver and I could possibly only have seven years to live.” Her Mom is at one of the tables and starts to cry, and the camera pans as several diners are welling up (so was I!). ”This is my last chance to get my weight under control. Having Jamie and the gang gives me the motivation that I need.”
A True Pledge of Support
Group hugs all around, and the evening ends on a high note as a local state Senator, Robert Plymale, pledges to help Jamie and the cause. ”What your doing is historical,” says the Senator. ”What you’re doing is going to change not just the way we do it in West Virginia, but in the United States.”
Amen to that.
Jamie wraps up the show declaring the fundraiser a success (but he doesn’t say how much they raised) and hopeful that he’s changed a few minds and hearts in Huntington, WV. The Food Revolution marches on.
What are your thoughts? What do you think about someone who is in her teens and might not make it out of her 20s due to obesity?
If you’d like to do something, you can start by adding your name to Jamie’s petition. It takes less than 30 seconds and will show our legislature that we are serious about changing our kids lives.