JWM MAGAZINE 80 JWMARRIOTT.COM
Whether he’s in the White House, Silicon
Valley or a Malaysian rain forest, Sam Kass
always has healthy eating top of mind.
am Kass may be two jobs removed from
the White House, but he still exudes
the tactical charm of a Beltway insider.
Formerly the personal chef and nutrition
policy guru of President Obama and
the executive director of the First Lady’s
“Let’s Move!” initiative, Kass eventually left Washington,
becoming a senior food analyst at NBC News before
landing his current role as chief consumer experience
officer at Innit, a startup devoted to helping people make
better nutritional choices through technology. Yet despite
his connections to the local and organic food movements,
he says he feels the same temptations to eat poorly that
we all do—and when asked to pit two cities against one
another in a culinary battle, he found a bipartisan way
to gracefully praise both. Best of all, his secret to eating
well on the road has less to do with dieting and denial,
and more to do with joyfully experiencing the flavors the
world has to offer. That, and packing healthy snacks.
Much of your career has been
about cooking for better
nutrition. How do you maintain
healthy eating while traveling?
When I’m on the road, I try to bring
healthy snacks—fruit bars or nuts.
The hardest part is being in the airport,
because it’s so easy to reach for chips
or cookies. Once you go to a restaurant,
it’s easier to make good choices.
Do you have a favorite city in
terms of eating?
I have to say my hometown of Chicago.
But part of what’s amazing about
travel is tasting your way around the
world. I spent five years doing just
that throughout Italy, Vietnam, Peru,
Mexico and Thailand.
You live in Brooklyn. What’s
your favorite place to eat there?
Frankies Spuntino [an Italian
institution in the Carroll Gardens
What’s in your home
refrigerator right now?
I always have various hot sauces,
beer, wine, cheese and salami,
and vegetables from my garden.
Do you listen to music while
I think cooking to music is incredibly
important. If you have good vibes,
people can taste it in the food. I’m into
anything with positive energy, from
classic soul to hip hop.
What was President Obama’s
favorite dish of yours?
There wasn’t one in particular. I
cooked for him for a long time.
We tried to have a healthy, balanced
variety of meals, but we did have
some burgers every once in awhile.
Which city has better
food—Silicon Valley or
The politician in me knows to dodge
that question! Both have incredible
food. San Francisco has been on the
leading edge of defining great American
food for many years. But D.C. has had
an amazing culinary renaissance that
is exciting to see. As for me, I’m happy
eating in either one of those towns.
What is the relationship between
food and travel for you?
Travel has defined my understanding
of food. Everybody eats, everybody
cooks, so for me, there’s no better way
to understand another culture or place.
The combination of cooking, travel and
food has been the most fundamental
part of who I am. I’m always psyched to
get on the road and taste some things.
Sometimes, a great book is the
best companion for a long day
of travel. What’s the best thing
you’ve read lately?
I’m currently reading Sapiens by Yuval
Any favorite souvenirs?
My photographs. I traveled for five years
straight, cooking and traveling around
the world from Italy and Mexico to
Machu Picchu, the Amazon and the
rain forest in Malaysia, and the things I
treasure the most are my photographs
from those trips. p