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OPINION: Local chef questions Jamie Oliver's Safeway campaign

Image Credit: Giulio Piccioli via Facebook
February 18, 2016 - 3:09 PM

Dear Jamie Oliver,

I was surprised this morning when I walked into our local Safeway grocery store and found you greeting me at the door.

You look as handsome as I'd have imagined despite your cardboard limitations.

I smiled thinking of the endless amount of inspiration you have provided me with over the years; as a young chef aspiring to change the world, it was you I referred to for guidance and understanding of what food truly means in our lives.

Today I kind of questioned that role that you have played in my life for the very first time.

Jamie, what are you doing in this Safeway?

Does this sign actually reflect how you feel about this grocery store and the values upon which it is based?

I don't understand, and maybe that comes from not knowing the whole story but I can't help from thinking that some form of a sell-out has just happened before my eyes.

"Canadians deserve better, more affordable food choices and Safeway answered" you say - but how did it answer? I did notice - yes - this tiny (trust me, it's real small) section of "ethically-raised, hormone-free meat" that was not there before your cardboard self showed up here. Unquestionably this is a great achievement - a necessary one. Maybe it's the beginning of a transformation for this and many other grocery stores.

However, at the same time, we are light years away here at Safeway from the real options that any grocery store should be able to provide to their customers. Jamie, do you believe that Safeway is offering groceries that you want to stand behind? Have you walked the aisles and really evaluated the quality of food available?

You might say "well son, that's what I am fighting for" and I know you have been fighting this fight, and I am grateful for that. But when I walk into the store and see your face, and you say "Canadians deserved better food choices and Safeway answered" I would be inclined to believe that Safeway IS the ethical grocery store that you stand behind.

Why? Because I trust you.

But what If I knew that was not the case? What If I knew better?

Wait. I do know better.

Take a walk thought their organics section. It's an embarrassment. Local apples are found as often as practically never. I don't recall ever seeing a local vegetable on display, which really does not mean it never happens - it just almost never happens. Their "health food" section is tiny and truly makes you question what is being served then in the rest of this grocery store.

But when I walk in, the perception is that you support the whole grocery store because of this one small change (however important) that they were willing to do in order to satisfy the public (or rather create a sense of satisfaction).

Back home in Italy we call this Il Biscottino. The little cookie.

It's what you give to somebody that is really enraged but somehow a bit ignorant or easy to fool.

So tell me Jamie.

Are you being used? Did they take your face and attach it to the whole grocery store when they should have just attached it to that tiny section of the meat department (if that is the case, your cardboard cutout self would dwarf the entire "ethical" meat section)?

Thank you for listening Jamie. I really do appreciate everything you have done in your life around food. I always will. And this is why I wrote you this letter.

One of many of your number one fans.


Giulio Piccioli
Chef/Owner – One Big Table - Kelowna, B.C.

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