The Toque Troops, part 4: Andrés, Boulud, Burrell, Colicchio, Cora, Ray, Samuelsson, Smith...
First Lady Michelle Obama might have to wear sunglasses when she launches the Chefs Move To Schools initiative at the White House this afternoon, because the star power of the chefs joining her for the kick-off event on the South Lawn is nothing short of dazzling. A veritable Who's Who of American culinary celebs have come to Washington to support the new, critical component of Mrs. Obama's Let's Move! campaign, which will send chefs into their local schools to boost nutrition education and improve kids' meals as part of a national effort to combat childhood obesity. The launch event will be livestreamed at 12:20 EDT at www.whitehouse.gov/live.
Share Our Strength has partnered with the White House on the new initiative, and they're the charity of choice for Food Network, so there will be numerous FN chefs on hand. This morning, the non-profit is hosting a huge breakfast at the JW Marriott for the hundreds of chefs who will visit the White House later in the day. Food Initiative Coordinator Sam Kass, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Share Our Strength's Executive Director Bill Shore are among those scheduled to speak about the mission the Toque Troops are undertaking.
Bravo TV has also sent in toques, and there are many other culinary luminaries showing up, too. Like all the other chefs from across the nation who have been invited to the launch event, the chefs represent a huge variety of cooking styles and traditions.
From Bravo TV:
*Top Chef host/judge Tom Colicchio, who is in the photo at the top of the post, with his 2010 James Beard Award for Outstanding American Chef. In addition to his TV work, Colicchio owns the various Craft restaurants. He's just finished a stint in DC, filming Top Chef: Washington DC, and Sam Kass makes his own kind of star turn on one of the episodes. Colicchio and Kass are big buds these days.
*Chef Marcus Samuelsson, who made White House culinary history when he was invited to be the first-ever guest chef for a State Dinner (last November/India), has lately been on season two of Top Chef Masters. Samuelsson splits his time between New York and Obama hometown Chicago, where he owns C-House restaurant, and he'll be joined by many other Windy City chefs.
*Susan Feniger, also of season two of Top Chef Masters, is a noted Los Angeles-based chef who's also famous for being one half of the 'Too Hot Tamales" team, with partner Mary Sue Milliken. They've masterminded numerous LA restaurants, have been talk show hosts, and authored five cookbooks together. Both will be at the White House.
*Bryan Voltaggio, a cheftestant on season six of Top Chef (Vegas, baby!), owns Volt restaurant in Maryland, and is a local sourcing and organics advocate.
*Monica Pope, another season two Top Chef Master, is also part of the notable Houston contingent of chefs.
*Celeb chef and talk show host Rachael Ray, who is ubiquitous and seemingly global, will visit the White House for the second time in a month. Last time she was on campus, she had just finished testifying on The Hill in support of Child Nutrition Reauthorization.
From Food Network:
*Cat Cora, the first female chef on Iron Chef America, was the guest chef for the White House reception for Greek Independence Day in March. Cora is a bestselling cookbook author and restaurateur, who creates healthy dishes from the Mediterranean and Greek food traditions. Cora and Kass are making morning show appearances together for the launch, on MSNBC and CNN today. (At left, Cora in the mob of guests in the East Room, during the event)
*Anne Burrell, who hosts Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, and seems to show up on every other Food Network show, too, including Iron Chef America.
*Aaron McCargo Jr, host of Big Daddy's House and winner of season 4 of The Next Food Network Star.
*Aaron Sanchez, of Chefs vs. City and a finalist on The Next Iron Chef.
*Ellie Krieger, host of Healthy Appetite With Ellie Krieger, has guest cheffed at the White House before; she demo'd healthy recipes at last October's White House Healthy Kids Fair. In April, Krieger testified before the House Agriculture Committee about the need for improving school lunches and nutrition education. Kreiger, too, is a bestselling cookbook author. (Above: Mrs. Obama and Krieger at the Healthy Kids Fair)
*Linton Hopkins, who owns Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta, Georgia, has been a competitor on Iron Chef America, and also on Chef. vs. City. He's also a major farm to table proponent.
*Chef Marvin Woods specializes in Low Country cooking, and his cookbook, The New Low Country Cooking, is exceptional.
DC-based celeb chefs:
Two chefs who have made frequent appearances here at Ob Fo due to their frequent appearances at the White House, and who will be at the kick-off today are chefs Jose Andrés and Art Smith. Both are cookbook authors and TV chefs, and both devote much time and energy to non-profit work. The President and First Lady are big fans of their restaurants. Most recently, both gave cooking demos at the 2010 White House Easter Egg Roll. (Above: Andres chats with Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan at the White House Farmers Market)
*Nora Pouillon, who founded the first certified organic restaurant in America, will be on hand; Mrs. Obama's surprise birthday party in January was at Pouillon's Restaurant Nora.
*Cathal Armstrong, who owns three restaurants in Old Towne Alexandria, will be at the launch; Mrs. Obama hosted a birthday party at Armstrong's The Majestic last July. Armstrong was one of the group of nine chefs who joined Share Our Strength in advising the First Lady's Office on how to create the Chefs Move To Schools program.
*Todd Gray, of Equinox, has previously guest cheffed at the White House, and his restaurant was the scene of one of the very first DC foodie outings by the President and First Lady. Gray was also part of the chefs' advisory committee.
From New York:
*Daniel Boulud, famed French chef and best-selling cookbook author, is based in New York City, where he owns numerous award-winning restaurants. His TV show After Hours With Daniel Boulud was a classic, and he now makes frequent appearances on network TV when not running his empire. (In photo)
*William Telepan, a renowned chef who owns the self-monikered Telepan restaurant, was also on the chefs' advisory committee.
*Michael Nischan, CEO of the non-profit Wholesome Wave Foundation. He's a chef and cookbook author, and proponent of sustainable farming and local and regional food sourcing. Nischan owns Dressing Room restaurant, in Westport, Connecticut; White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses helped set up the pastry operation there before going to work for First Lady Laura Bush.
Related: To learn more about Chefs Move to Schools, and sign up as a chef or school, visit USDA's web page here. Included among the hundreds of chefs invited to the White House is a cadre of chefs from Houston, a contingent from Chicago, and the American Culinary Federation has announced that it is sending 55 chefs. The First Lady announced the new initiative on May 13; Kass blogs about the program here.
*The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report is available here [PDF].
Photos: Boulud photo by Medlek; Samuelsson photo via Food Network; Colicchio photo from James Beard Foundation; all others by Obama Foodorama.