White House chef Sam Kass faces unpaid time off due to budget cuts

Image: Assistant White House Chef Sam Kass Jason Reed / Reuters
White House Chef Sam Kass drops freshly harvested pumpkins into a wheelbarrow during the fall harvest of the White House Kitchen Garden in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 20, 2010. On Tuesday, Kass told reporters that he's being furloughed due to budget cuts.

WASHINGTON — Assistant White House chef Sam Kass, who cooks weekly for President Barack Obama and helps run a program to battle childhood obesity, said on Tuesday he will be furloughed because of federal budget cuts.

Kass mentioned the furlough while talking to reporters about Let's Move, a childhood obesity initiative of first lady Michelle Obama. The program will not be affected by automatic budget cuts that took effect on March 1 but he said, "We're being furloughed."

A White House spokesman who accompanied Kass to the briefing declined to comment and the White House provided no details. Kass said he continues to cook for the Obamas weekly despite his increasing duties with Let's Move.

Sam Kass will get you to eat your veggies

The White House has an executive chef and four assistant chefs. It was unclear whether other chefs would be affected by furloughs forced by budget cuts. Some federal workers face furloughs of one day a week through Sept. 30, but the impact varies among agencies. Some cut spending sufficiently to avoid any furloughs.

A Chicago chef, Kass joined the White House staff during Obama's first term and helped create the vegetable garden on the South Lawn that has provided more than 3,000 pounds of home-grown produce for White House meals. He is also an occasional golf partner of the president.

Last week, 45 elementary school students took part in spring planting of the garden.

(Reporting done by Charles Abbott; Editing by Ros Krasny and Cynthia Osterman)

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