Monday, February 21, 2011

Vail Ski Vacay: Michelle Obama Visits Eatery That Sources From Local School Garden Project

During a visit to chef Kelly Liken's restaurant, First Lady chats about local foods and healthy school lunches...
UPDATE: The dinner controversy.
On a President's Day weekend ski vacation in Vail, Colorado with daughters Malia and Sasha and family friends, First Lady Michelle Obama is continuing the Let's Move! campaign--at least privately. On Saturday evening, Mrs. Obama and her companions dined at Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail Village, which serves "seasonal American cuisine." Executive chef/owner Liken has helped spearhead a local school garden program, "Sowing Seeds," at Brush Creek Elementary School in Eagle, and she serves vegetables at her fine-dining operation that are grown by students in the school greenhouse. (Above: Mrs. Obama and daughter Sasha skied on Sunday morning at Lionshead in Vail)

After serving the First Lady dinner, Liken spoke with Mrs. Obama about her school project, she told the Vail Daily.

“She was wonderfully gracious and very much interested in what we're doing in this valley for our kids' healthy lunch,” Liken said. “It was really refreshing to see how interested she really was and how passionate about our kids' healthy lunches, as well as the movement to eat local here in the Vail Valley.”

Mrs. Obama dined on a pickled pumpkin salad with arugula and a braised ancho-chile short rib with hominy wild mushrooms and sauteed kale, Liken said.

"She was amazing," Liken said about the First Lady, adding again that Mrs. Obama was very interested in the school program, which emphasizes the importance of nutrition, agriculture and sustainability.

Liken is exactly the kind of chef Mrs. Obama is encouraging to join the Chefs Move to Schools initiative, which pairs professional chefs with their local schools. Post-dinner, Liken tweeted:

One of the BIGGEST honors of my life... Cooking for Michelle #Obama tonight. those who know me, know it's close to my heart!

Last year, Liken was a finalist on Top Chef: DC. Sam Kass, the First Lady's Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives, was a guest judge for Top Chef: DC during a special episode about school lunches. Host/producer Tom Colicchio later testified before Congress to support the child nutrition reauthorization bill, the legislative centerpiece of the Let's Move! campaign, which was eventually passed in December of 2010 as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act 2010. Liken was also a challenger on Iron Chef America, another popular food TV show that featured a special White House episode in 2010.

The First Lady and her group arrived in Vail on Friday night for the President's Day weekend, and stayed at the Sebastian Hotel. President Obama remained in Washington, where he coached daughter Sasha's basketball team--minus Sasha--on Saturday morning. The expenses for the trip are being paid for with Obama family funds, according to a White House spokesman.

Kelly Liken is at 12 Vail Road, Suite 100, Vail, Colorado. Phone: 970-479-0175.

Top Chef Related:
Chef Yigit Pura, winner of Top Chef Just Desserts, was the pastry chef for President Obama's dinner with tech titans last week. Read about it here.

*Photo by Dominique Taylor/Vail Daily