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By Jack Copeland
University of Chicago, class of 2004
Sam Kass wanted to be a professional baseball player, so he traveled several hundred miles from home, accepting a scholarship to pursue his dream at a Kansas City-area community college.
But Kass soon returned to the neighborhood he grew up in and enrolled at the University of Chicago, where he earlier had attended the university’s laboratory high school. As a Maroon, the right-fielder’s love for the sport translated into a career .366 batting average, ranking among the best in program history.
However, while following his passion, Kass discovered his potential in another pursuit – as a chef. In addition to playing a sport and studying history, Kass found time to try cooking at a popular Chicago eatery, then traveled abroad during his senior year to train with a renowned Viennese chef and ultimately to work in restaurants around the world.
The next time Kass came home, he soon earned fame as one of Chicago’s rising chefs and an advocate for use of locally grown ingredients. From there, his cooking for Barack Obama and family during the 2008 presidential campaign led to a job in the White House.
Today, he works both as a chef in the executive mansion and as executive director of the “Let’s Move!” initiative to promote healthy eating for children.
Nominated by Rosalie Resch, University of Chicago associate director of athletics – compliance/finance/business.