Los Angeles may have had its fill of designer-hair metrosexuals before Jamie arrived. (Photos: Reuters Pictures)
British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been locked in a very public squabble with Los Angeles public school officials over whether or not he should be allowed to take the second season of his reality show about improving school lunches into Tinseltown's cafeterias.
L.A. officials claim they don't need Jamie's help, saying they've already improved school nutrition and limited junk food in schools, and that L.A.'s local guidelines surpass the ones handed down by the federal government.
School officials extended an olive branch of sorts to Oliver, offering him the chance to suggest a three-week menu that meets all nutritional standards—while ringing up at no more than 77 cents per serving.
So, are Oliver's services necessary? Is there room for improvement in Los Angeles? Or have the lunch ladies in the land of macrobiotic mush, organic produce and power-food smoothies mastered the art of feeding young mouths?
TakePart won't presume to predict Oliver's Hollywood schooling menu. But a two-week meal planner on his Food Revolution website is a good barometer of things he likes to cook up for school kids.
And the L.A. school system's own website shows exactly what they plan on serving to school kids this month. Here's a side-by-side comparison (using L.A.'s menu for older kids).
L.A.: Chicken and cheese enchiladas, or turkey sub on wheat, or beef corn dog. With broccoli bites, frozen OJ cup and fruit.
Jamie: Home-style beef stew, garden salad with ranch dressing, whole wheat roll, blueberry yogurt and fruit.
ADVANTAGE: Jamie. A hearty stew with leafy greens beats a corn dog or enchiladas any day of the week.
L.A.: Cheeseburger, or beef steak fingers with gravy. With yogurt trio with graham crackers, crisp baked potato rounds, cucumber coins, and fruit.
Jamie: Sausage and bean stew, honey carrot coins, cheesy corn bread, and fruit.
ADVANTAGE: Jamie again. Even when made with the freshest of ingredients, cheeseburgers aren't a health food.
L.A.: Bean and cheese burrito, kung pao chicken rice bowl, deluxe meat and cheese sauce. With baked tortilla chips, baby carrots, and fruit.
Jamie: Rotisserie chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, garden salad with ranch dressing, wheat bread sticks, and blueberry yogurt.
ADVANTAGE: The Brit is three for three. A burrito or kung pao chicken? What is this? The mall food court? A nice roasted chicken with green salad is sending the smarter message to kids about good food choices.
L.A.: Pepperoni pizza, or sweet & sour veggies with brown rice, or farmer's market salad. With oven-roasted potato wedges, frozen chocolate cup and fruit.
Jamie: Crusty mac & cheese with broccoli, apple and cucumber salad with honey dressing, cheesy cornbread, and fruit.
ADVANTAGE: This is getting embarrassing, L.A. The farmer's market salad is a nice touch, but the pizza-versus-gloppy-Chinese-food option sends another distinct food court vibe. Jamie wins again—even though the mac & cheese and cheesy cornbread combo sound like the least healthful Naked Chef meal so far.
L.A.: Breaded fish nuggets with green beans, or macaroni au gratin, or chicken Italiano melt. With celery sticks, strawberry cup, and fruit.
Jamie: Shepherd's pie, steamed parmesan brocolli, whole wheat tortilla chips, blueberry yogurt, and fruit.
ADVANTAGE: Looks like a clean sweep for Jamie Oliver. You can give mac & cheese a fancy name, but it's still mac & cheese. And breaded anything can be dangerous.
So, while L.A.'s school lunch standards may be above the country's at large, this one-week menu doesn't read like a soloution to the childhood obesity crisis.
Granted, Jamie may just be looking for a place with good weather to film his reality show. Still, if L.A. school officials could swallow their pride, they might see some actual improvements.