Young V.I. chef creates dish fit for the president (and kids)

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Sakari Clendinen knew she was going to have lunch with first lady Michelle Obama at the White House on Tuesday, but the 8-year-old chef did not realize her own recipe would be on the menu.

Sakari, a fourth-grader at Ulla Muller Elementary School, drank one of her tasty passion fruit-banana smoothies alongside the first lady and 53 other students, whose healthy recipes had been recognized by both the first lady and Epicurious, an online food and cookery publication.

However, only nine of the students had their recipes duplicated by White House chefs and served on quality china and linens between vases of grand floral, vegetable centerpieces.

"The experience was unbelievable," said Kathleen Taylor, Sakari's grandmother.

Sakari was one of 54 students from the nation's 50 states, three territories and Washington, D.C., whose recipes won them a trip to the nation's capital, where they attended the lunch and took a number of tours of the nation's Capitol.

She submitted her recipe about three months ago to the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a White House and Epicurious effort to encourage children to maintain better diets. Students were asked to submit health-conscious recipes to vie for the trip, which included the flight, lodging, tours and the lunch.

More than 1,300 recipes were submitted.

"We loved how Sakari included local fresh fruits into the winning smoothie recipe - it really spoke to the flavor of the Virgin Islands," Tanya Steel, Epicurious editor-in-chief, said in an email Friday.

Sakari submitted two recipes, one being the popular passion fruit-banana smoothie, which also had greek yogurt, honey and ice. Her other recipe was whole wheat zucchini pancakes with a dollop of a cream cheese and yogurt topping. Only the smoothie was served at the lunch.

Taylor said she and her granddaughter were in awe of the celebratory lunch, at which President Obama made an appearance. The children received giant balloon animals, pictures with the first lady and all sorts of goodies.

Sakari and Taylor returned home Wednesday after the meal of a lifetime.

- Contact reporter Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email

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