“I had to crash the party because I did not want to miss out on all the fun,” said President Barack Obama in front of dozens of aspiring chefs in the White House yesterday.
He made a surprise visit to Michelle Obama’s first “Kids’ State Dinner” for winners of a nationwide recipe contest, the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. The event was sponsored by Epicurious.com and Let’s Move, the first lady’s campaign against child obesity.
“I’m an OK cook,” the president said, adding that his specialties included omelets and toast.
More than 1,200 children 12 and younger submitted recipes, of which 54 were selected -- for the states, D.C. and territories. Their mothers came along.
“Is this not cool?” asked Mrs. Obama, in a green Barbara Tfank dress and pearls. “This is one of the best events we’ve ever done.”
She pointed out some of the more creative recipes, such as the “Secret Service Super Salad” submitted by 9-year-old Michael Lakind of Texas, who said he wants to be an agent someday.
Ellen Goldsmith-Levitt of Massachusetts attended with her daughter, Rachel, who won for her goat-cheese sandwich. They said they enjoy making pastas and soups together. “She just came out a foodie,” the mother said.
The contest judges included Marshall Reid, 12, who co-wrote “Portion Size Me: A Kid-Driven Plan to a Healthier Family” with his mother, Alexandra, also a contest judge.
“I was overweight. I was unhappy and was bullied,” he said onstage as Michelle Obama looked on.
Haile Thomas, an 11-year-old from Arizona, whose corn salad was featured on the menu, said the first lady “is really tall. She told me to keep up the good work, and she gave me a hug. She’s so inspiring.”
Elena Guylay, 11, won for her “Fiesta Casserole,” a rice and bean dish. She wore a cowboy hat to the event in honor of her home state of Idaho.
After the children were greeted in the Grand Foyer, which was decorated in balloons and filled with tunes from the U.S. Marine Band, they were escorted into the East Room where portraits of George and Martha Washington hang. There were sunflowers, bright red tomato centerpieces. Napkin holders were “Let’s Move” bracelets.
Appetizers were kale chips and quinoa, black bean and corn salad. The main course was cabbage sloppy joes with baked zucchini fries. The dessert was a strawberry-banana smoothie and summer fruit salad.
Mrs. Obama introduced the White House chefs who put the event together, Cris Comerford and Bill Yosses. She joked that she would have helped them, but couldn’t as she was having her makeup done.
The event concluded with a mini-concert by Big Time Rush, a boy band that appears on Nickelodeon, after which White House assistant chef Sam Kass took the children on a tour of the garden. He promised he would help them get a sighting of the Obamas’ dog, Bo.
(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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