Did 'Undercover Boss' and 'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution' actually show some respect for working people?

It was class warfare on a Sunday night: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution premiered on the same evening as a new episode of Undercover Boss with a CEO working alongside employees packing and shipping products.

Michael Rubin is the founder and CEO of GSI Commerce, which ships online orders for a large number of various American retailers. Going undercover, Rubin worked filling boxes, sealing and slapping address labels on them, and sitting in with employees taking customer complaints by phone.

Unlike the last couple of dull weeks, this one benefited from the energy of Rubin and a much better editing job by the producers. Last week, I really wanted to know how that vapid suit that runs Churchill Downs got his cushy job; this week, we were shown how Rubin arrived at his position. It seems he made his own opportunities — we saw a quick montage of businesses Rubin started while still a teenager; he appears to be a self-starting entrepreneur.

By the end of the hour, we had the usual bunch of “heroes” and a “villain.” The former included a woman who worked seven days a week and in her scant free time raised money for her child’s football team. Rubin gave the team $5,000 for equipment; I think she might have been happier with a GSI Commerce job that paid her enough to work only five days a week, but, hey, that’s the arbitrary Boss way.

The “villain” was a woman who was rude on the phone to a customer who’d been sent damaged goods. We were told later that, even after being “retrained,” she is “no longer with the company.” In general, I was impressed with Rubin’s own pep; as bosses go on Boss, he behaved as though he remembered what it was like to work to exhaustion with something other than his thumbs on a Blackberry.

Meanwhile, on the premiere of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, the Brit “Naked Chef” traveled to “the unhealthiest town in America,” Huntington, West Virginia, in an attempt to help the people there to eat better food.  The dynamic was an inherently tense, dramatic one, since folks who like fried food as much as these citizens do were bound to rankle at the notion that some foreign visitor would come in and sneer at the deep fryer prominent in their kitchens.

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution proved to be more interesting than its tidy premise, however. The smarty-pants Oliver, accustomed, on his own TV shows, to being the most sarcastic guy in the room, was taken aback when he showed up at a local radio station to drum up some publicity for his stunt and was met with a host who matched him quip for sensible-point about Oliver’s mission.

And while at first Food Revolution was able to score some easy laughs at the local school serving “breakfast pizza” and clashing with Alice, the school cook who doesn’t like being called a “lunch lady,” the hour took some interesting turns. Oliver seemed genuinely surprised to discover that these school breakfast- and lunch-suppliers were following USDA rules that require, essentially, two starches — that’s one main reason they serve bread and rice in the same meal.

In other words, this is what Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution has in common with Undercover Boss: The people who do the work, who have to execute the orders of their “superiors,” are hamstrung by stupid rules and poorly-thought-out policies.

It’s just that Food Revolution ends up having sympathy and fondness for working people — so far; that could change, of course — while Undercover Boss manipulates their emotions for the cameras.

Did you watch either or both of these shows?

What did you think?

Follow @kentucker

Comments (225 total) Add your comment
Page: 1 2 3 9
  • Lisa

    I think the lunch lady your talking about that Jamie kept clashing with was named Alice.

    • Ken Tucker

      You’re right. “Sue” was/is another person working there. Thanks.

  • wren

    “Accostomed”? Seriously?

    • Marcelo

      GREAT post. I have yet to crnpoehemd why so many people take issue with MY breast feeding MY baby … I think I have a long road ahead as my daughter is only 3 months old! I have even been told that formula is more nutritious than my breast milk!! I almost punched the woman … Is society pushing us into an underground nursing community?!

  • Kim

    So basically, change has to come from the top and trickle down. Not a new theory. I watched last night and wished that Jamie would come do a food makeover of our schools. We need the USDA to change, but I really don’t see that happening. The reason why we are required to feed our children 2 starches is because they are cheap and use foods that are subsidized by our government. It’s all about money folks.

    • taigebu

      I do prefer the government to pay for good healthy food at school than to pay for medication related to diabetes and other health diseases

      • Dahlia

        That is just far too logical, @taigebu!

    • joe

      Yes but Jamie did the same show in a small town in England a few years ago and he proved that for the same money you can provide a much healthier meal.

      That the real issue is that the school systems are in bed with the food manufactures, and that’s the bottom line

      • JAC

        The school system is led by the Republican congress who is in bed with all the large corporations, including the food manufacturers and the health insurance industries. On that point, the republicans are idiots. A poll suggested that more than 3/4ths think Obama is a socialist. And more that half think he is not a citizen of the USA. What a bunch of dumbass racist rednecks!!!!!! I’m sick of them!!!!!

      • Drew

        Don’t be a retard and try to lay all blame on a single party. The USDA has been spewing the same bogus information through BOTH Democrat and Republican administrations.

  • jenna

    I really enjoyed Food Revolution. (I don’t like Undercover Boss for the same reasons you have stated.)
    I liked how Jamie was sympathetic without being condescending to the family he visited, and he seemed to be restrained and nonjudgmental with the school staff as well. I can’t wait to see Friday’s episode and to see how his experiment works.

    • jared4ever

      I LOVE Food Revolution and Jamie Oliver for the reason that he did this same experiment in a city in England and it was a wonderful thing to see. He is battling an epidemic and changing people’s lives for the better. Wait and see, It’s amazing the things he can do. Undercover Boss is just an opportunity for these big corporations to get an hour of free advertising and they probably won’t make any changes after the show ends anyway.

      • jmo

        I completely agree. Just feel sorry for the guy. Why did he have to start in Huntsville? Talk about going to the belly of the beast. I have a feeling he’ll have better luck in a blue state next time.

      • Ellei

        Actually, JMO, He went to Huntington, WV, which is a lovely place. I love Jamie O. and think he’s very brave- people don’t like change, even if it’s going to save their lives.

    • gigi

      The previews for the show made Jamie seem very condescending and judgemental…so thats why I didn’t watch. I’ll give the next show a try.

      • bob

        your decision not to watch the show because Jamie “seemed” condescending and judgmental is, well, judgmental in and of itself. Jamie isn’t just trying to change how people eat. He’s trying to change attitudes so that people care in the first place about what they eat!

      • Marie

        Actually, WV is a blue state. The problem is the people of that state are extra touchy about any scrutiny because of being, historically the butt of jokes and stereotyping.

      • HdCreepy

        Do that gigi. I am sure you will like it in the end.

    • Bunty

      However cool and ecviuslxe that underground nursing community sounds, sadly I think what you say is true.A lot of women really don't dare to go out and NIP… and I have to be honest, as my daughter grows older, I sometimes wonder if I'll still be nursing her in public long, as I sometimes rather evade the fight then go heads on

      • Daniel

        Wonderful! We love Jamie, too, and were thrilled to see our lamps in her diegsn. When you get that blue lamp of your own, send us a photograph of the finished space and a quick explanation of why you chose your Mottega lamp to be featured in one of our Spotlight Series episodes!

  • Pamela

    I watched Jamie Olivers show and was pleasently surprised. It seems as if he genuinely does care about the diets of these people. I think though that the lunch ladies of Huntington, WV need a little bit of nutritional educatioh because they came off as rude and *itchy! I just thought they were unnecessarily mean to him, when he is not accustomed to our way of food or speaking for that fact.

    • fojoy

      He did a show like this in Britain already – mostly teaching people how to cook properly as most people just eat take out & fast food. If this show is half as good, I will be watching!

      • darclyte

        Funny, and Gordon Ramsay has been calling Jamie “fat” for years. I think he did pack on some pounds for a little while, but it looks like he worked them off.

      • Amanda

        darcylte, I actually think that this is why Jamie Oliver is a good example – he’s definitely not fat, but he’s normally sized. Sometimes, all that diet information coming from a super-fit, skinny person seems disingenuous – as in, “I’ll never be as skinny as you, so why even try?” It’s nice to see an average, healthy sized person teaching others about good nutrition!

    • Callie

      If he’s not accustomed to our food or way of speaking, why is he doing the show? Why not an American? Might be easier for people in the U.S. to listen to someone from the U.S. Also might be easier to take if the idea behind the show is “seed of change” rather than “revolution.”

      • Marie

        The “why not” is because no one from the US has stepped up to the plate. And he did a similar show in the UK that did make a positive impact.

      • Matt

        I am afraid Americans have become jaded not believing they have the power to initiate change. I don’t consider Jamie to be a foreigner as I have watched him for years on the Food Network (Naked Chef, Jamie at Home). I consider ourselves lucky that someone has the passion and willingness to sacrifice their time for a long overdue cause. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The ramifications of food on our bodies, minds, and environment need to be brought into the mainstream and Jamie is a believable motivator. If anyone is interested in being proactive, the following link provides a petition seeking to address the issue – http://www.jamieoliver.com/campaigns/jamies-food-revolution.

      • taigebu

        Maybe because the only american powerful person who do care right now is not a chef but just Michelle Obama…

      • Wendy

        Seed of change? Ah, you mean sugar coat it in the usual way. Who cares what accent he has? The idea is to try to teach the next generation about healthy, tasty food. End of story. The USDA needs to drag itself into the 21st century.

      • Lenaya

        I tend to agree that a “seed of change” is the friendlier and probably more nurturing way to take in this change that Jamie is presenting. But “revolution” is a much easier TV Show to sell. I’m just glad that someone is speaking up on prime time national TV.

        Jamie is a dramatic character, worthy of a TV show, but I do believe that he cares passionately about healthy eating for all and his tactics have been successful. I commend him for his work and I hope that it’s the inspiration and revolution that he set out for it to be.

      • Really!?!

        Lisa, you’re an awesome mom. Too many parents are catering to their kids’ demands, creating a legion of little self-absorbed narcissists (who, by the way, seem to be able to do nothing for themselves).

    • amanda

      I watched it and felt so sorry for Jamie. He is just wanting to help and everyone just kept attacking him. The fact they they wanted the kids to pick what they ate was insane most of them would probably just eat ketchup outta the packet if it was the option so of course they picked pizza. I think it’s great what he’s done and has been doing!!! and i was just as confused as him as to why a slice of pizza the crust counts as 2 breads but him wanting to serve rice was just “ludicrous” haha. You go Jamie and I hope it gets easier for you!!

      • Nancy

        Anyone who lets children choose what they eat is insane. Especially parents who make special meals for kids that won’t eat what was already made. Parents make healthy meals for your kids and tell them ‘it’s this or nothing.’ Guess what, they’ll eat it!

      • JenR

        Nancy, do you have children? What we will eat or won’t eat is one place we have control in our lives. Children will not eat what they don’t like and you can’t force them to. The trick is to find something healthy they do like. Children will go without food rather than eat something they don’t like, as will adults.

      • christianna

        JenR, I have three children and the trick is to feed your children healthy food from the start… I was reading another article about the show and the writer said “Have you ever tried to rip a chicken nugget out of a child’s hand? Not gonna happen!” Um. I guess you should have never put it there in the first place. But, I digress. Once the child has had the chicken nugget, what do you do? Well, my kids have had chicken nuggets in their lifetime, but if you want to change the way your family eats, it’s simply a matter of only offering the healthy food you want them to eat. Oh, they may dig in their heels and refuse, but that lasts just about until they’re too hungry to fight it anymore.

      • Lisa

        JenR, you’re right that kids won’t eat what they don’t like which is why you have to give them a few healthy choices. My daughters (2 and 5) won’t eat onions or mushrooms so I don’t make them. But, they do eat cucumbers, curry, hummus, sushi, chicken sausage and lots of other “adult” food. They eat what they see mom & dad eating. If you eat healthy and stop offering them a separate meal, eventually they’ll have to eat something. They have the right to request that we don’t have a certain meal again, but they don’t get to leave the table without trying it first. But maybe I’m just a mean old mom.

  • Charles

    Since Food Revolution is just a mini-series, I hope the focus quickly shifts from what’s wrong to what’s right. I’d like to see information on food shopping, cooking tips, recipes, etc. The drama? Not so much…

    • Melissa

      This show was a real eye opener to say the least. If the government spent more money on providing good healthy meals for our kids in school and educating parents on this subject the health of our children would improve. That’s the bottom line.How to get our children healthy should be the main focus, not whether we hurt the lunch ladies feelings or make a few people mad, here there to show us there may be a better way of doing things. Jamie may be a foreiner, but he is a parent too. i could really tell he cared about this community and remember he’s giving up time with his family to help this community. It’s time for someone to stand up for our kids. I think Jamie could be the one to get this through to our nation.

    • Paul

      Don’t worry Charles, I think this first episode was just to explain the idea and give you a look at just how bad things are. I’m pretty sure that future eps will start to show how to change and provide receipes etc. Jamie usually doens’t hold back with that sort of stuff.

    • Lenaya

      I agree completely, but sometimes I think the drama is what’s getting him the prime time TV Show. I believe Jamie knows how to work the system while getting out the message that he is so passionate about. I believed him when he said that when he follows his heart magic happens.

    • christianna

      Melissa… you said “It’s time for someone to stand up for our kids. I think Jamie could be the one to get this through to our nation.” Really?? Shouldnt WE be the ones doing that?

      • Deb

        Yes christianna, WE should! But, are WE doing anything about it? Probably not…WE let the Government put high fructose corn syrup into many different processed foods, including hot dogs and those ubiquitous chicken nuggets….then WE wonder why our kids get “addicted” to them! Make your own chicken nuggets using real white chicken meat and bake them rather than fry them. Buy kosher hot dogs that do not use HFCS in their production. Ultimately, if you are going to use processed foods then please read the labels and if you can’t read, pronounce or understand the “ingredients” then leave it there.

  • jb

    I really enjoyed Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. I watched it just to see and I was hooked. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

  • Denise

    Food Revolution earned a “DVR Season Pass” (as long as they don’t move it to Tuesdays)

  • Cathy

    Thank You Jamie for shedding light on what I battle every morning. My well intended healthy lunches for my sons can not compete with nasty, unhealthy chicken nuggets,pizza, faux pork rib sandwiches, etc.!!! Jamie was awesome, the principal and “LUNCH LADIES” were horrible, hateful people. Honestly, shouldn’t a school want kids to eat healthy rather than pride themselves on efficiently of serving garbage! I’ll bet the kids pediatricians are on Jamie’s side! Shame on those obviously fat, snarky “Lunch Ladies”! They made me embarrassed to be an American-shame on them! Keep up the good work Jamie!!!

    • JRE

      Whoa! Take a breath!
      The fact is that the USDA sets the standard on what must be on a plate for the school to accept monies for the free and reduced lunch program. While I don’t think the breakfasts and lunches were nutrious, those women did seem to care about the kids and the job they were doing.

      • KJW

        Your comment is on target. I work for a Child Nutrition Department (albeit in data entry)and the USDA makes all the rules. Most of which are totally nonsensical. It is all about the buck because legally lunchrooms in the US have to make money (per USDA).

    • Luddite

      Lordy. You kind of make ME ashamed to be an American. Jamie is great and can do this job every day while avoiding the insults. Why don’t you give that a try?

    • Elizabeth

      Hey Cathy: what are you doing at home besides complaining and passing the blame? Or are you too busy to pack a decent healthy lunch for your children. Do you have the time and talent to create and serve a healthy lunch that spoiled kids will eat for 400?

      I love today’s parents: its never their fault – they’re the victims. Blame the schools… what a crock!!

      • Tunedelicious

        Obviously Cathy is trying to prepare nutritious food for her own kids, as you might have noticed if you’d paid attention to her post. But no, Liz, you can just stand up for the lazy, unimaginative food service managers at the local school that serve out the same boiled and fried crap that kids have complained about for the last 30 years. It takes no more time to serve a salad than it does french fries and pizza, and you won’t die from one. As a country we need to be more creative and get out of our ruts; then we’ll have a healthier population.

      • Desmo

        And maybe you should go over and carefully reread Elizabeth’s post Tunedelicios. Maybe if you had paid attention to her post you would have noticed that she was in no way sticking up for “unimaginative food service managers” and was instead stating that parents should take some personal responsibility and pack lunches for their kids. Also you don’t die from eating french fries and pizza, they die from eating these foods in excess and not exercising. Salads are no more healthy when you dump ranch sauce on them. Stop targeting the foods and instead look at the behaviors that drive people to eat these foods.

    • levelheaded

      They are following government rules and are probably a little annoyed that by doing what they are told, they are then belittled and treated poorly.
      If you are so passionate about this, why haven’t you spoken to your school board for government representative asking for change.

      These ‘lunch ladies’ would certainly serve more meals if they were ‘allowed’ to.

      • see it all the time

        It seemed like the lunch ladies were very ridid and not open to change. They actually seemed gleeful that the children chose the unhealthy food. Wow- how sick is that! They WERE given permission to change the meals when Jaime was there and they weren’t cooperative at all. But then again, they might have to actually “cook”.

    • Callie

      Wow, really Cathy? How could “they” make YOU embarrassed to be an American?

      • Lisa

        I agree with Cathy actually. I think they were embarrassing to watch in general, just as a human. So hostile and rude.

    • Drew

      RIGHT-ON Cathy! Those lunch ladies would rather serve food laden with death and quote USDA or “this is how we have always done it” rather than serve healthy meals to the kids.

      Did you get a load of that family? What a disaster! After he bought them a weeks’ worth of food the mom still bought fast-food and pizza. She might as well stick a gut to her family’s head and pull the trigger!

      OMG! Did you see all that food he threw out of their house? I gained 10 pounds, became diabetic and had a heart attack just looking at it!

  • wakeforce

    I fail to see any sensible quip the DJ made. Continue to eat like pigs and you will die! If you don’t care, neither do I.

    • Joe

      Tucker said ‘quip’ for sensible point. Jamie made the sensible points and the DJ just made quips. They weren’t sensible. But that’s, unfortunately, our attitude towards change. I’m glad they showed the DJ bit.

  • Michelle

    I Love what Jamie is trying to do! The school system should not allow children to EAT the junk that they are feeding them!! Not only for obesity , but all the additives in the food is setting those children up for disease!! You go Jamie!!!

  • Cindy

    I like Undercover Boss and I am sure I would have liked the Jamie Oliver show. Too bad they were on at the same time. They are both “shows” and I am sure they are edited. After working several places for many years, I like Undercover Boss. It shows there are good employees that care and there are employees who don’t care. It is great to see these CEOs be enlightened with what can happen at their companies. No place is perfect. Either in the corporate world or the schools. Again, they are “shows”.

  • walrusgajoob

    Any schmoe can find a better way to give kids a “starch” than to give them more pizza. The thing I took away with me is that kids will eat what you put in front of them. And yes, they will eventually go “back” to decent food if they have no other choice. Or their parents will hear the complaints at home, where it should be taken care of. As a kid, I would have been disgusted by the thought of pizza for breakfast. And of course I would have rather had the “pink” milk, but we didn’t have it! I jumped out of my pants when my mother allowed me to buy a Nestle Crunch bar on “Special Fridays.”

  • Susan

    I watched Jamie (can’t stomach UNDERCOVER BOSS.) I’ve also watched his UK shows Jamie’s Kitchen and Jamie’s School Dinners, both of which show him to be dedicated to his cause, if a bit in love with himself on camera. I think what he’s trying to achieve in Huntington is honorable, AND he’s actually putting himself on the ground, working hand-in-hand with people to do it. He’s a parent, too, so he can speak to this from a personal place that can and should touch viewers. I do think he tries to show people in a good light – the reality is, most people are hamstrong (no pun intended) by poor nutritional education and a lack of resources. Sadly, in our country, we’re also hamstrung by these bogus USDA regulations that require our kids to be fed absolute crap. Bread for breakfast, and again – twice! – for lunch. Minimal requirements of vegetables and protein . . . this is just poor nutrition across the board. It’s a shame Jamie can’t visit the USDA and expose the lobbying that has resulted in these shameful regulations. Then we might really get somewhere . . .

    • AA

      Well, he did go to the government in his UK shows to get things changed there, so maybe he will visit the USDA?

  • Normalman

    We only let our kids buy the school lunches once a month. They are as bad or worse than any fast food meal. The adults running things should no better but really, what they serve in school won’t matter if the parents aren’t in charge of their kids’ eating habits and setting an example themselves. (It’s not like I really like brocoli but every night I shovel it down hoping to set a good example).

    • Amanda

      What you must remember, is that processed food with lots of additives are far cheaper than fresh, healthy foods, and healthy carbs. Many Americans are short on money, and the free/reduced lunch program provides food for their children and they have little choice as to what they eat. As for home, those bad foods are still what’s being put on the table because as I said, organic, fresh food is FAR more expensive than all the junk we can throw in our freezer and re-heat. Some blame belongs on parents, other blame belongs on food retailers for purposely raising the price of healthy alternatives.

      • EMFoodfacts

        You do have a point there to some extent, but in the long run, I think the price is well worth it considering the costs of doctors visits and hospitals fees that will result from bad eating. When faced with the situation of buying processed foods you can also try to pick the healthiest of the two choices. However, nothing is better than getting raw food and working magic in the kitchen.

      • Luddite

        I don’t think you can put all the blame on food retailers. Corn, soybeans, beef, chicken – all the crap that goes into that processed food – is heavily subsidized and can be grown (and sold) cheap. The grocery stores have to pay more for the healthy stuff and consequently have to charge more. And I buy as much raw, unprocessed food as I can and I know I spend less money than when I used to eat frozen dinners and pizzas and fast food. Yeah, it takes a little longer to prepare, but it’s worth it.

      • Marie

        This good food costs more than garbage food makes me crazy. This is so not true. For over a decade I made well below the national poverty level and I ate very healty and inexpensively because I did NOT purchase processed foods. Dried beans, pastas, canned and fresh veggies are all inexpensive and healthful. Cutting out all junk food, all sugary drinks, 90% of meat will lower your grocery bill AND your weight.

        Yes, buying all your groceries as organics at Whole Foods will cripple any budget.

        I wonder where/when this fallacy began.

      • Nancy

        What makes this so sad is that for many kids on this program, these unhealthy meals might be all they eat for the day.

Page: 1 2 3 9
Add your comment
The rules: Keep it clean, and stay on the subject - or we may delete your comment. If you see inappropriate language, e-mail us. An asterisk (*) indicates a required field.

When you click on the "Post Comment" button above to submit your comments, you are indicating your acceptance of and are agreeing to the Terms of Service. You can also read our Privacy Policy.

Latest Videos in TV

From Our Partners

TV Recaps

Powered by WordPress.com VIP