Tuesday, November 01, 2011

White House Chefs Shed Excess Pounds, Inspired By First Lady Michelle Obama

Longtime kitchen vets change their ways: A collective 75 pounds lost to date...
UPDATE, Nov. 4: Chefs' weightloss story featured on 'Today' show
I was pretty surprised in July when White House Assistant Pastry Chef Susie Morrison first told me she'd lost 29 pounds, because she'd never looked like she was overweight. But apparently Morrison's chefs whites were camouflaging extra baggage; my older photos of her actually do show a big difference. Morrison is 44, and has been at the white House since 1995. She said she made changes to her eating habits and started running, inspired by First Lady Obama's personal habits and the Let's Move! campaign. In October, Morrison said she'd dropped one more pound, and was holding steady at a thirty-pound weight loss. (Above: Morrison looks very trim in this photo from Mrs. Obama's HealthierUS Schools reception in October; she's with Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses and wine steward Daniel Shanks)

Morrison had just finished giving a healthy cooking demonstration for school officials when she was discussing the vanished pounds. Since 2009, she's participated in many of the First Lady's nutrition education events, and the White House chefs have adopted DC's Harriet Tubman Elementary School as part of the Chefs Move to Schools initiative, so Morrison is literally teaching what Mrs. Obama is preaching.

It's had a personal impact. Over the last year, Morrison has become a devoted runner and just finished a 5K, right after the State Dinner for South Korea. She also bicycles and lifts weights.
Morrison now snacks on fruit instead of pastry scraps, she said, and is in general mindful of her diet. Being a professional sugar master, surrounded all day by cakes, cookies, the legendary White House pie, and loads of other treats, is a dangerous thing for the waistline, but Mrs. Obama's example has changed her ways, Morrison said.

Comerford and Collick shed pounds too...
Morrison isn't the only White House chef who has lost weight. A new AP story details other White House kitchen weightloss stories. A collective 75 pounds have been shed by Morrison, Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford, on staff since 1995, and Assistant Chef Adam Collick, a 25-year vet. (Collick, center, with Comerford, left, and Morrison in the White House kitchen)

The chefs work very long hours, and both Comerford and Collick added pounds over the years by tasting their way through thousands of White House menu creations, from the fanciest State Dinners to every day functions.

"We're preparing really good food so it's really very easy to just snack all the time," Comerford said.

Comerford, 47, and Collick, 46, were also caffeine addicts, inhaling loads of extra calories in energy drinks, soda, and for Collick, whipped cream and chocolate syrup-topped coffee. They're now avoiding that, drinking just two cups of coffee per day, plenty of water, and exercising, too. Mrs. Obama is their inspiration, they said.

Comerford has lost fifteen pounds, and said she wanted more stamina to keep up with her 10-year-old daughter, Danielle, a competitive gymnast, and to set an example with "smart food choices." The family sticks to a balanced diet of whole grains, low-fat proteins and plenty of vegetables but on the weekend all "enjoy a hamburger or equally indulgent meal." Comerford's husband is also a chef.

Collick has lost 30 pounds by cutting down on empty-calorie eating, and he limits desserts to a few times a week, he said. He also exercises for an hour most days.

Comerford has now made many TV appearances demonstrating nutritionally balanced meals, and speaking about the wonders of Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden, where the chefs get much of the produce that's used in the White House Kitchen. She's also teaching what Mrs. Obama is preaching. (Above: Compare this photo from last year with the photo above: The chefs look slimmer in the first photo. Assistant chef Tafari Campbell is at right)

Assistant White House Curator Lydia Tedrick is also included in the AP story; she's lost about 35 pounds in the last year, she said. She joined Weight Watchers and works out with her husband.

*Top and third photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/ObamaFoodorama.com; second by AP