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.