Friday, September 21, 2012

President Obama Has 'Food Taster' In Kitchen When Celebrity Chef Tyler Florence Cooks

"#NoPoison" menu: The Food Network star and his team tell all on Twitter about the $20,000/plate dinner in Tampa...
*See UPDATE at bottom
President Obama hailed Food Network star and celebrity chef Tyler Florence's menu as "outstanding" on Thursday night at a $20,000/plate dinner fundraiser held in the backyard of a mansion owned by a billionaire's daughter in the Palma Ceia neighborhood in Tampa, Florida.  Host of the show The Great Food Truck Race, Florence created a complicated six-course menu that included chicken fried quail, crispy fried pork belly, and a squash and quail egg ravioli.  The chef and his team--including wife Tolan Florence and pastry chef Matt Masera--tweeted comments, the menu and photos from behind the scenes, revealing that the President was accompanied at the event by a special food taster, identified as a White House chef.  (Above: Florence in the kitchen; "Lots of chefs in one kitchen for #potus dinner" Mrs. Florence tweeted with this photo)

"Secret service let us in with our cell phones. Going to tweet from dinner with @BarackObama," the chef's wife wrote on @TolanFlorence.  

"Yes there is a taster. Lovely gentleman named Chef Andrew from The White House. We tasted one dish together," Mrs. Florence wrote in one tweet, and then elaborated in another:

"#1 Highlight of night obviously meeting @BarackObama #2: Tasting dishes with Chef Andrew from The White House = #nopoison."

Secret Service agents have been noted as being posted in the kitchens of restaurants the President visits, but reports of Mr. Obama bringing an actual chef/food taster to fundraisers have been few.  A Colorado chef/resturateur last month reported a Secret Service agent in the kitchen as he cooked the President's breakfast; Chicago celeb chef Rick Bayliss noted the presence of a Presidential food taster from the White House when Mr. Obama visited his restaurant in October of 2010.

Florence, visiting from his home base in Northern California, took over the kitchen in the home of hosts Don Miggs, a singer songwriter, and his wife Lisa DeBartolo, executive vice president of DeBartolo Holdings LLC and the daughter of Eddie DeBartolo, Jr,  a shopping mall mogul and former owner of the San Francisco 49ers. The 85 guests dined under a white tent in the backyard, and had a command performance from Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder.  According to the tweetfest, Florence's menu included burrata with basil, peach, and berry, followed by squash and quail egg ravioli with Hen of the Woods mushrooms.  There was also chicken-fried quail with key limes and woody herbs (above).

A crispy fried pork belly with banana mustard, walnuts, and celery was also among the savory dishes, as was corn pudding with zucchini confit with smoked almond foam.

Dessert was a coconut shortbread, with key lime/parsley curd, blackberry, and vanilla lime pavlova. Pastry chef Masera works at Florence's flagship Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco.

"I want to thank Tyler Florence for all the outstanding food," President Obama said during his remarks.


Guests included former Florida Governor Charlie Crist and Ronde Barber, a defensive back with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The well-heeled crowd was seated at tables and on white sofas as they ate and listened to Vedder extol the virtues of President Obama, before he played some tunes.  (Above:  Florence finishes the squash and quail egg ravioli with Hen of the Woods mushrooms)

Vedder was perched on a stool as he performed two of his own hits and three covers, changing from a mandolin to a ukulele. 

The singer made a joke about his Hawaiian ukulele: "It has a little birth certificate in there," Vedder quipped before playing "Without You."

Host Don Miggs also tweeted about hosting the President. (Above: The pork belly with banana mustard, walnuts, and celery)

"Having the smartest man in the room @BarackObama tonight was amazing. Thank you for being so generous with yourself. Enjoy 15th & Hope," Miggs wrote on @MiggsMusic, referring to a tune he'd recorded for the President.

President Obama's day trip to Florida was his tenth visit to the state this year.  Earlier on Thursday he had a late-lunch roundtable with students who are first-time voters, and a Town Hall hosted by Univision at the University of Miami.


The President arrived back at the White House shortly after 10:00 PM on Thursday night.  He will campaign in Virginia on Friday.  Above: The dessert, coconut shortbread, with key lime/parsley curd, blackberry, and vanilla lime pavlova.

UPDATE, Sept. 23_____________
On Friday, Tolan Florence deleted her tweets about the White House chef food taster that are transcribed above.  Mrs. Florence also emailed Obama Foodorama, asking that this post be changed in exchange for other information about the dinner.  The post has not been changed. 

*Photos from @TylerFlorence, @TolanFlorence and @MattMasera