Sam Kass

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Sam Kass
Kass in 2009
Samuel David Kass

1980 (age 43–44)
Alma materUniversity of Chicago (AB)
Occupation(s)Chef, Nutrition Policy Consultant
(m. 2014)
Parent(s)Valentine Hertz Kass
Robert Kass
FamilyHelen Valentine (great-grandmother)

Samuel David Kass (born 1980) is an American political advisor, chef, and news personality, who served as President Barack Obama's Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy, executive director for First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign, and as an assistant chef in the White House.[1] On July 29, 2015, NBC News announced the appointment of Kass as a senior food analyst, charged with covering topics such as healthy eating, food trends and policy on all platforms of NBC News.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Chicago, Kass grew up in a Jewish family[3][4] in the Hyde Park neighborhood.[5][6] His father, Robert, was a teacher at the private, co-ed University of Chicago Laboratory Schools who taught President Obama's daughter Malia Obama in the 5th grade.[7][8] Kass's mother, Valentine (née Hertz), is a science educator at the National Science Foundation and previously served as the director of Omnimax productions at the Museum of Science and Industry.[8][9] His maternal great-grandmother, Helen Valentine, founded Seventeen magazine.[10]

Kass attended high school at the Lab Schools,[11] where he was on the varsity baseball team, and graduated in 1998.[8] He played baseball as a center fielder[12] on a scholarship at Kansas City Kansas Community College and later transferred to Triton College.[8] He graduated with an AB in history in 2004 from the University of Chicago,[6] where he also played NCAA Division III baseball as a right fielder with a career .366 batting average, ranking among the best in program history.[13]

During his junior year of college, Kass worked at the restaurant 312 Chicago under chef Dean Zanella. In 2003, Kass finished his senior year of college abroad, training under chef Christian Domschitz in Vienna, Austria.[14][15][16] He continued his training while traveling around the world, including to New Zealand, Italy, and Mexico, before returning to Chicago in 2006[14] to work at the restaurant Avec[6] under executive chef Paul Kahan.[14]


In 2007, Kass opened his own personal chef company in Chicago, Inevitable Table, which focused on healthful and nutritious food.[14] He then became the personal chef to the Obamas while Barack Obama was serving in the United States Senate.[17]

White House[edit]

In January 2009, Kass went to work at the White House Office as First Lady Michelle Obama's Food Initiative coordinator, and joined the kitchen staff as an assistant chef under executive chef Cris Comerford.[14] In 2010, Kass was promoted to Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives.[18] In 2013, Kass was named Let's Move! executive director and promoted to Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy.[14]

In these roles, Kass assisted Michelle Obama in creating the first major vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt's victory garden.[14] The garden did not use herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizer.[6][19][20]

Kass also assisted the first lady in her efforts to promote healthy eating and the prevention of childhood obesity.[14] He was the chief architect of the Let's Move! campaign, which utilized private-sector partnerships to pursue the goal of reducing childhood obesity to 5% by 2030. He was named #11 on Fast Company magazine's 2011 list of 100 Most Creative People for his work with Let's Move!,[21] in particular for a five-year partnership pledge from grocery giant Walmart, which announced a commitment to build up to 300 stores in areas defined as "food deserts",[22] lower the price of its fruits and vegetables, and reduce the sugar, salt, and fat in its private-label products on its shelves.[21]

Kass is a promoter of sustainable farming and locally grown and organic foods[6] and is a critic of modern agricultural producers and fertilizer and pesticide companies.[6] He has also railed against the national lunch program as "disproportionately high in fat, preservatives and high fructose corn syrup."[6][23] Kass has been criticized for his unwillingness to acknowledge the benefits of pesticides and chemical fertilizers as well as the high cost of organic farming relative to corporate farming.[24][25]

In 2012, Kass was named to the inaugural class of chefs in the American Chef Corps, a project he created with the US Department of State in conjunction with the James Beard Foundation to promote global diplomacy through culinary initiatives.[26] Kass made his first solo trip abroad for the program in July 2014, spending a week in the Republic of Korea. During his visit sponsored by the US Embassy and Brand USA, Kass promoted Let's Move!, met with culinary students, celebrated Independence Day at the US Embassy's party, learned to cook the traditional dish Bulgogi at the request of President Obama, and promoted culinary tourism to the US.[27]

In 2014, Kass requested to speak at the School Nutrition Association's convention in Boston. However, his request was denied due to Kass's advisory position at the White House and the strains between the association and the first lady.[28]

On December 8, 2014, the White House announced Kass's departure, issuing a statement in which Barack and Michelle Obama saluted his "tenure of dedicated service."[29] Barack Obama stated:

From constructing our Kitchen Garden to brewing our own Honey Brown Ale, Sam has left an indelible mark on the White House. And with the work he has done to inspire families and children across this country to lead healthier lives, Sam has made a real difference for our next generation. Over the years, Sam has grown from a close friend to a critical member of my team, and I am grateful for his outstanding work and look forward to seeing all that he will continue to achieve in the years ahead.[30]

Michelle Obama said:

Sam has been an integral part of Let's Move! from its very beginning -- from discussions about children's health around my kitchen table in Chicago, to setting the strategic vision of a national campaign in the White House, to spearheading efforts with the private sector across the country. Sam leaves an extraordinary legacy of progress, including healthier food options in grocery store aisles, more nutritious school lunches, and new efforts that have improved how healthy food is marketed to our kids. I wish Sam success in all his future endeavors, and I know he will continue to be a leader in the vitally important work to build a healthier country.[30]

His last official day at the White House was Friday, December 19, 2014.[citation needed]

Post-White House[edit]

As of May 2015, Kass is a partner in Sprig, a meal-delivery service based in the San Francisco Bay Area, founded in 2013. He joined the project as an investor when Sprig announced a $45 million funding round.[31]

In July 2015, Kass was named a Director's Fellow at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[32][33] On July 29, 2015, Kass was appointed Senior Food Analyst at NBC News.[34]

In November 2015, Kass delivered a TED Talk in Manhattan, titled "Want kids to learn well? Feed them well". TED Talks Live writes that, in this talk, Kass "discusses the role schools can play in nourishing students' bodies in addition to their minds".[35]

In October 2015, the James Beard Foundation honored Kass with its 2015 Leadership Award "for his work toward nationwide food-policy initiatives that focus on sustainable and nutritious ingredients, and efforts to raise awareness of childhood obesity, hunger, and nutrition issues."[36]

In January 2016, Kass launched a food technology company, TROVE, an investment, strategy, and communications consultancy created to "work with corporations both big and small who are serious about transforming our health, climate and planet through food."[37] In February 2016, Woman's Day magazine named Kass one of its Red Dress Awards honorees, an annual award for outstanding achievement in encouraging health and fitness.[38]

In April 2016, California-based food technology company Innit, Inc. announced Kass had joined the team as its Chief Consumer Experience Officer.[39]

In May 2016, Kass became a partner in the newly launched venture capital fund Acre Venture Partners, a $125 million fund designed to inspire "collaborative disruption" with projects that focus on "transparency, health, and sustainability" in the global "food system".[citation needed] Campbell Soup is the sole limited partner in the fund, which is independent of the packaged-food company.[40]

In March 2017, the World Economic Forum (WEF) named Kass to its 2017 Class of Young Global Leaders, intended to recognize people under the age of 40 who the WEF considers to be "pushing boundaries and rethinking the world around them."[41]

Personal life[edit]

In September 2013, Kass became engaged to MSNBC television anchor Alex Wagner.[42][43]

After stepping down from his post at the White House, Kass moved to Brooklyn, New York.[44] On August 30, 2014, Kass and Wagner were married in a ceremony at the restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York. The President, First Lady, and their daughters attended the wedding.[45] In 2017, Wagner gave birth to their son, Cy.[46] She gave birth to their second child, Rafael, on April 16, 2019.


  1. ^ "White House Announces the Departure of Sam Kass". 2014-12-08. Retrieved 2017-06-07 – via National Archives.
  2. ^ Amy, Scattergood (29 July 2015). "White House chef becomes NBC senior food analyst". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  3. ^ Adeena Sussman, "5 Jewish Tastemakers To Watch", The Jewish Daily Forward, December 31, 2012.
  4. ^ The Tablet Magazine: "Executive Dish - Noshing at the White House, last month and through the years" by Joan Nathan June 24, 2010
  5. ^ Steinhauer, Jennifer (August 28, 2014). "Sam Kass, the Obamas' Foodmaster General". The New York Times. Retrieved September 1, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Rachel L. Swarns, "A White House Chef Who Wears Two Hats",, November 3, 2009.
  7. ^ "Lablife" (PDF). 2015. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  8. ^ a b c d Lynn Sweet,"Sam Kass, White House chef; exclusive interview" Archived 2014-09-06 at the Wayback Machine, Chicago Sun-Times, November 8, 2009.
  9. ^ Friends Seminary: "Valentine Hertz Kass ’64" Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine retrieved July 7, 2014
  10. ^ Massoni, Kelley Bringing Up "baby": The Birth and Early Development of "Seventeen" Magazine 2007
  11. ^ Chicago magazine: "Sam Kass, the Chicago-Born White House Chef, Is One of D.C.’s Most Beautiful People" by Carol Felsenthal July 31, 2013
  12. ^ Weisberg, Jacob (January 22, 2014). "The Talk of the Town: Alex Wagner and Sam Kass—Politics' It Couple". Vogue. Retrieved September 1, 2014.
  13. ^ NCAA: "Mr. Kass Goes to Washington" October 4, 2013
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h Chefs Articles Jobs Photos Videos ICC Rising Stars. "Chef Sam Kass of The White House - Biography". Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  15. ^ "Sam Kass - Menus of Change - The Culinary Institute of America". Menus of Change. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  16. ^ "White House chef Sam Kass revels in garden-to-table eating, shares recipes". 24 June 2013. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  17. ^ "Obamas Bring Their Chicago Chef to the White House",, January 28, 2009.
  18. ^ "Sam Kass, White House chef and policy advisor gets upgraded title" Archived 2014-04-15 at the Wayback Machine, Chicago Sun-Times: July 15, 2010.
  19. ^ Melanie Warner, "The War Over Michelle Obama's Sort-of Organic White House Garden",, June 17, 2011.
  20. ^ David Alexander, "White House garden lead scare a bit overblown",, July 3, 2009.
  21. ^ a b "#11: Sam Kass". 2011-05-18. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  22. ^ "Walmart to Open up to 300 Stores Serving USDA Food Deserts by 2016; More than 40,000 Associates Will Work in These Stores". 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  23. ^ New York Times: "Obama’s New Chef Skewers School Lunches" By TARA PARKER-POPE January 29, 2009
  24. ^ New York Times: "A White House Chef Who Wears Two Hats", November 3, 2009.
    "After Kass said the White House garden would not use pesticides, the Mid America CropLife Association, an agricultural chemical trade group, urged Michelle Obama to acknowledge the benefits of conventional agriculture to families who lack the time or means to tend backyard gardens ... Jeffrey Stier of the American Council on Science and Health. ... said the Obama message was unrealistic for ordinary families who can't afford organic or locally grown food."
  25. ^ "Correction": "The American Council on Science and Health, a consumer-education group that has criticized Mr. Kass for saying he would not use pesticides in the garden. The group is financed by various sources, including the food industry, foundations and private individuals; it is not solely financed by big food makers.",, November 11, 2009.
  26. ^ "US State Department Reveals the American Chef Corps" by Paula Forbes September 10, 2012
  27. ^ "Daum 카페". Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  28. ^ Daalder, Ivo (2014-07-14). "W.H. chef snubbed in food fight". Politico. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  29. ^ "White House Announces the Departure of Sam Kass". 2014-12-08. Retrieved 2017-06-07 – via National Archives.
  30. ^ a b "White House Announces the Departure of Sam Kass". December 8, 2014 – via National Archives.
  31. ^ "Sprig brings healthy meal delivery from Silicon Valley to Chicago". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  32. ^ "Sam Kass | MIT Director's Fellows". Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  33. ^ "Overview ‹ Sam Kass — MIT Media Lab". 2016-12-14. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  34. ^ Lo, Karen (July 29, 2015). "Former White House Chef, Nutrition Advisor Sam Kass Appointed NBC News Senior Food Analyst". The Daily Meal. Retrieved August 1, 2015.
  35. ^ "Sam Kass: Want kids to learn well? Feed them well". 5 January 2017. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  36. ^ "Honorees | James Beard Foundation". Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  37. ^ "WHAT WE DO â€" Trove". Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  38. ^ Carter, Maria (2016-01-26). "2016 Red Dress Award Honorees". Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  39. ^ "Former White House Chef and Senior Policy Advisor Sam Kass Has Joined Innit to Transform Cooking in the Home". Business Wire. 2016-04-03. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  40. ^ "Campbell Soup-Backed Fund Has Former Obama Advisor Sam Kass as Partner". Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  41. ^ "Young Global Leaders class of 2017". Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  42. ^ "Sam Kass and Alex Wagner are engaged". The Washington Post. 2013-09-27. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  43. ^ "Talk of the Town: Alex Wagner and Sam Kass – politics' "It" couple". Vogue. 2014-01-22. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  44. ^ "One Afternoon and Two Lunches With Former White House Chef Sam Kass". 2015-02-22. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  45. ^ "Obamas attend wedding of White House chef". 2014-08-30. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  46. ^ "Alex Wagner on Twitter". Twitter. August 5, 2018. Retrieved April 22, 2018.

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