- Associated Press - Saturday, March 5, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - 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 uncharacteristically curdled since he arrived in Los Angeles last fall to shoot his second U.S. TV series. “I’ve had a tough time here,” he conceded wearily in an interview. “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 chef’s 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.”

It was quite a twist for Oliver.

The 35-year-old is a household name back home, where he’s been decorated by the Queen and cooked at 10 Downing Street. He heads a multimillion-dollar eponymously branded empire that has produced 20 TV series and specials, 14 bestselling cookbooks, 20 restaurants, cooking schools, a catering company, an array of cooking and dining products, supermarket endorsements, as well as a charity for disadvantaged youth.

You’d never know it, though, from his tousled hair that looks like he just rolled out of bed and a wardrobe of jeans and plaid shirts. The one-of-the-lads demeanor underscores the earnestness of his pitch for home, not haute, cuisine.

The son of a publican, he grew up cooking “pub grub.” He quit school at 16, after struggling for years with dyslexia and hyperactivity, and enrolled in catering college. In 1999, he landed his first TV show “The Naked Chef” after the BBC was filming the restaurant where he was working and saw he was an on camera natural.

Oliver’s concept is simple: obesity kills and cooking meals from scratch using fresh ingredients will save lives. It’s a message he wields with zeal in home kitchens, school classrooms, and corporate boardrooms.

He encourages the food industry to believe that caring can be commercial.

“They can make ethical change that will genuinely shift toward health and away from obesity,” said Oliver, who’s in constant motion_ even seated his leg bounces furiously.

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, West Virginia, for his first U.S.-based TV show after an Associated Press poll labeled the area America’s unhealthiest.

Part of the show focused on a menu makeover in Cabell County Schools, a 12,700-student district. It wasn’t easy, said Jedd Flowers, district spokesman.

Oliver’s recipes didn’t adhere to state standards, food costs were higher and new suppliers had to be located, staff had to be rejiggered and new equipment bought _ a $200,000 industrial potato peeler, for example _ to stick to the freshly prepared mandate.

Cabell County kids weren’t enamored of new dishes like honey carrots and more started bringing brown-bag lunches. Lunch participation has since rebounded as kids’ tastebuds are getting used to the new food, which includes Oliver recipes like creamy coleslaw and chili con carne, Flowers said.

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