Friday, December 12, 2014

SAM KASS HANGS UP HIS APRON

POLITICO Pro featured an article on Sam Kass which details his upcoming leave.  Journalist Helena Bottemiller Evich writes:

When Sam Kass leaves Washington after six years as a high-energy — and, at times, divisive — White House Chef, his successor probably won't inherit three titles, two offices and an extraordinary bond with the first family.  But his replacement will still need to be ready for a political fight.

The Obama administration is set to lose its behind-the-scenes food policy general at the end of the month, right as a Republican Congress plans an assault on much of first lady Michelle Obama's healthy eating agenda.  

Kass isn't just the most powerful White House chef in history, he has turned his gig into a political juggernaut, driving the administration's aggressive food platform, from school lunch reform to mandatory nationwide calorie labeling and banning trans fat.  But Republicans see much of that agenda as nanny-state overreach that needs to be reined in — and they are about to pull hard.

Already this week, Republicans scored a modest win by getting language into the year-end spending bill that looens requirements for whole grains in meals for struggling schools and freezes current sodium limits, but it's just the opening salvo in a long war to come when the GOP takes control of the Senate.

Republicans have their eyes on relaxing the standards when the law is up for reauthorization next year and undoing some of the calorie labeling rules set to hit restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores and vending machines.

Kass has long led the administration's policy offense and the political defense, but he announced Monday his is moving to New York City to be with his wife, New York-based MSNBC host Alex Wagner, whom he married in Augues.  Monay now wonder who, if anyone, could fill the unique position he held. 

"Over the years, Sam has grown from a close friend to a critical member of my team," said President Barack Obama when the White House announced Kass' departure.

Now when people think of the White House chef, the vision goes beyond someone who cooks grand State Dinners for kings and presidents to someone who tells us to eat our spinach and reminds us how much sugar is in our Lucky Charms.  Kass' work showed that virtually nothing is beyond politics naymore in Washington — even the guy who cooks the president dinner.  (While Kass cooked for the first family, executive chef Cristeta Comerford, who has held that post since 2005, handled formal White House entertaining.)

"From constructing our Kitchen Garden to brewing our own Honey Brown Ale, Sam has left an indelible mark on the White House," Obama said.

Walter Scheib, who served as executive chef at the White House for both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush adminstrations, said he could not recall a chef even close to as involved in policy as Kass is, but the quickly noted there hasn't been a first lady so interested in food policy, either.

The position "has become politicized, he said.  "But the position of the chef at the White House is a reflection of what's already going on in the country.  There's a lot more awareness of food now than there's ever been."  Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton cared deeply about healthy eating, he said, they just weren't nearly as vocal and public about it. 

Please continue the article here on the Politico.com website. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"UPON CLOSER INSPECTION"...Simply Amazing Art

Photography by Kiyomi
On a rare occasion in the San Francisco Bay Area, I spent time cooking and chatting with some new friends during a small dinner party.  My friends, who are art enthusiasts, have carefully adorned their home with incredible works of art.  While I was cooking in the kitchen, I could not help but admire the 2 foot silver rooster that sat in the center island.  What intrigued me the most about this piece is that it is made up of stainless steel forks, spoons, and knives.
Photo by Kiyomi

The piece in my friend's kitchen caused me to be curious about the medium.  I discovered that flatware actually is  not an uncommon element to be featured in artwork.  However, very few artists have learned to master the welding of utensils into true pieces of art.

I found one artist named Gary Hovey.  Since 2004, Gary has been using his welding skills to transform ordinary flatware into stunning metal animal sculptures.  Gary explains, "It is my goal that the animal's appearance is appreciated first for its form. Then, on closer inspection, the details of the forks, knives, and spoons bring enjoyment on a whole new level.  I like to incorporate movement, 'attitude' and when possible, a story."

Courtesy of Gary Hovey
Gary Hovey's own personal story is quite amazing.  He started his art career ten years after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. You might think that the physical demands of welding would prevent him from tackling this form of art.  But Gary describes his art is actually being therapeutic.

Courtesy of Gary Hove;y
Today Gary says, "I continue to push to work and it takes work to do anything from moving my hands to walking.  There are a lot of things I would like to do that freedom of movement and lack of energy do not permit.  I am thankful that I have been able to continue to make sculptures."

Courtesy of Gary Hovey
I am thankful for Gary as well.  It is inspiring to see how he is able to navigate past the day to day pain to continue his creative endeavor.  In addition, his sense of gratitude is humbling and his artwork is truly remarkable.

Please visit Gary's website at hoveyware.com.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

MODI COMES TO THE WHITE HOUSE - The Wall Street Journal

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Fast During White House Dinner

Indian Prime Minister's Visit to U.S. Coincides With Strict Religious Fast, Posing Etiquette Challenge

By COLLEEN MCCAIN NELSON and 
NIHARIKA MANDHANA
Sept. 25, 2014 5:52 p.m. ET
During his visit to the U.S., Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has plans for a private dinner with President Barack Obama and lunch with Vice President Joe Biden. There's one complication. He won't be eating.
Mr. Modi arrives Friday in the middle of a strict nine-day religious fast, raising a delicate question for the White House: How do you host a dinner for a foreign leader who is forgoing food?
Such visits are meticulously choreographed, with months of planning and entire dossiers devoted to guests' dietary restrictions and religious beliefs. An extended fast is an unusual challenge, said Walter Scheib, a former longtime White House executive chef, who said he couldn't recall a similar situation.
Every leader "has different concerns, from the prosaic, such as I don't eat garlic, to this one—I don't eat," Mr. Scheib said. While he noted that the White House is adroit when it comes to etiquette, the arrangement at dinner has the potential to be slightly awkward. "It's very bad form to sit in front of fasting guests and eat heartily," he said. "It's just not polite."
Administration officials have been tight-lipped about what, if anything, the president and vice president will eat during meals with Mr. Modi. During the nine days of Navratri, a Hindu festival, the menu for the prime minister consists only of water and perhaps a bit of lime water.
"No food, no juices, no substitutes," said Nalin Kohli, a spokesman for Mr. Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party.

The prime minister has been observing the fast for 40 years and it doesn't affect his energy levels or his work, Mr. Kohli said. This five-day trip could test that proposition. Mr. Modi has an ambitious schedule encompassing nearly three dozen engagements in Washington, D.C., and New York, including addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday.
To continue this story - please click here.
Getty Images

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI VISITS THE U.S.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Australia
Enthusiasm is building for the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi who will be arriving in New York this Friday, September 26, 2014. Adapa Prasad of the Indian-American Community Foundation believes, “It is the biggest event ever for any state head visiting the United States.” Modi’s Madison Square Garden address tickets are selling out quickly as city planners ramp up their efforts to run additional trains and subways to meet audience demand. Other methods of support are also making an appearance, strangely enough, in the form of ink. India’s Daily News and Analysis reports that some Modi fans are endorsing the Prime Minister’s visit by tattooing themselves with the faces of Modi and Obama.


The Prime Minister’s visit is definitely creating a sense of excitement, as well as diplomatic concerns in other areas. Traditional protocol for the White House is to provide a state dinner for visiting diplomats like Prime Minister Modi. However, on this occasion, the Prime Minister’s visit coincides with the nine-day observation of the Navratri, a Hindu festival that begins on September 25 (2014) and ends on October 3. And while Navratri Vrat rules do make allowances for several flours, grains, spices and herb -  strict Hindus will maintain a liquid fast for the full nine days. Prime Minister Modi has kept the appointed fast for over 35 years. Narendra Modi does allow himself the intake of lemonade and honey.


I can definitely say that this kind of situation has never happened in the 11 years that I was there.  However, I will also concur that the White House staff and the first families will go out of their way to provide a gracious and hospitable visit to all guests. I’m certain that the Prime Minister will be cared for and all of his needs will be satisfied. Besides that, it is also a great opportunity for the beekeepers at the White House to make Prime Minister Modi’s visit a little more comfortable by providing him with some of the homegrown honey from the garden. 

Prime Minister Modi with School Children

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

MAKE-A-WISH FOUNDATION

I will never forget the brave young wish kid that I met during the Clinton administration while at the White House.  This kid, who was carrying the burden of a life-threatening illness, had been granted a wish to meet President Clinton.  I would describe him as being somewhat of a sage, way beyond his 12 young tender years.  I greeted him on the tour and we had a chance to talk.  I'm not sure how our conversation started, but he must have sensed something in me that expressed a note of sorrow. He looked at me and stated very matter of factly, "The only difference between you and me is that I know when I'm going to die.  You've got a problem in the meantime.  Because right now, I'm going to live my life."


The knowledge and courage that was expressed from this young guest at the White House still echo at me. His words instill a sense of humility and mindfulness of the short time we have been allotted. 

Recently, I received a phone call from Make-A-Wish Southern Florida Foundation.  They asked me to help them with a dinner.  I played a small role in hosting the talk that night, but I was more than happy to help out.  It is truly an amazing thing to know how little efforts can help grant wishes that fuel a multitude of dreams.


The Make-A-Wish Foundation is guided by the principle that one wish can be life changing.

Margie, a mom whose son received a granted wish, said it best - "Spending time in and out of hospitals is a stark reminder of the fragility of Elias' condition and the need to make the most of every moment with him.  The wish experience did just that; it gave us so many memories to remember - moments of joy.  Elias' wish day is still remembered by our family as the most joyous experience of our lives."

More wish stories here

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

THE PRESIDENT'S KITCHEN CABINET

I am very excited to be a co-producer for The President's Kitchen Cabinet, an up and coming TV documentary. The final production promises to be an insightful and groundbreaking film that will peer into the personal and professional lives of African-American cooks who have served in the White House. I am collaborating with Adrian Miller- food writer, politico, attorney and author of Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time.


Adrian shares that, "After watching The President's Kitchen Cabinet, you'll discover that these cooks were not only culinary artists, but they also served our presidents as personal confidantes, informal policy advisors, civil rights advocates and family friends." He has compiled stories for the film which include "The Poisoned Pea Plot of 1776" - an account of the cook  who saved President Washington's life, the grill chef who cooked on the White House roof with President Eisenhower, the enslaved cook who managed to learn classical French cooking and the female cook who inspired President Lyndon to lobby for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

 
As you can imagine, a worthwhile production like The President's Kitchen Cabinet not only demands a tremendous amount of research and interviewing, but it also requires support - both moral and monetary. A Kickstarter campaign has been started to help introduce the film to television networks and producers. If you feel compelled to be part of The President's Kitchen Cabinet support team, I would be extremely grateful. Every person who backs this project counts. Every donation, no matter what the amount - speaks volumes. Please feel free to share the exciting news about The President's Kitchen Cabinet. Here is the link.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

2014 NATIONAL PROSTART INVITATIONAL

It was exciting to hear the shouts, cheers and generous applause that erupted in this year's ProStart Invitational Awards Ceremony. Students, parents and coaches alike were overjoyed for the 300 plus students who had worked so hard throughout the school year to finally compete at the national competition in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Prostart champions hail from 46 states, territories and Department of Defense bases. This year's first place teams included Simon Sanchez High School from Yigo, Guam (culinary) and Rockwall High School from Rockwall, Texas (management). The top five winning teams for both culinary and management took home their share of $3.75 million dollars in scholarships

Part of the culinary criteria for each four member team was to provide a starter, an entree and dessert within 60 minutes while being limited to two portable butane burners. There were several categories that were assigned to each judge which included knife skills, sanitation, menu checking, product check-in and tasting. I was granted the duty of entree tasting. So, over the course of two days my three judge panel group had the pleasure of tasting 46 entrees. You can imagine, pacing myself is something that I've learned to do well.

I enjoyed seeing the faces of anticipation and nervousness coming from the ranks of these talented students. The majority of the competitors prepared excellent food in both flavor and appearance. Many thanks go out to the folks at NRAEF who have designed a top notch culinary and management program that help over 1700 schools. And kudos to each one of the Prostart Invitational champions.