Jamie’s School Dinners, Channel 4

by | Feb 22, 2005 | All, Reviews

Jamie’s School Dinners, Channel 4

What to say if you liked it

Armed with courgettes, the loveliest man in the world exposes the stomach-churning horror of the muck being fed to the nation’s kids. If the school bully doesn’t get you, Sudan 1 might.

What to say if you disliked it

A bland serving of reality doc stew.

What was good about it?

• Jamie Oliver makes plenty of valid points about disgusting school dinners. “I wouldn’t feed it to my f**king dog,” was his initial reaction. Then he got angrier and angrier, describing the average meal as “f**king horrible scrotum burger, fishfinger, reconstituted, mechanically reclaimed sack of old shit, pumped full of E numbers and salt, and pressed into shapes of drumsticks and fish”

• Nutty noisy Nora, the big boss of the Kidbrooke dinner ladies (“I never seen no moncerella”) who is a whizz at opening boxes of burgers and pizzas and heating them up. She is probably destined to appear in a reality show of her own, forcing bon viveurs to eat the stuff she turns out by the yard

• The chance to say “we used to be given cabbage – and we ate it all up” while the only veg on offer at a Kidbrooke School – a handful of peas – remained ignored

• Jamie veering between enthusiastic crusader and charmless moaner as he tried to come up with something nutritious for 37p per day. “It’s a bit like taking away David • Beckham’s football boots and giving him a pair of Jesus sandals,” complained the man used to slapping a 65 per cent mark up on every morsel.

• The kid who only ate chips and custard.

• Jamie making a huge penis from bread and onions.

What was bad about it

• The sight of anaemic economy turkey burgers, fish fingers containing minced “cod”, deep fried potato smilies etc

• The way that schools now simply pander to the chavvy tastes of kids, rather than provide meals that might make them healthier

• Jamie’s failure to win over the Kidbrooke kids with chicken casserole, wholemeal pizza (with hidden veg), Thai curry, chickpea and leek soup, butternut squash and bean chilli with mixed leaves etc

• The economic fact that if kids don’t eat cheap junk they won’t get books to read

Top 6 highlights of Jamie’s School Dinners, programme 2

1 – Jamie’s willingness to play the fool to help his project. He sang a song about trying new foods while dressed as corn on the cob and it worked – all the kids in the Co Durham primary school ate healthy lunches and enjoyed it.

2 – It’s difficult to separate highlights from lowlights – for example, when Jamie asked his primary school class what they ate for dinner the night before, they mostly answered chips, but the best two answers were both funny and somewhat disturbing: “Chips and gravy and Yorkshire pudding” and “Pot Noodle. Chicken and mushroom”. “Do you like mushroom?” asked an excited Jamie. “No.”

3 – The interesting experiment Jamie did with his primary school class that showed all of them knew the signs for fast food places but only a tiny percentage knew what a leek looked like and not a single child had any idea what asparagus was (Jamie gives leek to kid: “What does it smell like?” Kid: “Uurgh, a plant.”)

4 – The effect proper food had on Liam’s family. This kid refused to eat anything except for plain pasta or rice. He wasn’t just fussy, he had a serious eating disorder. By the end, though, he’d been convinced to try more foods and began to enjoy them. At his home, his parents gave them healthy food for a week and saw a huge change in the harmony of the household, but when they gave them a bottle of pop for a treat within half an hour the kids went, to quote the mother: ‘ballistic.’ It begs the question of how much of the behavioural problems in schools today is down to poor diet (something explored excellently in documentary feature Super Size Me, too).

5 – The joyous occasion when Jamie got the whole Co Durham primary school to eat healthy food on the last day of term, capped by the children showing their gratitude to a weeping Mavis, the dinner lady previously reduced to heating up the loathsome ‘turkey twizzlers’. “I’m gonna bomb the factory of turkey twizzlers,” Jamie vowed.

6 – Nutty, noisy Norah venturing north (home of “big fat sods” she predicted; “Britain’s unhealthiest area,” we were informed) to give tomato sauce tips to marvellous Mavis.

Bottom 6 lowlights of Jamie’s School Dinners

1 – This week’s Jamie-speak: “I want a better, cooler, cleverer, healthier nation”. Cooler?

2 – The propaganda on the walls of the cafeteria in the primary school – “Delicious! Succulent! Delightful! The NOW Cafe – Nurture Our World”. Nothing was being ‘nurtured’ here except for the pockets of the food companies supplying turkey twizzlers and chicken alien faces to the kids. That last meal component is quite ironic, actually, because when scientists analysed the ingredients of chicken alien faces they failed to find anything that originated from Earth.

3 – The news from the local dietician that she’s seen some children who have suffered constipation for SIX WEEKS due to the fatty foods they live on. This, of course, means a much larger risk later on of colon cancer. Who knows about this? Why is the fact that a girl has been granted permission to wear her jilbab to school front page news everywhere, but this outrageous issue of malnutrition somehow not a gigantic national scandal?

4 – When Jamie was talking to a group of parents about the food, one mother was commendably interested and made some excellent and forthright points. One father, however, sat uncomfortably, blowing his cheeks out and staring at the ceiling looking as if he hadn’t felt that bored since he was sitting in the same chair 20 years earlier when some poor teacher was trying to educate him.

5 – The whole sub-plot of Jamie’s life outside this project was largely pointless and made the show seem more about Jamie than school dinners – surely something he should be avoiding. The worst part was when Jools left the room in tears after newspaper revelations about their marriage and the camera earwigged intrusively at the bottom of the stairs. We were shocked it was left in the final edit and it seemed like a shoe-horned public shot at the tabloids.

6 – Jamie snubbing Bill Clinton when the ex-president’s entourage got fussy because they’re on the “South Beach Diet.”

Top 5 highlights from Jamie’s School Dinners, programme 3

1 – Nora’s inspirational belief that the school dinners in Greenwich can be changed from processed gunk into healthy menus, all of which was backed up by the transformation at her Kidbrooke School where the majority of the pupils are now enjoying the benefits of eating good food.

2 – Jamie taking the last few dissident voices to his new regime at Kidbrooke School into cookery classes to get them involved in the process of making the food and converting their once inflexible minds to the delights of salad, which on the scale of things once seemed as unlikely as turning the Pope into a Buddhist.

3 – Jamie persuading the Army to let him use their Aldershot premises to train 60 dinner ladies from Greenwich schools in the art of preparing healthy meals, and their subsequent despondency at the task facing them which was made worse when Jamie was an hour late with their evening meals. And it poured with rain.

4 – After Jamie bans burgers, chips, pizza, the despised Turkey Twizzlers and all the other foods that cause schoolkids constipation on a scale that the supervolcano in Yellowstone Park can only dream of, the pupils of Kidbrooke organise protests against the new menus.

5 – Young Robert, Jamie’s protégé at Kidbrooke, being bribed by Jamie to try one of his sandwiches while he encourages his adorable daughter Poppy to speak in his unique vernacular. “He’s well funny, isn’t he?” he remarks. “Well vunny!” she replies.

Top 5 highlights from Jamie’s School Dinners, programme 4

1 – Jamie being stretched in all directions as the Greenwich dinnerladies implemented his healthy eating menus. “It’s gonna be like the f**king batphone,” he said, while hanging up after yet another call on his mobile.

2 – Norah’s transformation from a screeching, panicky woman into a calm, reasonable woman capable of running so much more than a school kitchen. She was also honest enough to admit that she prefers potatoes to pasta. We couldn’t agree more, Norah.

3 – The kids who’d cried when being forced to try something new but ended up tucking in to Jamie’s fayre

4 – Jamie’s food curing asthma and improving the reading ability of the kids

5 – Charles Clarke saying he quite liked the rubbish that schools served up – grey meet and funny face potatoes – not quite realising that this was the stuff Jamie wanted to get rid of.

Bottom 5 lowlights of Jamie’s School Dinners

1 – The stroppy dinnerladies who spoke so badly eg “tomatas”, “Mondee to Fridee” “I just fought ‘I done believe this’.”

2 – Norah being reduced to tears as the Greenwich dinnerladies cracked under the pressure.

3 – Jamie’s wife Jools being so cold in her conversations with her husband – until he bought her a flash sports car

4 – The stomach-churning scenes of Jamie liquidising the rubbish that goes into chicken nuggets. It made the kids think twice but was deeply unpleasant to watch.

5 – Jamie being let down by new education secretary Ruth Kelly. But then, as if by magic (and with May 5 in mind), suddenly the government can’t do enough for Jamie. Turkey Twizzlers are now regarded with as much horror as weapons of mass destruction.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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