Sept. 25, 2009
Huntington Still Welcomes Jamie Oliver
Some Residents Express Skepticism and Openness; Mayor Wolfe Not Concerned
By Tony Rutherford Reporter
Huntington, WV (HNN) - Don’t run Jamie out of town, he’s sexy and just wants to help. Those are the words of a woman commenting on a television website about Naked Chef Jamie Oliver’s rationalizations about Huntington spilled to Rupert Murdoch’s SKY NEWS in Britain.
However, the majority of those attending a Thursday Chat ‘n’ Chew event at The Frederick still hoped for a positive outcome from the reality show.
The article in the Thursday H-D indicated that the administration would likely meet to discuss the issue.
Mayor Kim Wolfe told HNN exclusively that “maybe it was taken a little out of context [and] sensationalized a bit by the British media. I was not overly concerned about it.”
He said that Brandi Jacob-Jones, director of administration and finance, has met Thursday with Doug Sheils and several local people following Oliver’s remarks.
“We still feel like their intentions are very positive. What the [British media] let out was probably stretched a little bit,” Wolfe said.
However, he did defend the broadcast statement that residents were unfamiliar with making food from scratch.
Attributing Oliver’s remarks to an admitted two families, Wolfe added, “When you look at it, more than any other area in the country, we have been raised as self-reliant people who orchestrate their food from scratch.” He chalked those quotes up to the British media or Oliver’s limited exposure so far to residents.
Chris Lusher, director of the 2010 Appalachian Film Festival, “Aside from the heaviest city in the world [label] aside, I think there are a few compliments taken out of context to imply he was talking about the entire city when he was referring to the two families he has been working with in the city.”
Lusher admits he’s foreshadowing, but adds, “I think overall he actually doing a positive thing for our city. We’ll have to wait and see what happens…”
Simone Kompanek, a member of the off-leash dog park group, expressed skepticism.
“I’m kinda confused. When Oliver and his crew showed up, they said it wasn’t going to be a fat fat” portrayal of the city, Kompanek stated.
“They acknowledge that a lot of people need to learn healthier habits, but there are local groups working on that [too]. “ She pointed specifically to PATH (Paul Ambrose Trail for Health) and the Highlawn Neighborhood Association which is working with St. Mary’s to establish The Highlawn Trail for Health, a route that will tie in to the main PATH. “From my understanding Fairfield East and Westmorland are also working on a similar project,” she said.
“As long as it highlights the good and the bad, the show has the potential to be good for Huntington, but we will never know until we see it on television,” Kompanek concluded. She agreed that the producers have been in contact with all the right people, but she warned, “I know from researching other reality shows, it’s not always up to the people shooting the film, how it gets portrayed on TV often comes down to dollars and cents. No matter what they promise, we won’t know until it airs.”
Lynn Clercx offered potentially the most unbiased opinion yet. “I don’t watch reality shows, so I don’t have an opinion about it. I’ve never ever seen ‘Survivor’ and it’s been on at least a decade.” She does recall the premise as trying to get the fattest city in the country to eat more healthily, though.
Bill Rawlson, another Chat ‘n’ Chew attendee has optimism too.
“I think in the long run its probably a good thing. Some people will be upset about it. No matter how fair he tries to be, there will be some negativity by referring to [us] as an unhealthy city.” Noting that he’s not a reality TV fans either, Rawlson added,
“Based on what I’ve heard where he helped redefine [the ingredients] of school lunches and what I read today are in some school lunches in Huntington i.e. funnel cake and corn dogs, if he can improve the quality of school lunches in town that would be great.”
Meanwhile, at Drinko Library on the Marshall campus, two students randomly selected Thursday evening, September 24, knew little or nothing about the reality show or the “fattest in America” label.
Huntington freshman, Amanda Little, said the “fattest” label “made her cringe a little bit,” but neither the label or show had made an input on her. (For the record, she would qualify as tall and slim in the weight derby.) On the other hand, Jason Fisher, had not heard of the show but believes it can help bring down the death rate in the region due to poor eating habits.
Fisher expressed an indifferent attitude toward the label and responded jokingly, “at least we are being well fed.”
When told that Chef Oliver had educated people about healthy eating habits in Britain, Fished agreed that could be a positive for the city. “As obesity rates go up, death rates go up too at least that [could] stabilize everything.”

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