Archived Story

Aspiring chef visits White House

Published 11:23am Thursday, September 27, 2012


Avery McNew wants to be a chef when the Eagle Lake third-grader grows up, so a highlight of her Aug. 20 trip to the White House was meeting Sam Kass.

Avery McNew

Kass, a Chicago native, is assistant chef and senior policy adviser for health-food initiatives.

Not bad for a recipe for apple oat balls “tweaked” from a horse treat.

Kass and Avery led the group trooping out to tour the South Lawn vegetable garden, drawing envious looks from tourists outside the gate.

“We got to hug Michelle Obama,” the 8-year-old informed the Edwardsburg school board Sept. 24, adding that her husband, President Barack Obama, surprised them with an unscheduled appearance.

“It was very, very amazing and cool,” Avery said. “He looks taller” in person than on TV. His wife is also very tall, she said.

School board president Birdella Holdread presented a certificate to Avery for winning the “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge” for children ages 8 to 12 for Michigan to be one of 54 children attending the first “Kids State Dinner” hosted by the first lady. More than 1,200 entered.

Avery’s recipe is published in a cookbook.

She and her mother, Carrie Sponsky, avid horse fans, got the idea at a horse show and asking a rider what horses like for snacks.

“She said they love oats and apples and stuff. We came home, made these treats, rolled them into a ball and fed them to the horses. Halfway through making them, the girls started eating them, so, after that, we tweaked the recipe for humans. We’ve had a crazy, fun summer.”

Avery, after clearing five security checkpoints, compared experiences with Holdread, who visited the White House with Supt. Sherman Ostrander in 1992.

“The longer you look at the bushes, the more guys you’ll see,” the board president said.

“The Secret Service was everywhere,” Sponsky agreed, to which her daughter added, “Shepherds in a cage sniffed us.”

“I enjoy cooking,” said Sponsky, of Niles, “and I get daily emails from, a cooking website, which sponsored this along with the first lady’s office. I said, ‘Hey, Avery, should we enter to win a trip to the White House?’ And she said, ‘Yes!’

“Honestly, I think it stood out because it’s easy to make for school lunches,” Sponsky said. “We’re vegetarians.”


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