Chubby British Chef* Looking For American Town To Kickstart His Anti-Obesity Crusade

*No, Not Gordon Ramsay, but Jamie Oliver.

Not satisfied with a worldwide culinary empire that includes several charity restaurants, numerous cook books and various TV shows and appearances (over here, Jamie At Home airs on the Food Network), Oliver wants to take on the seemingly insurmountable task of changing the way we eat in America, both at home and in our schools.

Chubby British Chef* Looking For American Town To Kickstart His Anti-Obesity Crusade

The former Iron Chef America contender (pictured here with Mario Batali) has already had major success in the UK, where he has been championing healthy eating for years, and where his TV series Jamie's School Dinners was instrumental in raising the quality of the food served to students.

It has even been credited with an improvement attendance and exam results.

Apparently, Oliver has been planning on bringing his message Stateside for several years, but it was the arrival of the Obamas, with their healthy figures and White House kitchen garden, that have made him act now.

Admits Oliver: "This is without question the most important and challenging thing I'll ever do in my life but I truly believe that I can at least plant the seeds of change in America in terms of helping a community to cook better, feed their kids better and save money.  I'll be using everything I've learned over the last 10 years to try to get meaningful, sustainable change."

But he's not doing it alone: he's teaming up with Lego-haired TV presenter Ryan Seacrest (or, rather, Ryan Seacrest Productions--read those three words again and weep).

Seacrest, for his part, says: "I couldn't do what I do in terms of my schedule if I didn't eat right and exercise right... As a kid I was chubby, and I'm a firm believer that the fuel we put into our body results in a healthy lifestyle. Jamie's going to come over here, roll up his sleeves and use the resources of each town to help condition living habits to make it a better and healthier place."

The new TV series will cover Oliver's escapades and is due to start filming soon and will be shown on ABC in 2010.

In the meantime, they're looking for an  "appropriate American town in which to start a food revolution"!

It's widely rumored that they'll choose from one of those 'America's Fattest Cities' list, in which case, OC is unlikely to be in with a shot (the closest we get is number 21, for LA-Long Beach, in a recent Men's Health magazine survey.)

In any case, I get the feeling that a small town will get the final nod. Hopefully not too small: Oliver is known for his thick Essex accent that not everyone will be able to penetrate.

Still, if you have any suggestions, send them my way and I'll pass them on.

To get us all in the mood for Oliver's arrival, here's a healthy, seasonal recipe, from Jamie's Dinners cook book.

To quote the man himself, "Lovely Jubbly"!

Thai Watermelon Salad (serves 4)

1/4 of a watermelon
2 handfuls of fresh cilantro leaves
2 handfuls of rocket
2 handfuls of fresh mint leaves
1 small bunch of radishes, finely sliced
a handful of peanuts or sunflower seeds
115gr/4oz feta cheese

a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 red, 1 yellow and 1 green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1 tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
juice of 3 or 4 limes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove the skin from the watermelon and cut the flesh into small cubes, removing as many seeds as you can.

When you pick the cilantro leaves, remove the stringier part of the stalks but keep the finer ones, as they are nice to eat.  Place in a bowl with the rocket, mint, watermelon and radishes.  Put the ginger, chilli, soy sauce, olive oil and sesame oil into a smaller bowl and add just enough lime juice to cut through the oil--the number of limes you use will depend on how juicy they are. Season to taste and make sure the dressing is well balanced.

Place your peanuts or sunflower seeds in the oven or in a pan and warm through, then roughly pound them up in a pestle and mortar or in a metal bowl using the end of a rolling pin.  Dress the salad really quickly.  (You can use more dressing if you wish, but any left over is great to keep in the fridge to use the next day).  Divide between the plates, sprinkle over the hot peanuts or sunflower seeds and crumble the feta cheese over the top.

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