The Rest of the Story. The true revolution behind Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution television show was based in Connecticut and played out quietly, behind the scenes, in West Virginia. Oliver still deserves much of the credit—it was his idea and he funded it. We the People deserve less, for preferring a confrontational and hyped-up TV version to the more inspirational true story. (Hat tip to DSTB.)
It's 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, and chef John Turenne is where he feels most at home: a school cafeteria. What's unusual is that it's a school cafeteria not far from his home in Wallingford, where's he's making pizza for second-graders using all local, healthy ingredients. For the past nine months, you'd be far likelier to find Turenne in the school cafeterias of Cabell County, W.V. Sound familiar? That's the county that international celebrity chef Jamie Oliver ran roughshod over in a TV series earlier this year.
When Turenne's assistant gave him the message that Jamie Oliver's office called, "I said, 'You're joking'," Turenne laughs. She wasn't. Oliver wanted to hire Turenne's company, Sustainable Food Systems, to be the unseen force that reconstituted the food in all 26 schools in Cabell County, patiently, methodically and anonymously, as opposed to Oliver's style of bang-them-over-the-head.
"A big piece of it is empathy and being in their shoes," he says, noting Oliver's high-voltage demeanor and the chaos of TV cameras. "We'd come in and try to be the medics and patch the egos and bring people back up again and say, 'It's OK, they're gone. Now let's talk about this. Here's what we're trying to do. You've been here for a long time; help us figure this out'." And they did, much better in most everyone's estimation than the show let on.
[Turenne] says his biggest frustration over the nine months — aside from being away from his family for huge chunks of time — was what he called the lunch program's "perverted guidelines." "When the system says it's OK to serve frozen pizza with 17 separate ingredients, or canned fruit loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, yet demands to know the science behind a fresh vegetable stir-fry, it's time to say, 'snap out of it!' " he says. "Our biggest challenge was not the cooks, was not the people on the front lines," he says. "It ended up being some administration and state USDA people in my mind feeling, 'Oh God, how is this going to make us look?' "
The entire Hartford Courant article is worth reading.