Ok, so this is not a "what" but "who" I love, and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that Jamie Oliver ranks high on my list of inspirational people along with my favorite grad school professor (who's teaching changed my life), and Oprah Winfrey. He continues his quest to make a difference becoming the sole winner of the prestigious 2010 TED Prize, and winning an Emmy for best reality series in the same year.
But it's not his acolades that draw me to him. From the first time I saw his very first series, The Naked Chef, I fell in love with his personality and character. He wasn't a camera teacher. He was simply a friend sharing a passion and enjoying the company. He is a chef, a musician, a dad, and a man with a mission. Simply put, he's fresh and real.
And that's what makes his inspiration so captivating for me. Because it isn't his recipes that have caught my attention. It is what he has brought his life to stand for -- the health of our children. My serious endorsement of Jamie Oliver came when I watched his show, Back To School Dinners, his initial reality series located in the UK about bringing reform to the food fed to children in school cafeterias. On the heels of that series, Jamie launched a campaign with the founding of Feed Me Better that called for signatures to petition the British government. His efforts resulted in a 450 million dollar grant from the government to improve school cafeteria food. When I saw him take the same mission to the US, even to the huge city of Los Angeles with his show, Jamie's Food Revolution, I saw it was just an extension of what came before, but in a much bigger way.
Now with the establishment of the Jamie Oliver Foundation, Jamie consistently launches similar initatives. His latest initiative, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, is a similar petition to his UK initiative to endorse the reform of school cafeteria food in America to conform to the standard nutrition needed to help children think and learn better in school.
Research shows that our diets are a vital part of learning. What we feed our bodies directly affects our mood, our ability to concentrate, and our ability to deal with stress. Along with exericise, diet can make a dramatic difference in our ability to recall information that we have learned and absorb new information accurately and meaningfully. In the formative years of children, proper nutrition and exercise can save their lives.
But it's not just about petitioning governments and school dinners that Jamie wants to see. It's the simple desire he has for everyone to take ownership and teach their children about food from the earliest age. His 2010 Jamie's Family Christmas Special gave me a small glimpse into his heart as a dad to ensure his children not only understand what they eat, but involve them in the cooking in the kitchen with "dad" and learn the basics of raw ingredients. It's just endearing and ever so inspiring.
(for a local reform of school food in New Westminster, Canada, read the news article here.)