White House Chef: Michelle's 1700-Sq.-Ft. 'Kitchen Garden' Was 'Inspiration' for State Dinner Menu

By Elizabeth Harrington | March 14, 2012 | 6:53 PM EDT

First Lady Michelle Obama working in the garden at the White House. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford touted First Lady Michelle Obama’s “1,700 square foot” vegetable garden as the “inspiration” behind the menu for tonight’s State Dinner with British Prime Minister David Cameron, at a preview of the event at the White House on Wednesday.

Comerford also said the garden, which has long been a promotion for Mrs. Obama’s healthy eating campaign, is incorporated into the daily meals for the First Family.

“Our menu takes its inspiration from our kitchen garden -- one of Mrs. Obama’s great projects that she’s done in the house is that wonderful garden that we have in the South Lawn,” said Comerford when detailing the menu, which will feature braised baby kale and a salad from the garden.

“It was about 900-square feet to begin with, now it’s a spot about 1,700-square feet and we’ve grown so much vegetables through there and it’s pretty much the vast of what we’re serving dinner tonight takes its inspiration from what’s going on there,” she said.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average home size in the United States was 2,700 square feet in 2009, up from 1,400 square feet in 1970.

“And even though it’s winter time in Washington, D.C., although it’s been 70 degrees outside, we have been growing our own vegetables -- the salad will be taken from the garden,” Comerford added. “We have kale that will be served in the first course that’s also taken from the garden.”

White House Chef Cris Comerford speaks about the Mar. 14 State Dinner. (CNSNews.com)

Comerford appeared at an event with Mrs. Obama and National Security Staff Chief of Staff Brooke Anderson, who discussed the makings of a State Dinner to a group of female students from two local high schools and the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in the United Kingdom.

The Obamas will host the British prime minister and his wife Samantha Cameron along with hundreds of guests for their sixth official State Dinner. The theme of the dinner is “America’s Backyard” and it will take place in a tent on the South Lawn. British rock band Mumford and Sons and recording artist John Legend will provide entertainment.

Comerford’s menu will feature Alaskan Halibut on a bed of braised baby kale from the White House garden, with applewood-smoked bacon for the first course.

A smaple image of Bison Wellington. (AP Photo)

Comerford said the kale was “just picked yesterday.” “We had our chefs out there that were digging the ground, pretty much working diligently in the garden to make sure that what we have tonight will be fresh in this, it just came from the ground, it just came from the backyard, which is kind of cool,” she said.

The salad course will feature lettuces, shaved radish, cucumbers and avocados, also from the Kitchen garden, according to the State Dinner program.

The main course is Bison Wellington, “very traditional British fare,” said Comerford, the Bison coming from North Dakota. For dessert, steamed lemon pudding will be served, and at Wednesday’s preview the schoolgirls were almost the first to try it.

“To top it off we’re going to let you try some of the dessert that we’re going to have,” said Mrs. Obama in her opening remarks. “And you’ll be the first, after me. I think me and grandma and a couple people we’ve tasted the desserts, but you guys will be the first to taste the desserts tonight.”

Table-place setting for President Barack Obama at the Mar. 14 State Dinner. (AP Photo)

Shortly after moving in to the White House, the First Lady ordered an organic vegetable garden built on the South Lawn, to promote healthy eating habits. In March 2009 Mrs. Obama said the garden’s most important role would be to educate children about healthy fruits and vegetables.

“My hope is tha,t through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities,” Obama told the New York Times. Mrs. Obama then started her “Let’s Move!” initiative to fight childhood obesity and change the eating habits of children.

During the event a student asked Comerford what the hardest meal to cook for the Obama’s is. “Pretty much really nothing,” she said, “because they are good lovers of food.”

“They love a whole lot of things, a lot of varieties that we’re able to cook for them and the good thing of having a kitchen garden out there is that the real challenge is making sure that whatever grows out there is also incorporated on the menu,” Comerford said.

“So I have to be versatile enough and really very cognizant of what’s growing and what’s seasonal, so that way it can be incorporated to their menu,” she said.