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A Bromance for White House chef Sam Kass?



When White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass spoke at the 6th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference on June 28, he elicited the attention of several dozen young ladies in the audience. But one other conference attendee also had his eyes set on the popular Kass – California Endowment President and CEO Robert Ross.

OK, OK, so we kid. But Ross did tell an enthralled audience of 1,800 or so conference-goers gathered at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego the back story behind his happy friendship with the dashing White House chef.

Ross explained that a few years back, he ventured to Washington, D.C. to meet with White House officials to talk about childhood obesity. Although Ross thought he’d meet with top presidential aides – perhaps top White House adviser Melody Barnes, for example – he ended up getting a sit down with Kass, who had just begun work on First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign.

"You want me to go see the cook? All right, I got eight minutes," Ross jokingly recalled telling officials.

But Ross and Kass ended up taking the meeting, joking that the chef first stuck him as a young guy who says things like, "Hey, dude." But nonetheless, the two struck it off that day.

"We connected, Sam," Ross told Kass at the conference.

"I don’t know if it was a man crush," Ross added, drawing laughter from the crowd. "This guy was not just a cook. He had a vision and a passion, and I was floored by his knowledge of public policy issues."

For his part, Kass explained that passion to the conference attendees. He recalled that when he first began work on Let’s Move!, he wasn’t sure if it would work. That was especially true the day that the White House garden was launched, complete with scores of kids surrounded by 50 or so anxious reporters.

Kass pointed out that if just one kid mentioned to just one reporter that they thought broccoli was gross, the whole initiative could have been dead on the spot. Fortunately, all the children loved the veggies, especially one little girl who ended up hoarding cauliflower.

"She was just sitting there, just stuffing her face with cauliflower," Kass recalled, laughing. "It was the first time I’ve ever had to tell a kid to put the vegetable back."

As we mentioned earlier, Kass proved to be quite the popular keynote speaker at the conference (and not just with his friend Ross). After his speech wrapped up, dozens of attendees swarmed the chef asking to take a photo with him. A polite Kass kindly obliged.

Other fun tidbits from the conference: Along with breakout sessions on everything from food marketing to physical activity to nutrition and building partnerships, the conference offered attendees a chance to get fit. Daily exercise and yoga classes, walks and runs were included in the schedule for all three days of the conference. Attendees also were prompted to get up and move around a bit during several conference sessions, and a sign near a set of escalators urged folks to take the stairs instead (thereby burning a few extra calories)... For live updates from the last hours of the conference, be sure to follow @Prevent_Obesity on Twitter. cofounder Marty Kearns is slated to give a keynote speech on Thursday afternoon on social media.