Jamie Oliver visits Edible Schoolyard with Alice Waters

Jamie Oliver

Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver observe a cookery class being run by Head Chef-Teacher Esther Cook at King Middle School on Monday Jan. 6., 2014 Photo: Tracey Taylor

Jamie Oliver, aka the Naked Chef, who is probably best known in the U.S. for his Food Revolution TV series, visited the Edible Schoolyard at King School in Berkeley today. His host was Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters who spearheaded the creation of the internationally renowned edible program at the middle school, and founded the nonprofit Edible Schoolyard Project.

Oliver, British and originally a chef — whose empire now encompasses books, television shows, partnerships with major grocery chains, and restaurants — is also well known for his efforts to improve food education at schools. He has met Waters many times, but this was the first time he had visited the Edible Schoolyard which, he said, had inspired much of his work in schools.

“I have looked at Alice’s programs and figured out how they can translate to Britain,” he said today while observing students engaged in a cookery lesson in King’s spacious classroom kitchen. 

Jamie Oliver and Alice Waters discuss the latest research in edible education at schools before taking a tour of the Edible Schoolyard garden at King Middle School in Berkeley. Photo: Tracey Taylor

The Jamie Oliver Foundation’s Kitchen Garden Project currently has three flagship schools in Britain and has created a set of resources that enables all elementary schools to potentially bring food skills to life. Oliver was quick to point out the resources at the Berkeley school — the kitchen is large and beautifully decorated and the gardens produce an abundance of fruits and vegetables — were superior to those at most British schools

King Middle School students prepared Ghanaian black-eyed peas from scratch using a recipe by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson in a lesson prepared by Head Chef-Teacher Esther Cook. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Under the direction of Head Chef-Teacher Esther Cook, students, not many of whom seemed to know of Oliver, learned about the exchange of foods, animals, plants, and culture between the American and Afro-Eurasian hemispheres after 1492, known as the Colombian Exchange, after Christopher Columbus. Another teacher, Julie Searle, was also part of the group.

Alice Waters records an edible education class being led by teacher Esther Cook in the King Middle School kitchen-classroom on Monday Jan. 6, 2014. Photo: Tracey Taylor

The class then set about preparing a dish of Ghanaian black-eyed pies following a recipe by another celebrity chef, Marcus Samuelsson. The preparation included chopping onions, ginger, cilantro and scallions and adding spiced butter and tomatoes to the peas.

Fresh ingredients being used for a black-eyed peas recipe included red onions, ginger, scallions and spiced butter. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Also in attendance today to meet Oliver and watch the class in action were King Principal Janet Levenson, the Edible Schoolyard Project’s Executive Director Katrina Heron, and Kyle Cornforth, Director of the Edible Schoolyard.

Heron said she hoped Oliver’s visit might prompt the beginning of a closer collaboration.

“Jamie Oliver is particularly skilled at teaching food services staff to engage with children,” she said. “Anyone who feeds a child in a school is an educator and we need to honor our food services staff.” Heron said her dream would be for Oliver to hold a masterclass for food service staff locally.

The Edible Schoolyard Project currently has at least one celebrity ambassador: actor Jake Gyllenhaal. Heron, who has been in her post for a year, said one of her missions is to build the ambassador program and “amplify its impact.”

After his Berkeley visit, Oliver was heading to Sacramento to join the Food Revolution Big Rig mobile teaching kitchen. The huge truck, underwritten by The California Endowment, is on a tour of the state offering food education courses led by community chefs.

Berkeley school edible programs face huge challenges (11.11.13)
Edible Schoolyard grad puts hemp burgers on the map (05.21.13)
Photo essay: Berkeley’s Edible Schoolyard Plant Sale (05.14.13)

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  • Julie hernandez

    My nephew attends King Middle School in Berkeley and I think this is a wonderful way to help to educate children, parents, and school staff on nutrition! Jamie is an inspiration to all and I know he has been promoting this for quite some time. How might we go about arranging for Jamie to come and speak to our kids down south? Granted, we aren’t as wealthy of an area as Berkeley, but every school and their children deserve a chance, right?

  • AllieKit

    Love the Naked Chef!

  • deirdre

    “I have looked at Alice’s programs and figured out how they can
    translate to Britain,” he said today while observing students engaged in
    a cookery lesson in King’s spacious classroom kitchen.
    Gee: if he can figure out how to bring the Edible Schoolyard to Britain, what about duplicating these facilities at Berkeley’s two other middle schools? You know, those two schools that aren’t King. The ones that don’t have swimming pools. The ones with significantly higher populations qualifying for ‘free and reduced lunch’.

  • nomnom

    The preparation included chopping onions, ginger, cilantro and scallions and adding spiced butter and tomatoes to the peas.

    Huh. How is cooking part of the curriculum organized? Is there a list of techniques taught?

  • kinder, gentler history?

    learned about the exchange of foods, animals, plants, and culture between the American and Afro-Eurasian hemispheres after 1492, known as the Colombian Exchange, after Christopher Columbus.

    Is the curriculum sanitized that way (e.g., no reference to the slave trade)? Wikipedia describes it:

    the widespread exchange of animals, plants, culture, human populations (including slaves), communicable diseases, technology and ideas between the American and Afro-Eurasian hemispheres following the voyage to the Americas by Christopher Columbus in 1492, colonization and trade by Europeans in the Americas, and institution of the slave trade in Africa and the Americas.

  • Culper Agent 355

    The curriculum of science, math and cultural studies, including ethno-history, is included in lessons about food, agriculture and cooking. The kids often use microscopes to study the plants and foods at a microscopic level, they study measurement and recipe expansion, history of trade and indigenous plants and people for all continents. It couldn’t be more integrated.

  • nomnom

    I’m aware of the integration of curriculum but I’m wondering if the cooking and home economics component is as thin as this article suggests (cut stuff up, stir). Middle school seems late for things like “measurement”.

  • nomnom: The chopping of produce and so on was simply one part of one cookery lesson that was being observed. I also mentioned the part where the teacher explained the Colombian Exchange. There were other elements to the lesson too, but the point of this story was to report on the visit of Jamie Oliver, not to detail a class and how it fitted into the curriculum at King.

  • Chris J

    JEEZIS! Its a history of FOOD and cultural exchange– not every class taught should be used as an example or teaching opportunity to preach about social inequality, STDs, and slavery!

  • Tom Weller

    From the KQED food blog:

    “Teacher Julie Searle’s history classes have been learning about the
    Columbian Exchange, the widespread transfer of goods, culture, people
    (including slaves), technology, and ideas between the Americas and the
    Afro-Eurasian countries following Christopher Columbus’s voyage in 1492

  • kinder, gentler history?

    That’s good.