[Photos: Alexander Flores]
Last night, Michelle Obama met with parents at a Fort Worth Olive Garden to discuss improving the health of our nation's children -- with regard to eating and exercise -- with local parents. The choice of location was met with some contention, because, as Tim Love pointed out via Twitter, they do have those endless breadsticks.
But, then, if you're talking about America, you'd go where America goes, not where the people who are already doing it right are already doing it right. Wouldn't you bring the people who do it right to the places where people don't? You just might not say that out loud, so much. To start anyway.
Today, however, the First Lady rewarded (sorta) the kids and teachers from Nancy Moseley Elementary already on the right track after earning a Gold Award in the HealthierUS Schools Challenge.
The Kleberg/Rylie Recreation Center, however, isn't the most ideal place for a 30-minute Top Chef-style cooking challenge hosted by Tom Colicchio and White House chef and Senior Policy Advisor of Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass when there are only two emcee mikes, stands full of children, a press box, security and a reality film crew capturing every moment for Bravo's Life After Top Chef. Oh, and a very long wait.
"You see, kids?" Colicchio asked the crowd. "This is how TV is made. It's called hurry up and wait."
This after a too-long stretch session with Rowdy the Dallas Cowboys mascot. And two introductions for each team -- and their Dallas Cowboys (America's Team, lest we forget) hype men, DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin, Felix Jones, and DeMarco Murray. It's also, surely, how security and the third state in a 3-day tour goes.
The challenge: to make a healthy school lunch in half an hour. There was a "pantry" but save the kids, no one ran to it. Team Blue, Fabio Viviani and Richard Blais, urged the kids in blue to chant for them. Team White, Spike Mendelsohn and Jennifer Carroll, following suit. Team Red, Grayson Schmitz and Paul Qui (that's right the press release was wrong -- no Edward Lee), earning the highest pitched squeals. Texas, y'all.
Tiny elementary sized sous chefs helped their adult counter-parts with chopping and slicing, while the First Lady and Kass visited each team of kids and asked them "Who's an A student? Who likes vegetables? Who's going to college?" among other things.
The chefs prepped items for tasting -- it wasn't clear how much actual cooking was taking place -- and Colicchio, Kass, Obama and the various Cowboys asked questions and looked on. The highlight of this section was definitely seeing Schmitz mouthing "KEEN-WAH" to an inquisitive Ware, explaining it was a grain full of protein and then giving her biggest smile.
The "judging" -- which amounted to a semi-huddle interrupted by Ware -- resulted in a "Top Chef first": a three-way tie. Who wins? Red, white and blue, naturally.
Overall, it was a rally. And what else would it be, really? With a hard-to-sell-to-kids message, Let's Move is celebrating its second anniversary and ChefsMovetoSchools.org, a site aimed at helping chefs and schools find each other and form partnerships more easily, launched today. As Obama spoke to the crowd following the entertainment, there were a distracted kids during the parts with stats and names like Department of Agriculture, but when she directly addressed them, they were totally focused.
It's important to eat right, it's important to get your exercise, but it's more important to be a good student -- that all of these things add up. It is very hard to focus at school if you don't have good fuel in your body. And that is the truth. This isn't just a grownup telling you to eat your vegetables. The truth is, is that your brain works better on good food. And we need you guys to be at your very best, because you're going to be the ones that are going to be the next leaders for our country, right?
Afterward, Obama hugged the chefs and mini-sous before heading to Florida for her next stop. Austin's Top Cheftestant Paul Qui agreed with Grayson Schmitz that cooking for the First Lady was far less stressful than any Top Chef elimination challenge. They were also impressed (and probably considerably less stressed) that their assistants knew how to use their knives.
Qui said he had no other Let's Move events on his roster but would "totally be into participating in others" and would like to find out more info on the Chefs Move to Schools program.
Mendelsohn offered that he's "very much a supporter of Michelle Obama's initiative" while Blais, who is already active in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, said hearing about the Chefs Move program has inspired him to get more active locally. (He also divulged that he had Obama sign a birthday card to his 1-year-old daughter while she was at his table.)