Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Local Chef in the White House...

"Sam Kass received his formal training at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Europe, but he found his passion for cooking while exploring the world. Using food as his guide, Sam came into contact with ordinary people in extraordinary places, from Mexico to Brazil, Italy to Thailand. He observed physical and spiritual health optimized when people maintained a close connection to the cultivation and preparation of their sustenance. He witnessed how societies fragment when this relationship to their nourishment is lost, and experienced the power food holds to rebuild communities."

Obamas Hire Chef From Chicago

Published: January 28, 2009

WASHINGTON — Sam Kass, a chef who cooked for the Obamas while they were living in Chicago, is now cooking for them in the White House.

A spokeswoman for Michelle Obama, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, said Mr. Kass would not be the only cook preparing the family’s meals, but “he knows what they like, and he happens to have a particular interest in healthy food and local food.”

Mr. Kass will work alongside the White House executive chef, Cristeta Comerford, who was promoted to that job by the Bushes in 2005 and is being kept on by the Obamas.

Mr. Kass’s appointment should please chefs like Alice Waters, who have lobbied the Obamas to set an example for the rest of the country by emphasizing food that is healthy, local and sustainable. It further suggests that a vegetable garden on the White House grounds, another of Ms. dreams, could be on the horizon.

Mr. Kass, one of the new breed of chefs who are concerned about the environment and about poor eating habits in this country, has been quoted as saying people in his profession should take the lead in tackling public health issues.

“Not only is there an unconscionable amount of people who remain hungry,” he told “In These Times” magazine last year, “there’s even a larger population, mostly poor, who are faced with obesity, diabetes and various other problems from overabundance.”

A Chicago native, Mr. Kass graduated from the University of Chicago and received his formal training at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Europe, then went to work at Avec, a Chicago wine bar serving Mediterranean food.

After he left the restaurant, Mr. Kass, 28, founded Inevitable Table, a private chef service in Chicago that, according to its Web site, is the client’s “link to clean, healthy food.” In addition to cooking and shopping “mainly from local farms” and buying wines from “small sustainable wineries,” the Web site says, the service offers meals for children and for private parties. All sample menus start with salads; all main courses include plenty of vegetables.

Walter Scheib, the White House chef for the Clintons and Bushes, said the decision to bring Mr. Kass to the White House to fill an open slot was “a master stroke.” He said Mr. Kass would be a tremendous resource for Ms. Comerford, the first woman to hold the post of executive chef. “This will make her job much easier because she will understand better and faster what they like,” he said. “She doesn’t have to spend months reading the tea leaves.”

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