Words by Malcolm Jolley, photos and video by Jamie Drummond

Eight-year old Parker sat quietly on a bench next to me drinking a small plastic cup of milk. I didn’t notice him at first because I was riveted by the spectacle before us: the world famous chef, restaurateur, author, TV star, social entrepreneur and general food revolution agitator Jamie Oliver was on his knees. Oliver was squatting at a wooden table, teaching knife skills at a table surrounded, in concentric circles by 8 to 13 year old kids, young adult volunteers from The Stop, not so young adult journalists and a bunch of big burly camera and sound men from the TV networks. When I did notice Parker, and we introduced ourselves, he took a pause and asked me with a smile, “Who is that guy exactly?”
Jamie Oliver teaches kids knife skills

Jamie Oliver is sure to meet with every kid at The Stop's Green Barn

Who, indeed? By all rights, on the November morning he visited The Stop Community Food Centre’s Green Barn (part of the Wychwood Barns complex), Jamie Oliver ought to have been sitting at home nursing a cup of tea with his newborn son, or hanging out at his just-opened London restaurant Barbecoa, or managing his Fifteen Foundation or any of his side project businesses and UK restaurant chains, or Tweeting about his new Food Network television series, Jamie’s American Road Trip, or its companion cookbook, just out for the holidays, Jamie’s America. Instead, a visibly tired Oliver spent an hour at 9:30am hanging out with at risk kids from The Stop’s after-school programs – making sure he introduced himself and spoke to each and every one. Then, rather than do his pre-arranged TV interviews with ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and the like before heading out, he insisted that The Stop’s Executive Director, Nick Saul, give him a guided tour of the facilitiy and explain, in detail, how The Stop works, how they use the Green Barn in conjunction with the Davenport Road Food Community Centre that helps feed hundreds, and what Nick’s team is up to every day down to the nitty gritty of funding and detailed programming. Then, he sat down and had brunch with the kids and volunteers led by Andrea Maldonado that cooked it, laughing and joking with them while sneaking messages about nutrition and eating properly. What ever can be said about Jamie Oliver the celebrity, he is clearly a man who is engaged and genuinely interested in any good idea that might move the good food revolution forward.

Jamie Oliver and Nick Saul

Jamie Oliver and Nick Saul talk turkey on a tour of The Stop's Green Barn

Oliver’s engagement and enthusiasm is contagious. All were smiles around him, even the most gruff camera men, elbowing in to get another shot. And if the small crowd in the Green Barn was impressed with him, to say that Oliver was impressed with the Green Barn, would be a gross understatement. Saul led him around the facility, starting with the Artscape Barn, where the Stop holds its weekly famers market, to the wormy compost bins, to the greenhouse (where Oliver was delighted to see lots of varieties of bright red chilli peppers sprouting up), back to the dining area where brunch was to be served and out into the gardens, including the pizza oven and the new vegetable gardens planted according to the traditions of newly arrived immigrants. Several times he shook his head, and said at one point, “We haven’t got anything like this in London.” It was hard not to feel proud for The Stop, although when Oliver asked Saul what sort of government funding the food innovator enjoyed from local and federal governments, there was some embarrassment when Saul replied, “virtually none”.

“I thought that was just our problem in  the UK,” Oliver shot back. The two men, one a chef who has become a champion for the nutrional rights of the poor, the other an anti-poverty activist who has become the head of an organisation that uses food to empower, talked turkey the whole time. Oliver peppered Saul with questions, and genuinely seemed reluctant to leave. No word (yet) as to when he might return…

Malcolm Jolley and Jamie Drummond

Jamie Drummond and Malcolm Jolley are the principals behind Good Food Revolution. The video above was made possible by the generous sponsorship of Fortessa/Schott Zwiessel Canada.