More Behind-the-Scenes Info From “Food Rev” Insider Mike McGalliard

by Bettina Elias Siegel on June 30, 2011

If you followed TLT’s “Food Revolution” Watch Party you know that Mentor L.A.’s Mike McGalliard, who had a big role on the show this season as the head of West Adams High, has been coming by the blog regularly to comment on my recaps and reviews.  So in my discussion of the season finale I asked a few questions with the hope that  Mike would again provide his insider’s input.  Sure enough, he left a comment on that post today.

One of the things I’d asked is whether the West Adams culinary team, which won Jamie’s cooking contest in the last episode, had yet visited the Culinary Institute of America in New York City and, if so, what that experience had been like.  Mike answered that question with some really heartwarming news, and then went on to provide a lot more information about the show and his overall take on working with Jamie Oliver at West Adams this year.

Here is his comment reprinted in full:

Hello Bettina. Yes the students did go to NY and CIA. Here’s a link from their site:http://www.cianewswire.com/2011/06/jamieoliversfoodrevolution.html

One of the students, the fellow who slammed the hell out of the beef carpaccio at the cooking competition, received a 50k scholarship to CIA.

Did Jamie make any change happen here? Was the show worth it? Etc. I hope I have a balanced perspective, and one that’s well informed (I did work with the guy nearly every day he was here in LA, and I was VERY involved in all the back and forth between Jamie’s crew and LAUSD – in fact, i was caught up in much of it myself). There is little doubt that Jamie was the catalyst for the ban on flavored milk (in fact, though it passed the school board, one board member refused to vote for the ban out of spite for Jamie!). What else? We are working on the scratch cooking pilot – that’s all Jamie (point of correction: the Orfalea Foundation won’t actually fund the work themselves, but rather provide the expertise and training. They only fund in Santa Barbara County. Just want to be clear about that.)

And don’t read too much in that letter by Ray Cortines. It isn’t evidence of much. It was written after the show was filmed, after the fight was documented in the press, and the letter was written in defense of those promo’s that villianize poor Ray. And the offers for Jamie to “put requests in writing,” serve on committees, or what have you, and that Jamie was somehow negligent on that point and therefore insincere in his desire to help… c’mon. Those “offers” were all attempts to throw Jamie a few bones to keep him busy, or make him look bad, but not sincere requests for assistance. Jamie certainly didn’t come to town (with ABC in tow) to serve on a committee and “put requests in writing.” Can you imagine how bad the ratings would have been then? :)

Like I said in a number of my comments during interviews on the show (though I don’t know if any made it to primetime), I don’t fault Ray for keeping Jamie out of the Central Kitchen. I’d probably do the same if I were Supt. It’s not the distraction you need when you are battling a 500 million dollar budget crisis. But the lunch program, the schools, LAUSD and the show would have been so much better if LAUSD hadn’t started off with so much animosity.

Thank you Bettina, I’m glad you noticed the new specs!

In response to Mike I’d like to say, first and foremost, thank you so much for taking the time to come by The Lunch Tray these past few weeks.  It’s been a real treat for me (and presumably TLT readers) to get your insider’s perspective on the show and I’ve appreciated your candor and perspective.

I take your point about the letter from Ray Cortines but I do still wonder whether the “new menu”  (for which  Jamie seems to take more than a bit of credit in the season finale) was already in the works before he came to L.A.  My guess is still yes, just because there’s likely to be considerable lag time in planning and procuring a new menu for a district of 700,000 kids.  But as for the rest of the letter, about committees and written input, I take your point.  Even if those offers were made sincerely by LAUSD (and I know you think they weren’t), I’m not so naive as to think hearing Jamie talk about a committee meeting that took place off camera would make for scintillating television!  :-)

Second, thanks for the clarification about Orfalea, although maybe I was unclear in my post.  I was just trying to say that the foundation will generously train West Adams food service workers to scratch cook but neither West Adams nor LAUSD has to pay for the training.  If that’s not right, feel free to set me straight.

Third, as for understanding Ray Cortines’s decision not to allow filming in LAUSD’s kitchens, I’m glad you admit that in his shoes you would have done the same thing, because I do think that was the rational choice for someone in his position.  But it’s a little disheartening to hear that you said so on camera and the comment wound up on the cutting room floor.  I don’t expect reality TV to adhere to the highest journalistic standards, of course, but a little balance, in my opinion, would have enhanced the show’s credibility this season.

And finally, about the new glasses, I just have to say again that you were a tremendously good sport for not holding against me my snarky critique of your wardrobe when we first “met.”   :-)   You’ve greatly enriched The Lunch Tray with your comments over the past few weeks and the door is always open if you’d ever like to come back to comment or write a guest post.   I know that Lunch Tray readers, like myself, hope keep tabs on the West Adams kids we’ve come to know through the Food Revolution.

Thanks again, Mike!

 

 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike McGalliard July 1, 2011 at 11:23 am

Thanks for posting my comment and for your remarks, Bettina.

I don’t have a lot to argue with you on this. Maybe Jamie does take too much credit for the “new menu.” Maybe Ray Cortines and his team already masterminded that change. Maybe not (probably not given progress on food here prior to Jamie). I’m not sure what I think about that. In fact, I’m not sure how much credit anyone should take for the new menu. Lunch still consists of kids standing around like cattle, shoving down tots and nuggets, in a mad rush.

Yes, if Orfalea helps us out, we (meaning my organization) would have to come up with the cash somehow.

And let me be clear, even though I empathize with Ray, I’m not letting him off the hook. Ray’s reaction toward Jamie is an example of unnecessary bureaucracy. He allows little to no room for disruption, innovation or change. And LAUSD needs all of those things.

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Bettina Elias Siegel July 1, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Points all taken, Mike. I have to admit, I made a fuss over Jamie taking credit for the new menu but even as I wrote that, I was thinking I don’t want to be seen as a champion of the menu itself, which I know little about.

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