Britain's "The Naked Chef" talks about his show, obesity and kids' health.

Britain's "The Naked Chef" talks about his show, obesity and kids' health.

For more than a decade, British celebrity chef and bestselling cookbook author Jamie Oliver has been peddling his message-that simple food tastes great-as "The Naked Chef." (His nickname, and the title of his first television series and several cookbooks, is a nod to his uncomplicated recipes, not his lack of attire.)

But Oliver really grabbed America's attention this past spring when he tackled school lunches and the eating habits of residents of America's "unhealthiest" city, Huntington, West Virginia, on his Emmy-nominated ABC show Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.

Oliver's new book, Jamie's America (Hyperion), out in November, offers his (sometimes healthier) twists on classic American foods he enjoyed on his four-month stateside road trip. We caught up with the floppy-haired healthy-eating crusader to talk about the show, cooking for his family and Jamie's vision for making healthy changes stick.

Photo Credit: David Loftus

What would you say to critics of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, some of whom said your show is "helping America make fun of itself"? Certainly at no point was this show ever meant to make fun of anybody. The show is about choice, and to make good food choices people need to know more about their food: what's in it, where it comes from and how easy it can be to cook with fresh, rather than processed, ingredients. My hope is that the show empowers people to make better choices and lose weight and save a few dollars while they're at it.

If you were President, what three laws would you pass to help curb obesity? I don't think you can pass laws to change human behavior, but you can make sure that children get a fair chance by making it illegal to target them with junk food and soda advertising the way the government has with alcohol and cigarettes. Nine times out of 10, kids will go for the sugary, rubbish option over something healthy, so it's our job to guide them in the right direction. You can feed kids a healthy breakfast in the classroom and remove junky foods that have added sugars and preservatives from schools so they only have good foods to choose from.

If you were to make over the McDonald's Happy Meal, what would it look like? I don't know what a Jamie Oliver Happy Meal would have in it, but to be honest I don't think Happy Meals are really the problem. People absolutely love them, and I'm not interested in changing or taking away anybody's favorite treat. What really needs a makeover is the way we think about food so we naturally start to make better choices. Then Happy Meals are seen the right way: as something to be enjoyed every once in a while rather than every day.

You have three daughters under the age of 9. Is there a food you won't feed them? I am not the food police. I grew up eating everything from fresh veg and fish to ice cream and cheap chocolate bars, and my girls are the same. They'll try pretty much everything that my wife, Jools, or I cook for them. As parents, we can encourage our kids to try many different things and to help choose and prepare food. Hopefully they'll build up their knowledge of flavors and grow up able to make better choices.

Beautiful Breakfast Tortillas

This will definitely get you going in the morning, especially if you use fresh chiles and chile sauce like I've done here. If that's not your thing, feel free to adjust this to suit your taste - it will still be delicious. Great with a mug of strong coffee.

In America you see generic hot chile sauces everywhere, and good supermarkets and stores should stock some mind-blowing varieties. Just don't mistake them for the sweet chile versions out there. If you're a chile freak, like me, make your own. It's simple, so tasty, and you'll have it on hand, ready to spice up all sorts of lovely dishes.

Serves 2
1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and chopped
2 limes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium-sized tomato halved and diced
1 fresh green chile, seeded and minced
a small bunch of fresh cilantro, leaves picked and chopped
a handful of freshly grated Manchego or Cheddar cheese
4 corn or flour tortillas
6 large eggs, preferably free- range or organic
4 scallions, trimmed and minced
a good pat of butter
chile sauce (as hot as you want!), to serve

Roughly mash your avocado with the juice of I of your limes and a good pinch of salt and pepper, and put aside. Arrange the rest of your topping ingredients on a plate: the tomato, chile, cilantro leaves, and grated cheese.

Quickly reheat the tortillas in a hot dry pan for 20 seconds on each side until warmed through. Wrap them in aluminum foil to keep them warm while you get on with your eggs. Beat the eggs u-i a bowl with the minced scallions and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a large frying pan on a medium heat and pour in the eggs. Lightly tip the pan as the eggs cook, and when you see a layer forming on the bottom of the pan, sweep a rubber spatula around so you get little handkerchiefs of cooked egg surrounded by wonderful custardy egg. Keep an eye on it and stir gently for a minute or so, until the eggs are starting to scramble but are still loose.

Get your 2 plates and lay a warm tortilla on each one. Divide the scrambled egg between them, top with the chopped tomato and mashed avocado, and sprinkle over your chile, cilantro, and grated cheese. Lay another tortilla on top, and drizzle over some chile sauce. Cut your remaining lime into wedges for squeezing over and dive in.

From Jamie's America (Hyperion, 2010) by Jamie Oliver.

September/October 2010