DuJour Navigation

A Former White House Chef Spills The Beans

Sam Kass will share his passion for healthy, nutritious foods in an upcoming TED Talk

The performances at New York’s legendary Town Hall are about to get a bit more interactive. Starting November 1, global ideas conference behemoth TED will host its first open-to-the-public New York City series at the venue, bringing in world-class speakers to address the topics of The Education Revolution, War and Peace and Science and Wonder. Participants will include Rufus Wainwright, Sebastian Junger, Adam Driver and Sam Kass, the former White House chef turned NBC food analyst and MIT fellow. Here, Kass explains what’s on the menu for his very first TED Talk.  

You’re going to be participating in the first-ever Ted Talks Live series. What are you going to be discussing?

The issue I’m talking about is food and education. It’s something that I have been working on for years and I care deeply about it. Good nutrition, is the foundation of every aspect of our lives, and is a powerful force for progress. A lot can’t happen if people don’t have the nourishment that they need, and a lot of the issues we’re trying to solve—a lot of the progress we’re trying to make—simply isn’t possible if the fundamental necessity of basic, good nutrition is lacking. 

What made this platform appealing for you to address the subject? 

That’s obvious: TED is a platform in its own league and is a place where some of the biggest ideas come to be shared and discussed and debated. It’s a great honor and privilege to be a part of it. 

You’ve got about 10 minutes to make your point during the talk. How are you preparing for that? 

It’s way harder to do this in a little amount of time because you’ve got only a few minutes to set up your context, tell a story that connects with people and make what is a TED-level point, which is a very high bar. So, I’ve been thinking it through, doing some work on it, but I need to buckle down. I feel pretty good about where things are, but I’ve always got to refine and practice. TED has its very own style, which is different. I’ve been in the federal government for almost seven years, so speaking as a federal official is a very different style than a TED Talk. 

Do you have a personal favorite TED Talk that you looked to for inspiration?

I love Dan Barber’s TED Talk, but there are so many I can’t even begin to say there’s only one. 

If you had to pitch your idea in one thought, what would you say?

My core argument is that there are very few things that have as profound of an impact on education outcomes at a place we can afford than improving the nutrition that all kids are getting in this country. 

What kinds of food are you craving these days?

Well, I’m on my way to eat some dumplings right now. I can’t get enough.