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Jamie Oliver's new cooking show set to air Sunday night

Mar. 20, 2010 @ 11:00 PM

HUNTINGTON -- If you want to look at the impact of Jamie Oliver being in Huntington, look no further than the inside of Rod Willis' crockpot.

The foreign object of vegetables -- that once was lost to this beers and burgers guy -- has now been found.

The popular WDGG-FM disc jockey who'll be seen and heard tonight, March 21, and throughout the ABC TV show, "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" verbally sparring with Oliver, Rod Willis said taping the shows, (including an upcoming appearance on The Oprah Show) has been a bit of a life-changing experience.

Willis is just one of many local personalities and regular folks who will be featured on national TV tonight as ABC offers a sneak peek of the new six-show series that will air at 10 p.m.

The two-hour premiere of the show is set to roll 9 p.m. Friday, March 26 in its regular time-slot.

Willis, who has screened several of the episodes of the show, said he was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out.

"It is put together very well and before I saw any of it I was just like anybody in Huntington," Wills said. "I was thinking, 'is he going to make us look stupid'? After seeing it, I think it's a good show and would watch it even if I wasn't in it."

In the first episode, Oliver runs into some harsh criticism and resistance as he tries to transform the school lunch program at Central City Elementary School.

In addition to butting heads with such folks as head cook Alice Gue, Oliver gets a surprise verbal smackdown from Willis when he stops by the morning show at WDGG-FM with Rocky and Rod.

Willis said that while the producers of the show knew that Willis was going to play "devil's advocate" and question Oliver's motives and methods for being in Huntington, Oliver was quite stunned and emotional.

A hurt Oliver stops outside the radio station where he says, "I thought they only had miserable bastards like that in England," about Willis being so tough on him.

"He thought he would skate into town and skate out and I think that I put him on his A-game throughout the whole show," Willis said. "I was supposed to only have a bit part but I blasted him and they wanted me to be in the whole show and to just keep giving Jamie hell. When Jamie was in the studio I thought that he knew how things were going to go down and that I would be the DJ who took up for the other side and for the city of Huntington. After it was filmed he acted really upset and concerned and they didn't tell him what we were going to say. They wanted it to be as real as possible."

Willis said he felt bad watching the show as they edited it to make it look like he wouldn't let Oliver talk and kept cutting him off.

"They edit it to make it look like I'm cutting him off which is pissing him off," Willis said. "It really didn't happen that way, I let him talk."

Willis, who ended up betting Oliver that he couldn't get 1,000 people to take cooking classes at his downtown Jamie's Kitchen headquarters, said that by the end of Oliver's stay in Huntington, he had really warmed up to the chef.

"At first I didn't care too much for him," Willis said. "I had to do research to find out who the hell he was and I didn't like him acting like 'I'm some big famous chef and you have to listen to me.' I was thinking why couldn't they send us Paula Deen. After he was here for a while I was OK with it. Once you learn something you can't unlearn it. If eating healthier makes you feel better about yourself and give you more energy, obviously you want to help yourself and make yourself feel better."

Willis said that he was touched that the staff brought a screener of the first couple episodes back for them to screen before it hit the air.

"I know people are on edge in town and they're not sure how it has been edited and they can do anything," Willis said. "It (the first episode) started horrible and it doesn't pull any punches. Then it gets better, a whole lot better. The reason they wanted us to see the episodes was that I will know what the show is about and I am telling you it is not that bad, it is a funny show and it has some sad moments too."

Another noteworthy observation is the number of beautiful scenic shots from around Huntington included in the show.

"A lot of people here don't appreciate the fact that we live in a very beautiful city, and when you see it played back you see it is a very beautiful city," Willis said. "I think people will say, 'Wow, I would want to live there.' Well, we should feel lucky, we already live here."

As part of the publicity machine for the new show, Willis was contacted by the producers of "The Oprah Show," and was interviewed for several minutes a couple weeks ago for a show that features the many facets of the show's producer, Ryan Secrest, the host of "American Idol" and a syndicated radio DJ.

Willis talked to Oprah on Skype (the live face-to-face video feed via the Internet), and got the Tennessee native's signature warm, drawn-out send-off, "Thank yoooou Rooooooddd."

That show is set to air at 4 p.m. Monday, March 22, on NBC, locally on WSAZ-Newschannel 3.

Willis said "The Oprah Show" concentrates more on all of Secrest's enterprises and just has a short segment featuring Oliver, who cooks with Oprah, showing the audience how to prepare a healthy meal.

"The third segment introduces all of Secrest's sideline projects and then in the fourth segment they introduce Jamie Oliver and then come to me to talk about Jamie," Willis said. "I said that I like most people was a little skeptical but he did a pretty good job when it was all said and done."

And perhaps that "pretty good job" is best evidenced by lifestyle changes -- even in the diet of Huntington's No. 1 "miserable bastard."

"Well, yeah, I do things a little differently now," Willis said. "I don't eat out as much or eat fast food as much as I used to, and I cooked from home which is kind of rare. Crockpots rule. Throw in some meat and healthy vegetables, turn it on high and sit back and wait 'til it gets done. Sit back and watch the Jamie Oliver show."

Watching the Revolution:

WHAT: A sneak peek of the new six-show series, "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution," that was shot in Huntington.

WHERE: On ABC-TV, locally on WCHS-TV, Channel 8.

WHEN: The one-hour sneak peek will take place at 10 p.m. Sunday, March 21. A full two-hour premiere is set for 9 p.m. Friday, March 26. That will be its regular time-slot.

INSIDE THE EPISODES: "Episode 101" -- Jamie Oliver, the impassioned chef, TV personality and best-selling author, is starting a revolution in America. He's taking on the high statistics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in this country, where our nation's children are the first generation not expected to live as long as their parents. Oliver invites viewers to take a stand and change the way America eats, in our homes and schools, with the thought-provoking new series.

"Episode 102" -- (Airs Friday, March 26) Jamie Oliver takes one step forward and two steps back as his efforts to transform the school lunch program of Huntington's Central City Elementary School are met with harsh criticism and resistance from the school cook, Alice Gue, plus city administrators, DJ Rod Willis and even the school's first graders. But despite the opposition, he does successfully raise the ire of school parents with a shocking, no-nonsense display of the fat that's being fed to their children, and he's encouraged by the initiative of a few caring teachers. The Edwards family gets a wake-up call when youngest son, Justin, gets a frank warning from a doctor about the long term health effects of his poor eating habits, but then Justin is encouraged by a one-on-one cooking lesson in Jamie's kitchen. After a week of ups and downs at Central City Elementary, the fate of Jamie's mission to stay on at the school lies in the hands of a few district administrators, on "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution."

"Episode 103" -- (Airs April 2) Jamie continues on his vital mission to convince the people of Huntington to change their eating habits and get fresh food into the schools. Despite continued opposition from naysayers D.J. Rod and Central City Elementary's head cook, Alice Gue, Director of Food Services Rhonda McCoy makes a leap of faith by giving Jamie the green light to cook for Huntington High School. Once there, he finds his secret weapon in a group of motivated teenagers who understand the need for change: Brittany, whose lifelong weight problem has caused irreversible liver damage and shortened her life expectancy; Marisa, whose father died prematurely as a result of obesity; Ryan, a troubled teen who wants to get his life back in order by learning a new skill; Robert, a football player who struggles with his weight; Brian, whose family is plagued by obesity; and Emily, whose dream is to attend culinary school. Jamie takes a huge risk by asking the kids to secretly prepare a gourmet meal for the state senator, local legislators and community leaders in order to raise necessary funds to train the school staff to cook fresh food. Will the teens' passionate appeals inspire change in Huntington? "

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