Friday, February 10, 2012 , Updated 12:06 p.m., February 10, 2012
UPDATED: First Lady Michelle Obama and Top Chefs put on cooking show in Dallas
Star-studded cooking crew included Top Chef host Tom Colicchio.
DALLAS First Lady Michelle Obama got a big boost of Top Chef starpower when she was joined by Top Chef host Tom Colicchio and six contestants at a rec center in Dallas -- part of her three-day tour to bring attention to childhood obesity and celebrate the second anniversary of her Let's Move campaign.
Emceed in part by White House chef Sam Kass, the healthy cooking competition featured Top Chefs Richard Blais, Fabio Viviani, Jenn Carroll, Spike Mendelsohn, Grayson Schmitz, and Paul Qui, while students from Nancy Moseley Elementary School in Dallas watched and cheered from bleachers. In the end, no winner was picked: When kids eat healthy food, "everybody's a winner," Obama said.
The event took place on the basketball court at the Kleberg-Rylie Recreation Center, which had been turned into the set of the Bravo show Life After Top Chef, complete with temporary lamps hanging from the rafters for better light.
Six students scored the high-profile assignment of running ingredients back and forth to the cooking stations where the Top Chefs were tasked with creating a healthy meal in 30 minutes. The chefs were paired up and placed on the red, white, or blue team. Season 9 contestants Grayson and Paul were paired together and dubbed by Colicchio the "Texas team." The blue team was Fabio and Richard, and White was Jenn and Spike.
To help cheer on the chefs as "hype men" were Dallas Cowboys players Felix Jones, DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin, DeMarco Murray, and their smiley mascot Rowdy -- who did quite the song and dance while about 100 5th and 6th graders waited patiently for the first lady to appear.
"You see kids, this is how TV is made -- it's called hurry up and wait," Colicchio said, chuckling, as he and Rowdy ad-libbed for several minutes.
The first lady arrived at 9:35 a.m., and then it began: The chefs stirred steaming pots while their young helpers ran and grabbed fresh ingredients. The red team's strategy was to have Grayson work with 6th graders Anna and Elizabeth while Paul stirred, emulsified, and tasted quietly to the side.
Just like on television, the judges occasionally reminded contestants how much time was left on the clock, which ticked away on the rec center's light-up scoreboard. The chefs toiled away to make sure their meals contained dairy, protein, whole grains, and fruit.
Time's up. The red team made whole wheat turkey tacos with alfalfa sprouts and quinoa, served with homemade cantaloupe juice; the blue team made turkey tenderloin; and the white team made pork chops with applesauce. Obama dabbed her lips daintily after trying several dishes, making positive comments about the nutritional value or recounting how tasty healthy food can be.
After picking "everybody" as the winner, Obama said that Dallas ISD schools have done an especially good job of serving nutritional food. "You are really leading the way for schools," she said.
UPDATE: Contestants Paul and Grayson garnered the most interest because they are both contestants on the current season of Top Chef Texas. Grayson has been voted off but Paul is in the top four finalists competing for the Top Chef title, which will be announced February 29 at the end of a three-week finale filmed in Whistler and Vancouver in Canada.
Both chefs said their life after Top Chef isn't all that glitzy: It's back to work. "I love Top Chef and I love the TV thing, but for me, I like being in the kitchen," said Paul. He didn't give any hints about the Top Chef finale.
Here are more photos from the event:
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