Samuel David "Sam" Kass (born 1980) worked at the White House from January 20, 2009 to December 19, 2014, and during this period served as President Barack Obama's Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy, as Executive Director for First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign, and as an Assistant Chef. The White House announced his departure on December 8, 2014.[2] On July 29, 2015, NBC News announced the appointment of Sam Kass as a senior food analyst, charged with covering topics such as healthful eating, food trends and policy on all platforms of NBC News.[3]

Early life and education

Kass grew up in a Jewish family[4][5] in Hyde Park, a neighborhood of Chicago.[6][7] His father, Robert,[8] is a schoolteacher at the private, co-ed University of Chicago Laboratory Schools ("Lab Schools") who taught President Obama's daughter Malia Obama in the 5th grade.[9] His 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][10] His maternal great-grandmother, Helen Valentine, founded Seventeen magazine.[11]

Kass attended high school at the Lab Schools,[2] where he was on the varsity baseball team, and graduated in 1998.[8] He played baseball as a center fielder[13] on a scholarship at Kansas City Kansas Community College and later transferred to Triton College.[8] He graduated with an A.B. in history in 2004 from the University of Chicago[7] 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.[2]

In 2003 and 2004, Kass went to Austria to study cooking under Christian Domschitz.[2][2]

During his junior year of college Kass worked at the restaurant 312 Chicago under chef Dean Zanella and in his senior year, spent abroad, he trained under chef Christian Domschitz in Vienna, Austria.[17] He continued his training while traveling around the world including New Zealand, Italy and Mexico, before returning to Chicago in 2006[17] to work at the restaurant Avec[7] under Executive Chef Paul Kahan.[17]


In 2007 in Chicago, Kass opened his own personal chef company, "Inevitable Table," which focused on healthful and nutritious food.[17] He then became the personal chef to the Obamas while Barack Obama was the Junior Senator from Illinois.[2]

In January of 2009, Kass went to work at the White House as First Lady Michelle Obama's Food Initiative Coordinator, and joined the kitchen staff as an Assistant Chef under Executive Chef Cris Comerford.[17] In 2010, Kass was promoted to Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives.[2] In 2013, Kass was named Let's Move! Executive Director and promoted to Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy.[17] In these roles, Kass was the chief architect of the Let's Move! campaign and assisted Michelle Obama in creating the first major vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory garden[17] The garden does not use herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizer.[7][2][3] He also assists in her effort to promote healthy eating and the prevention of childhood obesity.[17] The Let's Move! campaign utilizes private-sector partnerships to pursue the goal of reducing childhood obesity to just 5% by 2030[3]and Kass was named #11 on Fast Company magazine's 2011 list of 100 Most Creative People for his work with Let's Move![23] in particular for a five-year partnership pledge from grocery giant Walmart.[3] The company announced a commitment to build up to 300 stores in areas defined as "food deserts,"[3] lower the price of its fruits and vegetables, and reduce the sugar, salt, and fat in its private-label products on its shelves.[23]

Kass is a promoter of sustainable farming and locally grown and organic foods[7] and is a critic of modern agricultural producers and fertilizer and pesticide companies.[7] He has also railed against the national lunch program as "disproportionately high in fat, preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup."[7][3] 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.[3][3]

In 2012, Kass was named to the inaugural class of chefs in the American Chef Corps, a project created by the US Department of State in conjunction with the James Beard Foundation to promote global diplomacy through culinary initiatives.[3] Kass made his first solo trip abroad for the program in July of 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.[3] 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. [4]

Kass's last official day at the White House was Friday, December 19, 2014.

On July 29, 2015, he was named Sr. Food Analyst at NBC News.[4]

Personal life

In September of 2013, Kass became engaged to MSNBC television anchor Alex Wagner.[4][4] 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 the First Daughters attended the wedding. [4]

After stepping down from his post at the White House, Kass moved to Brooklyn, New York to live with Wagner.[4]