Michelle Obama’s pastry chef is quitting to become an advocate for healthy food

Chef Bill Yosses credits the first lady with turning him into a health nut

Topics: White House, healthy food, Michelle Obama, healthy eating, ,

Well, it looks like Michelle Obama officially killed dessert.

The New York Times is reporting that Bill Yosses, the White House’s executive pastry chef, is leaving in June for New York — partly to be with his husband, and partly to put together “a group and foundation of like-minded creative people” for promoting healthy food in schools. Here’s more from the Times on Yosses’ evolution from butter and cream to berries and whole grains:

Hired by Laura Bush in 2007, when he was already acclaimed in New York for the raspberry and pear souffles he created at restaurants like Montrachet and Bouley, Mr. Yosses began moving beyond the traditional sugar sculptures and cookie plates after Mrs. Obama arrived at the White House. He was directed to make more healthful desserts, and in smaller portions, that were to be served only sparingly to the first family.

Mr. Yosses began experimenting with alternatives to what he called “the usual blitzkrieg” of butter and cream. Now, he said, “we replace butter with fruit purée, which gives some body.” He often uses honey and agave in place of sugar, has added whole grains to desserts and is considering heirloom varieties of whole wheat without the bitterness of wheat bran and germ in modern whole-wheat flour.

Mr. Yosses has also been inspired by the White House garden, where he has chosen from a cornucopia of strawberries, blueberries, rhubarb, figs, papaya, carrots, sweet potatoes and herbs like lemon thyme flowers, lavender and pineapple sage. Nearby is honey from the White House beehives. The result — oatmeal bars, baked apples and pear-quince cobblers, among many others — will have a lasting impact on his eating habits, as will Mrs. Obama.

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“I don’t want to demonize cream, butter, sugar and eggs,” Yosses said. But he’s been known to substitute his breakfast doughnut for an apple-kale-spinach-ginger smoothie. And his new venture, while vague, will focus on the place where delicious food meets healthy food. “Food knowledge should be part of a complete curriculum,” he said. “We used to learn about food as a part of everyday growing up, but I think we’ve lost that. I think it has a place in schools.”

Lindsay Abrams
Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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