Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Michelle Obama Hosts 2011 National Design Awards Luncheon: The Details & The Menu

First Lady welcomes students and design geniuses for annual luncheon spotlighting her own best design, the Kitchen Garden...
How do you get honored at the White House? Plenty of hard work, and plenty of "blood, sweat and tears," First Lady Michelle Obama told high school students invited to a celebratory luncheon on Tuesday for the 2011 winners and finalists of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum's National Design Awards. (Above: Mrs. Obama welcomes guests as Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian looks on; he was also seated at her table)

Given annually to honor extraordinary achievement in ten categories of design, the awards are the Oscars of the design world. 160 guests filled the East Room for the First Lady's 12:45 luncheon, and the young guests rubbed elbows with fashion master Tim Gunn, co-host of Lifetime’s Project Runway and chief creative officer of Liz Claiborne Inc, and Fashion Design Award recipient Gilles Mendel, of J. Mendel design house. Mendel was seated at the First Lady's table, as was Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Matthew Carter, a master typedesigner, who, among many other achievements, created typefonts for Microsoft and Apple computers.

"These men and women have breathed new life into our homes and our workplaces, the clothes we wear, the products we use every day, and even the most basic ways we process information," Mrs. Obama said of the winners, whom she hailed as "some of the most accomplished designers in the world." (Above: Gunn takes his seat)

The First Lady was clad in hyper-modern long earrings and a sheath dress of brown fabric that sparkled in the light. The luncheon menu highlighted Mrs. Obama's own signature design, the Kitchen Garden, with a first course dubbed "South Lawn Garden Greens." The main course also featured homegrown bounty; Sun Gold Tomatoes grown in the garden accompanied Crab-filled Saffron Ravioli, as did Yellow Corn and Lemon Verbena, also grown in the 1,500 square foot garden.



As Mrs. Obama praised the extraordinary achievement of the winners, she thanked those who had participated in a Teen Design Fair sponsored by the Smithsonian, held before the luncheon at the National Portrait Gallery. Gunn keynoted the event for more than 400 high schoolers. The First Lady told the students that the success of the honorees didn't happen overnight.

"While we ooh and ahh at their handiwork, we may take for granted all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the process of creation," Mrs. Obama said. "We will never see all of those late nights spent tinkering and perfecting. We’ll never experience the long hours hunched over a drafting board or staring blankly at a computer screen." (Above: Mrs. Obama during her remarks)

She urged the students to dream big and work hard, just like the honorees, adding that one day the students, too, might be honored at the White House.

"If you work hard enough, if you believe in yourself, you can earn an award just like this in a few decades or--I don't know, a few of you, maybe a few years," Mrs. Obama said, to laughter. "I want you all to know that I really do mean this. This is what I fundamentally believe about all of you young people."

Guests were seated at round tables for ten, which were laden with floral arrangements of bright pink and purple blooms. Each guest received a very personal gift from the First Lady: Accompanying the program placed on each chair was a seed packet for a vegetable variety grown in Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden. More on the greeny gifts is here. (Above: One of the seed packets, for China Rose Winter Radish)

2011 National Design Awards Luncheon Menu

Salad
South Lawn Garden Greens
Jeeves Passion Fruit Gelee

Main
Compressed Watermelon
Feta Cheese and Roasted Figs
Pistachio Vinaigrette

Crab-filled Saffron Ravioli
Roasted Sun Gold Tomatoes
Yellow Corn and Lemon Verbena

Dessert
Peach Marjolaine with Blackberries
Grapefruit Sorbet

Wine
Illumination Sauvignon Blanc "Napa" 2010 (Napa Valley, CA)

In addition to Mendel, Clough, and Carter, seated at Mrs. Obama's table were Bill Moggridge, Director of Cooper-Hewitt and his wife Karen Moggridge; Diane Castillo, a student at Columbia Heights Education Campus; Mendel's guest, Cherie Ellis Cone; Carter's guest, Mary A. Stephenson; and Laysha Ward, President of the Target Foundation and Target Community Relations, one of the sponsors of the awards. This year marks Mrs. Obama's third year as honorary patron of the awards; she hosted luncheons for the National Design Awards in 2010 and in 2009. The transcript of Mrs. Obama's remarks is here.

Place settings and floral arrangements...
The President George W. Bush formal china was used for the luncheon. The table decor was both muted and vibrant, with round tables of ten covered in blue-green silk with a floral pattern. There were two different floral centerpieces. One version had tall flower arrangements, with four candles, and the second version had a smaller bouquet in a golden bucket. The flowers were purple and pink orchids, peach and pink roses, purple and pink dahlias, surrounded by ferns and ivy. (Above: A table before the luncheon, with a low centerpiece)

The 2011 National Design Awards winners list is here. The National Design Awards were first launched at the White House in 2000 as an official project of the White House Millennium Council. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton served as the Honorary Patron in the inaugural year, and First Lady Laura Bush continued the tradition. The annual awards recognize extraordinary contributions to design in ten categories: Lifetime Achievement, Design Mind, Corporate and Institutional Achievement, Architecture Design, Communication Design, Fashion Design, Interaction Design, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture and Product Design. (Above: A detail of one of the floral arrangements)

(Above: The tables before the luncheon)

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Photos and additional reporting by Helena Bottemiller for Obama Foodorama. Top photo by lawrence Jackson/White House; Gunn photo by AP.