On Day #2 of her three-day tour marking the first anniversary of her “Let’s Move” program, first lady Michelle Obama was in Dallas to tape a segment of the popular TV cooking show “Top Chef,” to promote her initiative to make school lunches more tasty and nutritious.
Mrs. Obama was one of the judges of a competition, in which three teams, composed of “Top Chef” chef-testants and student sous-chefs, prepared lunches, in 30 minutes, using fruits and vegetables (the chefs included Fabio Viviani, Jennifer Carroll and Spike Mendelsohn, the crowd favorite).
The other two judges were “Top Chef” host Tom Colicchio (of Craft fame), and Sam Kass, the assistant White House chef and Mrs. Obama’s advisor on her healthy-eating initiative. Kass and Colicchio warmed up the crowd of school children at a recreation center, describing the White House’s efforts to improve lunch menus by pairing big-name chefs with schools. He then introduced “helpers,” including Dallas Cowboys football players (names below) and the team’s mascot, Rowdy, clad in oversize boots and a cowboy hat.
When it came time to introduce the first lady, however, there was a scheduling glitch, as she was still doing a media interview. After two introductions and no first lady, some awkward stalling ensued, as Colicchio and Kass horsed around with Rowdy (“you’re cheesy, you’re cheesy,” Colicchio said to Rowdy, as the mascot snatched a piece of cheese off a table of ingredients).
Finally, after the room had fallen into silence, the hosts gave it a third try, and the first lady strode into the gym to noisy applause.”Are you guys fired up?” she asked the kids. “The whole point of this is making sure you’re healthy.”
“It’s time to get this competition started,” she added, to no disagreement from the impatient crowd.
After the kids and the Cowboys raced across the gym to gather ingredients, they brought them back to cooking stations, where the chefs began assembling them into lunches.
As the cooking was underway, Mrs. Obama mixed with kids, high-fiving them and quizzing them on their eating habits. Later, she made her way to the cooking stations, where pots were steaming and pans sizzling.
The first lady asked the teams to describe their dishes, putting the emphasis on what was healthy.
“Stay focused,” she said to one of the young sous-chefs.Thirty minutes turns out to be a long time when you’re entertaining a roomful of 10- to 13-year-olds. Mrs. Obama made her way to the second, and then third, group of kids.
At one point, Kass asked for a show of hands of which students who likes vegetables (more than half claimed to).Back at the cooking station, Colicchio was getting up in the grill of one of the chefs.
“Why are you using this ingredient?” he barked. “It’s healthy?” the chef replied.”If it’s not delicious, the kids will tell you,” Kass added.
As the minutes ticked off the clock, the kids cheered for their teams (red, white, and blue).”Who likes quinoa?” Colicchio asked the crowd, which seemed mystified.
Finally, the buzzer rang, and the three judges began sampling the meals, starting with the red team. Colicchio proclaimed the team’s whole wheat turkey taco “really delicious.”
The white team was next, offering a homemade applesauce. “This is like comfort food,” the first lady said.
Blue team offered a salad with arugula, carrots, and avacado puree. “Colorful, flavorful, and balanced,” said Colicchio.
The three judges huddled for several long moments in mid-court, pushing away Cowboy player DeMarcus Ware when he tried to eavesdrop (other players on hand: Felix Jones, DeMarco Murray).
Mrs. Obama, standing behind the “Top Chef” podium, said it was a tough call, and then announced that all three teams had won.
“The point in our decison,” she said, was that when you pair great chefs with schools, “everybody wins.”
The first lady then spoke about her initiative to upgrade the menus of schools, announcing that 1,589 new schools had met new, higher standards thid year.
Then the kids chanted “First Lady, First Lady,” and the event was a wrap.
Mon, February 27, 2012
by Jordyn Lazar filed under