Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Behind The Scenes In The White House Kitchen: Making The 30-Foot Po'Boy

Videos: Sam Kass hosts a Po'Boy making party, joined by DC chefs
UPDATE: During his Aug. 29 visit to New Orleans to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Katrina, President Obama has a Gulf shrimp Po'Boy at Parkway Bakery & Tavern, then gives the White House Po'Boy a shout-out during his remarks at Xavier University
The 30-foot long Gulf shrimp & oyster Po'Boy created at the White House last Monday as the New Orleans Saints visited was the start of a very high-profile Presidential campaign to encourage Americans to consume safe Gulf seafood. The gigantic sandwich has since gotten multiple shout-outs from President Obama during public remarks--including on Saturday, as he visited Florida, to once again promote Gulf seafood (and, of course, tourism).

"When the New Orleans Saints came up, we had a couple of po'boys," President Obama said as he described ongoing Gulf recovery plans. "So right now we're feeling pretty good."

To create the Po'Boy, Senior Policy Adviser For Healthy food Initiatives Sam Kass welcomed five DC chefs into the White House kitchen, who all work at restaurants that have strong ties to Louisiana: Jeff Tunks from the restaurant Acadiana, Ann Cashian and John Fulchino from Johnny’s Half Shell, Jeff Buben from Vidalia, and David Guas of the soon-to-be-opened Bayou Bakery (at top of post). The Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board provided the oysters and shrimp, and the sandwich was served at a lunch attended by White House staffers and administration officials. (Above: The chefs assembling the Po'Boy)

No footage of the creation managed to make it into the Gulf seafood promotion video the White House released last week, which features Saints players cooking with Kass, but there are two here. In the first video below, the chefs and Kass cook in the White House kitchen, and discuss why Po'Boys are called "peacemakers:"

The chefs made the giant Po'Boy the simple, traditional way: With bread and butter pickles, tomatoes, lettuce and mayonnaise, topped with fried shrimp and oysters. Even the bread was the real Louisiana deal: It was from Leidenheimer Baking Co in New Orleans, which has been making the most-preferred Po'Boy bread since 1896.

After the shrimp and oysters were cooked in the White House Kitchen, all the ingredients were taken over to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is situated in the White House complex. There, the Po'Boy was put together, and White House staffers flooded in to enjoy it for lunch. Plenty of hot sauce was available, and in keeping with Louisiana tradition, Zapps potato chips were served as a side.

White House goes where BP won't
Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board, has proposed that BP provide funding for a five-year seafood marketing project to restore the reputation of Gulf seafood, but so far this idea has fallen on very deaf ears, he told PBS Newshour. Thus, the White House has stepped in with its seafood promotion campaign. Yesterday, that included NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco hosting a White House livechat on Gulf seafood safety, which she closed by saying "Eat Gulf seafood!" NOAA is housed in the Department of Commerce, after all.

In the video, above, Ewell discusses Gulf seafood safety and expresses his gratitude for all the White House support. Ewell notes that Gulf seafood is very safe, pointing out that there are five different agencies--3 federal and two state--monitoring Louisiana's seafood, and adding that "the seafood coming from the Gulf is the most tested in the United States right now."

"Coming to Washington really makes a statement," Ewell says. "To build a 30-foot Louisiana shrimp & oyster Po'Boy at the White House...helps us get the message out to America faster than we could ourselves."

National Incident Commander Thad Allen, senior energy and climate adviser Carol Browner, and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) were all at the Po'Boy lunch, and Allen speaks in the video, too. Above, the chefs in the EEOB, with the completed sandwich.

Related: Posts about the President and First Lady's Aug. 14 & 15 visit to Panama City Beach, Florida, are linked in this post. There was more Gulf seafood promotion, of course.

The White House Gulf seafood campaign officially started on Sunday, August 8, when senior energy and climate adviser Carol Browner announced on national television that Gulf shrimp was being served at President Obama's belated 49th birthday barbecue. It was the only menu detail announced to the public. It continued with the White House releasing a video of the New Orleans Saints in the White House kitchen after they'd taken a star-turn in the press briefing room on Monday, Gulf shrimp in hand, accompanied by Sam Kass. The President also lauded Gulf seafood during his remarks as he honored the Saints for their Super Bowl 2009 win. On Tuesday, deputy press secretary Bill Burton announced that the President and First Lady will be eating seafood when they visit Panama City Beach (Update: Mission accomplished). Fisherfolk and conservationists in Louisiana have rebuked the White House for claiming Gulf seafood is safe; they're protesting. The White House seafood campaign gets a send-up here.

*Videos & top photo of Po'Boy from Louisiana Seafood Marketing & Promotion Board. All other photos from Acadiana's Facebook page.