Jamie Oliver may have bitten off more than he can chew this time – after being accused of making the residents of a Yorkshire town look like “numpties” and “thickos”.
The TV chef is facing a furious backlash over his latest show, in which he teaches cookery to eight families in Rotherham, England.
Oliver, 33, targeted the town after mothers were pictured shoving burgers and chips through school railings in protest at menus suggested in his previous series, 'Jamie’s School Dinners'.
In the first episode of Jamie’s 'Ministry of Food', watched by three million viewers in the UK, Oliver met an unemployed mother-of-two who fed her children solely on fast food takeaways, and a woman who regularly eats 10 packets of crisps for dinner.
His idea is to teach “pyramid cooking” – where each of the eight people he trains will teach two of their friends, and they will do the same until 250,000 have been taught to cook.
But John Gilding, leader of Rotherham Council’s Conservative Party group, said the programme, which was broadcast on Tuesday night and was the first in a four-part series, gave the wrong impression.
“The people he put on television were pretty downmarket and he gave the impression that everyone living here is like that,” he said.
“His idea is to have eight volunteers teach two of their friends and so on until a quarter of a million people have learned to cook – well that is the whole population of the town.
“It looks like he thinks we’re all as thick as planks, and that we live on doner kebabs.
“People are enraged about it.
“I agree that he has a point with regards to school dinners and it is good he is trying to educate people but Rotherham people are not numpties.”
Channel Four has defended the programme, saying that the first episode deliberately focused on poorer people because poverty affected what people cooked and ate.
In an emailed reply to one viewer’s protests published in the Rotherham Advertiser, series producer Eve Kay said: “Poverty is an important reason why people can’t cook and was therefore a priority for Jamie to get to grips with.”
However, she promised future episodes of the four-part series would focus on getting men to cook and encouraging businesses to help staff lead a healthier lifestyles.