Batuhan: Naked chef

Allan S. B. Batuhan

TODAY, it seems that celebrity chefs are all the rage. Wherever we turn to on TV, we see cooking shows of all types, often featuring chefs who are well-known as much for their showbiz credentials, as for their cooking prowess. Even at home, those well-heeled and well-schooled boys and girls—who would otherwise have pursued careers in modelling or acting—are turning to the kitchen as their workplace of choice.

But back in the day, before all the jazz about food began, there was the “Naked Chef.” I’m pretty certain most of our readers have heard of Jamie Oliver, and for those select few who have been living under a wok (pun intended) all these days, here are a few things to note about the man. “James Trevor Oliver, MBE (born May 27, 1975) is a British celebrity chef and restaurateur. He is most known for his typically English cuisine that has garnered him numerous television shows and restaurants.

Born and raised in the village of Clavering, Essex, he was educated in London before taking his first culinary engagement at Antonio Carluccio’s Neal Street restaurant as a pastry chef. When he moved to serve as a sous chef at the River Cafe he was noticed by the BBC and in 1999 debuted his television show, The Naked Chef, which was followed by his first cook book subsequently becoming the No. 1 bestseller in the UK. After his Naked Chef Series, he was endorsed by multiple companies and expanded his television capacity to include a documentary called Jamie’s Kitchen; garnering him an invitation from the Prime Minister to 10 Downing Street. In June 2003, Oliver was honored as a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

In 2005, Oliver initiated a campaign originally called Feed Me Better to move British schoolchildren towards eating healthy foods and cutting out junk food; this campaign was eventually backed by the British government. Soon after he launched his first high-end restaurant, Jamie’s Italian, in Oxford in 2008 and hosted a TED Talk winning him the 2010 TED Prize.”

It is the latter part of the description about Jamie that is now taking up most of his passion. Yes, he is still the celebrity chef that other celebrity chefs adore, but he has devoted a good deal of his energy to tackling what can only be described as a danger far more clear and present than that of the North Koreans launching their nukes on the American mainland – lifestyle diseases brought about by obesity and bad eating habits.

And the man is dead-on right about where his focus should be at. Lifestyle diseases are now the No. 1 killer of Americans – way up the charts compared to gun violence, terrorism and inner-city violence that most people associate with early death. McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Coca-Cola and the other fast-food giants are as much, if not more to blame, for killing America’s young (and the world’s as well, by their exportation of the American diet to the rest of the world) than all the gunmakers and terrorists in America put together.

And even more important for us outside of America, is that Oliver’s observations should inform our choices about where scarce healthcare money should be directed – at preventive medical care centered around good nutrition and healthy eating habits.

Most of our population in the Philippines will succumb, as most Americans already do, to diseases (like cancer, diabetes, stroke and heart disease) that are preventable and even reversible if only people ate right. But that realization can only come if they are properly informed and educated. Otherwise, they will continue to oppose well-intentioned, but ultimately misguided moves such as Sen. Cynthia Villar’s attempt to roll-back the unhealthy “unli-rice” bandwagon.