Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hotshot Chefs Rachael Ray, Marcus Samuelsson Star In New White House Video

Ray blogs her White House visit, too; video after jump
A special honor has been bestowed on celeb chefs Rachael Ray and Marcus Samuelsson, as the first-ever citizen chefs to be featured players in a White House food and garden video. All previous official videos have been narrated by First Lady Michelle Obama and Food Initiative Coordinator Sam Kass during the Let's Move! campaign.

The footage was shot on June 4, when Mrs. Obama hosted a special Spring harvest and picnic in the Kitchen Garden after the South Lawn launch event for Chefs Move To Schools. The star power is working: As of June 14, 2,330 citizen chefs and 688 schools have signed up to be a part of the Chefs Move To Schools initiative, according to the White House.

Celeb chefs Tom Colicchio, Jose Andres, Cat Cora, and Michel Nischan also have on-screen cameos in the new video, but no speaking roles.

"Fantastic citizens is what you get out of good food," Ray says in the video, as she describes how eating healthy foods at school--and learning to cook--leads to academic and personal success. (Above: Ray during the harvest)

"What could be a better investment for the next generation?" Samuelsson adds. "When we chefs work together, the message gets so much louder and clearer."

After yanking broccoli, salad greens, plenty of rhubarb, spinach, fennel, and cauliflower out of the Kitchen Garden, the chefs gave the kids an outdoor cooking lesson, creating grilled chicken salad, a yogurt dip for fresh veggies, and Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (the recipe is here). The video features slow-mo shots of the kids eating the fresh veggies: That's culi cinematic gold, as far as the White House is concerned.

In addition to starring in the new video, Samuelsson made another kind of White House history in November of 2009, when he was the first-ever guest chef to cook a State Dinner. That was the first of the administration, in honor of India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. (Samuelsson gets a special greeting from Mrs. Obama during the harvest, above)

Ray has become the go-to celeb chef to lend star power to kids' nutrition action in DC. On June 10, she helped Rep. George Miller (D-CA) unveil the $8 billion House legislation that reauthorizes the Child Nutrition Act. During her South Lawn remarks at the launch of Chefs Move To Schools, Mrs. Obama called for rapid Congressional action on the critical legislation.

Ray also has a guest post on the White House blog to accompany the new video. The post, too, is a first for the White House; Kass and Exec. Chef Cris Comerford are the only chefs to have ever been on the blog. Ray's post:

Cooking As a Way of Life
I recently had the privilege of joining the First Lady and hundreds of chefs on the South Lawn of the White House to launch the Chefs Move To Schools initiative, a part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Campaign. I grew up in the kitchen at an early age cooking alongside my mother. My grandfather grew all the food we ate: Leafy greens, fresh fruits and vegetables and more.

To see hundreds of talented chefs all about to embark on a meaningful, very real journey into their community to give back and teach hundreds upon thousands of kids is truly remarkable. Understanding what good nutrition means and the basics of cooking are some of the most important tools kids need for the rest of their lives. Knowing how to put together a good, nutritious meal really improves the quality of one’s life.

I believe that chefs can be real leaders, in their communities, and beyond. Cooking is a way of life I was simply born into. Through this program, I hope that every child in America has the opportunity to experience those same joys of food and cooking that I did--and still do--with that very special chef in their community.

Related: All the links to Chefs Move To Schools posts are here.

*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama

*The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report is available here [PDF]. Visit for more information about the campaign, and visit USDA's website here to sign up as a chef or a school for Chefs Move To Schools.