She’s kept a low profile since leaving the White House, but former first lady Michelle Obama was back in the spotlight Thursday night, making an appearance on Fox’s “MasterChef Junior.” And yes, vegetables were involved.
Obama was a special guest on the mystery challenge portion of the child cooking reality television competition. The episode was taped prior to inauguration when her husband, President Barack Obama, was still in office.
As the episode began, a man dressed in a suit, sunglasses and American flag pin brought host and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, an official-looking red phone. Ramsay placed a call, asking to speak to “the boss of the house … no, not him, I need the real boss of the house.”
The suit-clad man whispered something into his sleeve, and a screen came down from the ceiling, complete with fog special effects.
Then, she appeared on the screen.
“I’m Michelle Obama, and tonight, I am thrilled to deliver your next mystery box challenge. Please head back to your stations,” the then-first lady said.
The final 14 young cooks in the competition, aged 8 to 13, gasped and shrieked with surprise, racing to their kitchen stations.
“I’m like, about to die. R.I.P. me, oh my God. I mean, Michelle Obama is a wonder woman and I look up to her so much. She is my idol,” contestant Jasmine, 11, said.
Contestants lifted the lids of their weekly mystery boxes to reveal ingredients inspired by the White House kitchen garden.
“For your mystery box challenge, I’m asking all of you to come up with an original recipe that’s healthy and follows the ‘my plate’ symbol, filing half your plate with fruits and veggies, and the rest with whole grains, lean protein and dairy,” Obama instructed.
The challenge wasn’t met with enthusiasm by all the young chefs.
“Michelle Obama wants me to cook vegetables. Not happening. I don’t like vegetables, they’re evil,” said Donovan, 9 (Donovan was eliminated later in the episode).
But there was an incentive to a well-cooked vegetable: The winner of the mystery box challenge, Obama said, would win a trip to the White House to attend the annual kids’ state dinner.
Then, the heat was on: The contestants had one hour to get cooking, slicing, dicing and creatively using the ingredients in dishes like a lemon branzino, parmesan quinoa and strawberry kale salad.
After a thorough look and tasting by the judges, the verdict was in. Only one contestant was White House-bound; 11-year-old Justise’s pan-seared shrimp with sautéed bell peppers, carrots, eggplant and quinoa won the mystery box challenge.
Justise attended Obama’s final Kids’ State Dinner in July 2016, per Fox spokeswoman Annie Geffroy.
“I am sad that this is my last Kids’ State Dinner, but it’s not the last of the work that we’re going to do on this issue, right?” Obama said at the time.
Obama frequently used television and social media to promote her “Let’s Move” initiative to encourage exercise and healthy eating for children. She appeared on PBS’ “Sesame Street,” Funny or Die’s “Billy on the Street,” and showcased her best mom dancing on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”
And she went viral with a 2014 vine, saying, “Turnip? For what?” a play on the DJ Snake and Lil Jon song, “Turn Down for What.”
Obama’s healthy food legacy continues at the White House: First lady Melania Trump has promised to carry her garden torch.
“As a mother and as the first lady of this country, Mrs. Trump is committed to the preservation and continuation of the White House Gardens, specifically the first lady’s Kitchen Garden and the Rose Garden,” Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, senior adviser to the first lady, said in a statement to CNN last month.
However, the fate of one of Obama’s signature achievements may be in question: A key lobbying group, the School Nutrition Association, released recommendations earlier this month to scale back federal nutrition standards she championed and were set under the Obama administration.
The association’s recommendations would roll back key provisions of the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act,” legislation spearheaded by Obama, and her “Let’s Move!” campaign.