As President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama sit down to their inaugural luncheon, behind the scenes 15 chefs will make sure each entrée is perfectly presented. The White House has a long history of raising the status of chefs who cook for the president. The opportunity is a feather in any chef’s toque. But just as the road to the presidency is rocky, so too can be the road to cooking for the president. Such is the story of Chef Stuart O'Keeffe.
Earlier this year, I met with Chef O’Keeffe in Colorado just as he was planning and testing the menu for a campaign fundraising dinner for President Obama in California. The presidential dinner in June 2012 was hosted by Ryan Murphy, creator of hit TV series Glee and Nip/Tuck. Little did I know what was to follow.
O’Keeffe, who is the chef on the OWN Oprah network show Home Made Simple, is no stranger to celebrities. He was a chef on the TV show Private Chef's of Beverly Hills, and has cooked for Sharon Stone, Owen Wilson, Hilary Swank, Jessica Lange, Dermot Mulroney, and Joan and Jackie Collins. But O’Keeffe said having the opportunity to cook for the president was an honor above all, but one that he almost missed.
After our interview, he broke his wrist after being hit by a car while riding his motorcycle. Even with his arm up to his elbow in a cast, he didn't give in. Luckily he was able to rely on the help of six other chefs as he directed the kitchen's inner workings with his arm in a stiff cast. It was an opportunity he didn’t want to miss not only because of the honor, but also his unique connection to the president. O’Keeffe’s spent summers in Moneygall, his mother’s hometown, and the same Irish hometown as President Obama’s maternal great-great-great grandfather.
Since the dinner, O'Keeffe has shed the cast and but not the memory of cooking for the president. You can see more of O'Keeffee on the OWN Network's Home Made Simple series and on facebook. Get Chef O'Keeffe's recipes here.
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