What Did The President's Chef Fry, And How Did He Fry It?

An adversarial interview with a White House chef.
Photograph by AFP/Getty Images

The White House is in the business of keeping secrets. Some of these involve surveillance programs or war plans. But often these secrets, protected with such vigor, involve more mundane matters, such as broccoli - or quite possibly Sriracha, by the sound of it, although that's highly speculative. With first lady Michelle Obama under relentless pressure over her diet programs, assistant White House chef Sam Kass, assisted by press attaché Joanna Rosholm, was subjected to the third degree by Bloomberg Politics in a recent phone interview. Below is an edited and condensed transcript. 

Bloomberg Politics: What can you tell us about the president’s dinners with his family?

Sam Kass: Dinner is a core family event every night when the president is in town. We take our time at the dinner table.

BP: What does "take their time" mean? Four hours? Thirty minutes?

SK: It depends on the day. We hash out the day, the trials and tribulations of the kids.

BP: So the Obamas don’t just sit down because they’re hungry. Dinner is a meal, an occasion?

SK: Yes.

BP: Describe a typical dinner.

SK: Dinner is the same for everyone. No kids meals. The same dish for everyone. One dish. Always balanced. Always healthy, tasty, and simple. It’s important to be at home, not a restaurant, to keep it simple.

BP: One dish means not coursed out, not appetizer, entrée?

SK: Yes. The first lady wants plates to resemble MyPlate [her nutrition program], but we love a good burger, sometimes pizza, good wings.

BP: How do you make the wings? Bake them? Fry? Double fry?

SK: Those are the kinds of things you won’t get me to talk about.

BP: What makes the wings good? A special sauce?

SK: We like spice.

BP: Does spice mean, like, cumin or heat?

SK: Heat.

BP: What’s the range? How high up the scale will you go?

SK: We can handle some heat.

BP: Everyone? The whole family?

SK: Yes.

BP: I’ve heard the president likes chips and guacamole. Does he prefer chunky or smooth?

Sam Kass: We’ll take it any way.

BP: Are there dislikes, dishes you avoid? Favorites?  

SK: We're driven by the garden, and what's coming out.

BP: Do you really have enough in the garden to supply the table every night?

SK: We give away hundreds of pounds of food every year.

BP: What’s a dish you might make with what’s in the garden now?

SK: There are many things.

BP: Is it true the preference is for thin-crust pizza?

SK: We like all pizza. Though being from Chicago we do support the deep dish.

BP: Do you make it yourselves or get delivery?

SK: This is the White House.