Who Should Be Obama's White House Chef?


From left: Art Smith, Rick Bayless, Daniel Young

The New York Daily News reported on Sunday that three chefs are supposedly under consideration for the Obamas' White House chef. They are former Oprah chef Art Smith, authentic Mexican chef and food oracle Rick Bayless, and NBA star Carmelo Anthony's personal chef, Daniel Young.

I don't know if any of the three are seriously in contention for the job (the reporting was not exactly definitive), but if they are, I think Art Smith would be the odds-on favorite. In any case, the story got me thinking about who could or should get the job.

Serious Eaters, this is your chance to put forward your suggestions for filling the Obamas' White House chef job. After the jump, our suggestions.

First of all, let us lay out the criteria.

From all reports, the Obamas like to eat healthily, with Michelle having a strong preference for organic ingredients and products. Barack Obama is an "eat to live" kind of a guy. Secondly, their chef must have a can-do "yes, we can" attitude. Of course, whoever cooks for them has to represent change in some fashion. It can't be "food as usual" at the White House in 2009 and beyond. Chicago cooking experience would probably be helpful (Both Smith and Bayless are from the Windy City). Lastly, I have it on good authority that the Obamas love pie. So consider these candidates:

Deborah Madison: Madison knows how to make vegetables taste delicious, and even though she has never cooked in Chicago, her San Francisco and Santa Fe pedigrees indicate her politics are probably in sync with the Obamas.

Michel Nischan: Nischan is the chef-owner of Westport, Connecticut's Dressing Room, the late Paul Newman-financed restaurant. Nischan is a master of using juices instead of fats in sauces, his food is quintessentially American, and he's from Michigan, a key swing state.

Marcus Samuelsson: Marcus was born in Ethiopia, adopted by a Swedish couple and raised in Sweden, and is a bit of a culinary wunderkind. Like Obama, he is a true citizen of the world.

Grant Achatz: A cooking wunderkind who truly represents culinary change, Achatz is the choice if the Obamas are truly seeking the best and the brightest. He's a Chicagoan who grew up in Michigan (see above) and he's battled tongue cancer. I just don't know if Barack, Michelle, and their daughters are ready for techno-emotional cooking every night for dinner. Does he make a mean pie crust? Don't know.