Jamie's American Road Trip on Channel 4: The Naked Chef Samples Food Cultures in the USA

After personally saving every child in the country with his healthy school meals campaign and patronising the people of Rotherham with his pukka tukka cooking, chef Jamie Oliver has watched Stephen Fry In America and thought “I can do that”. As his expertise is in food obviously the twist for his American Road Trip is going to be the great homely dishes to be found in the US’s many cultures. At least that’s that was hoped, instead Oliver attempts to be the laddish equivalent of Louis Theroux.

Jamie Travels to LA to see Mexican Food in Episode One

In the first episode the once boyishly charming, now autocratic Naked Chef hunts for real Mexican food…in Los Angeles. It seems an odd notion but the voice over in the opening does explain that it’s down the Hispanic influence on the city and that it used to be part of Mexico. Okay it’s cheating but it’s a decent enough replacement that works within the confines of the series.

Given that sections of LA have a gang culture the show quickly turns all Louis Theroux when Oliver stops for a chinwag with former gang members and ex-drug dealers who have turned to cooking as a new way of life. But whereas Theroux has a natural rapport that makes him seem friendly and intrusive in a polite manner, Oliver is obviously nervous when dealing with such difficult subjects and really should just stick to chopping onions than talking about “da hood”.

Jamie Oliver talks about Drugs

It’s pathetically easy, and perhaps a little excessive, to make fun of Jamie Oliver, though he’s for more acceptable when he keep his opinions to himself and just gets down to the humble cooking that made his name. On the positive side he’s thankfully dropped the Gordon Ramsey style sweary outbursts, although his use of the gang vernacular “bruv” and “homeboys” is laughable and condescending at times.

The main problem is he can’t keep his mouth shut for a second, even when he’s supposed to be listening to a heart wrenching story. And his awe-inspiring comment for what he sees on the streets: “drugs has got so much to answer for”. Thanks Jamie, everyone is grateful for your wonderful and eloquent insight.

 

American Road Trip better without wannabe Louis Theroux Interviews

It’s good to get a first hand experience and alternative view into a culinary culture that is typically represented as tacos and tortilla chips but for a programme that is supposed to be based around food it would be nice to see some more scenes of proper home grown cooking. He does spit out the occasional tip and basic recipe but it’s more about him telling other people how to do it when surely it should be the other way round.

The finale where Oliver shows off his skills of what he has learned for a christening – which given the set up and his apparent built-in knowledge was very little – made sense as a conclusion although it would have been rewarding for the viewer to see a couple of the people he had met along the way to be involved somewhere.

If the remainder of this series drops the sub Louis Theroux stuff and focuses more on food (shock horror) then it might just be salvageable. Next week’s adventure, where Jamie samples the life of a cowboy, looks promising and exactly what this show should have been from the off. However, if he at any stage tries to do a Clint Eastwood impression the TV is going off. And possibly out of the window.

The six-part series Jamie’s American Road Trip is on Channel 4 every Tuesday at 9pm.

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