Lunch Is Served

Michelle Obama hosts 54 budding chefs at the White House

Aug 22, 2012 | By Suzanne Zimbler

On Monday, the White House staff prepared for a special group of guests. The East Room, where fancy parties are thrown, was decorated from top to bottom. The First Lady was hosting an important lunch.

At 10:00 am, her guests arrived. Fifty-four boys and girls, each with a parent or grandparent, walked into the White House. Who were these kids, and why had Michelle Obama invited them over for lunch?

The lucky guests were the winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. The First Lady teamed up with the recipe website to create the contest, which asked kids ages 8 to 12 to come up with nutritious, delicious lunch recipes. Winners from across the country, including one from every state, were brought to Washington, D.C, for the first ever kids’ “state dinner,” which was held at lunchtime.

First Lady Michelle Obama dines with winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.
First Lady Michelle Obama dines with winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.

A Winning Meal

At the start of the meal, the First Lady welcomed her guests and congratulated them on winning the contest. “You were the winner in your state—the whole state,” she said. “You guys won! Cool!”

Obama also explained what made the winning recipes stand out from the more than 1,200 entries submitted. “You came up with dishes that were packed with nutritious, delicious ingredients—dishes that are good for you, but more importantly, they taste good, too,” she said.

What was on the menu? A selection of the winning recipes, of course! At the start of the meal, guests munched on kale chips. The crunchy appetizer was prepared according to a recipe by nine-year-old Sam Wohabe, from New York. “I can eat the entire head of kale this way,” Sam said.

For the main course, diners feasted on 12-year-old Rori Coyne’s “yummy cabbage sloppy joes.” Rory, who is from Kansas, said that at first she wasn’t sure if she liked cabbage. But, “Mom showed me how to make cabbage, beef and a bunch of other vegetables taste better than a package of sloppy joes.”

A Surprise Visit

Just as the guests were getting ready for dessert—Strawberryana Smoothies based on a recipe by 11-year-old Stefani Shimomura of Hawaii—Michelle Obama stood up to make an announcement. “We have a special guest who wanted to stop by and say hello because this is a very special event,” she explained. “So it is my honor to introduce the President of the United States.”

President Barack Obama greets guests at the kids' "state dinner." His visit was a surprise.
President Barack Obama greets guests at the kids' "state dinner." His visit was a surprise.

With that, the room erupted in excited gasps and applause, and President Barack Obama walked in. “I could not be prouder of you,” he told the winners. “To actually come up with recipes that are healthy and tasty, and to do it in a way that helps to contribute to spreading the word about healthy eating among your peers—that’s a really big deal.”

The President walked to each table, shaking hands with the contest winners and their family members. For Kayla Wayman, 10, of Montana, this was the icing on the cake. “It was amazing to watch the President walk in,” she told TFK. Kayla, whose recipe for garden chicken pizza earned her a spot at the luncheon, said she would be trying out the other kids’ recipes at home.

You can too. Visit to download a copy of The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Cookbook. Then, get cooking!