Stefani Sakamoto ’19 represented Hawai‘i in Washington, D.C., as the statewide winner of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.” Here, Stefani reflects on the experience, from creating her recipes to attending the “Kids State Dinner” at the White House on Aug. 20, 2012.
By Stefani Sakamoto ’19
I am a foodie and love to eat all different kinds of foods. I learned basic cooking skills from my parents and grandmother and was inspired by meeting chefs such as Roy Yamaguchi (Roy’s Restaurants) and Ron de Guzman (Stage Restaurant). When I first heard about the “Lunchtime Healthy Challenge” recipe contest, I felt that I could create a simple healthy dish. Salmon is one of my favorite foods, so I decided on combining organic greens, fruits and salmon. Instead of using dressing, I decided to garnish the salad with fruit, such as strawberries, bananas, apples, lychee and oranges, to provide a mixture of flavor and color. For carbohydrates, I added brown rice and a sprinkle of furikake. Since there was a dairy requirement for the “My Plate” food groups, I included my favorite Strawberryana Smoothie recipe.
In early July, I received notice that I was one of three finalists from the state of Hawai‘i. Within the next few weeks, I was selected by the contest sponsors as the overall Hawaii winner. When I found out, I was really excited, especially since I would be going to the White House and have an opportunity to meet First Lady Michelle Obama. Before l left for Washington D.C., I shared my story with family, friends and teachers at Punahou.
The big day finally came and it was such an incredible experience at the White House. There were hundreds of reporters and news media covering the “Kids State Dinner” event, which was just like a State Dinner held for dignitaries. As each state winner entered the White House, his or her name was announced and there were cameras flashing all over the place. The First Lady warmly greeted each of us and we had an official photo taken with her. I was even interviewed by White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass about my recipes. The food tasted great and to my surprise, my Strawberryana Smoothie was served as a dessert item for all of the guests. During lunch, we had a special visit from President Obama, who said he “crashed the party” since he wasn’t invited. Since he is a Punahou alumnus, it was such a thrill to shake his hand, as well as being flashed the “shaka” sign. After lunch, we had a quick tour of the White House organic garden. There were so many varieties of vegetables and fruits to be seen. Overall, it was an amazing experience that I will remember for a lifetime.