Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tonight - Food Initiative Coordinator Sam Kass On Top Chef: DC - Video Previews

Check your egos at the kitchen door, Kass tells chefs...DC's Alice Deal Middle School in the spotlight
This evening's second episode of Bravo TV's Top Chef: DC is all about First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign. Officially titled "The Chefs Take On Childhood Obesity," the competing cheftestants are charged with cooking healthy, delish school lunches, while sticking to the very low budget that's authorized by the National School Lunch Program ($2.68 per kid/meal). But White House Food Initiative Coordinator Sam Kass, the special guest judge, whisks in even more drama, with an added challenge.

For part of the episode, Kass announces, the cheftestants must work in teams of two, literally tied together in double-wide aprons, so each chef can use only one hand (Kass and host Padma Lakshmi demonstrate the apron, above).

"I suggest you leave your egos at the door, forget about taking credit, and just get to work," Kass tells the cheftestants.

Even more heart-stopping challenges will be revealed when the program airs at 9/8 central, but Bravo has turned Kass's apron announcement into a special video moment, titled Who got high and came up with this?:

The cute aprons are a fairly obvious metaphor for America's two-party political system, as Top Chef: DC seeks to incorporate fun details about the seat of government into the storyline at every opportunity. Kass, like President Obama, is a leftie, for the record. And President Obama, for the record, has found that Republicans do not like to be tied to his policies, the same way the cheftestants don't like being tied to each other.

Alice Deal has an exemplary school meal program...
The second video preview shows the cheftestants in action at Alice Deal Middle School, in Northwest DC. Alice Deal is not the average American school in terms of serving healthy institutional lunches, but it has been lauded by the Let's Move! campaign as a school that is doing things right.

Unlike most schools in the US, Alice Deal has a strong nutrition education program for students, state-of-the-art kitchen equipment, and uses fresh, locally sourced ingredients for meals, with a focus on fresh produce. The school has a partnership with Whole Foods, which also sponsors Top Chef (contestants must shop for their challenge ingredients at Whole Foods on each episode). Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack paid a congratulatory visit to Alice Deal on May 13, to highlight the school's excellent food program (above: Sec. V. serves cauliflower roasted with garlic to Alice Deal students).

During the cooking challenge at Alice Deal, peanut butter mousse sounds tasty, but it has technical problems:

Mrs. Obama, Kass, and Sec. Vilsack have all spent the last year visiting schools in Maryland, Virginia and DC that have best-case scenarios for school breakfast and lunch programs, in an effort to show that even with limited resources, and with the creative use of corporate or community partnerships such as Alice Deal's association with Whole Foods, it's possible to have healthy meals and a strong nutrition policy. Whole Foods, BTW, was also one of the sponsors of the 2010 White House Easter Egg Roll, and provided loads of organic fruit for the Family Farmers Market that was part of the Play With Your Food area during the South Lawn celebration.

Kass's Top Chef: DC episode is part of NBC Universal's Healthy Week, when programming across the conglom's series of networks is focused on healthy eating and fitness. It runs through June 26. Go here to read about the other political notables who will appear on Top Chef: DC this season, and for bios of the cast of cheftestants. DC chef Eric Ripert of Westend Bistro has been added this season as a judge.

Related: Top Chef judge/host Tom Colicchio joined Kass and Mrs. Obama at the launch of Chefs Move To Schools, and he was also at the special Kitchen Garden harvest that followed (above: with Kass and a student helper at the harvest). Gossipy fluff: Kass and Colicchio sat together at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.

*Videos courtesy of Bravo; Sec. Vilsack photo via USDA; Kass & Colicchio photo by Obama Foodorama