"I like to make desserts, cheesecakes, apple pies, Linzer tortes, banana cake, cookies," he said.
Health care reform is only one aspect of his job. Emanuel is also putting his background as a bioethicist to use.
"We're going to have to make some priority decisions about the flu, if in fact, it comes back in the fall, that involve fundamental ethical choices and global health aid," he said, as a copy of the president's initiative on scientific integrity throughout the executive branch sat on his desk.
"The needs are just so enormous that we can't satisfy all of them, so there're fundamental questions about what should get priority in terms of funding."
Emanuel is also working on how to implement any health care legislation that is passed by Congress.
The Obama administration is pushing Congress to enact sweeping health legislation this year, arguing that providing health coverage for 50 million uninsured Americans is the key to economic recovery.
"Just passing a bill, while it will be a world historical event, is only the first part of actually making this thing work," Emanuel said. "Making sure everyone really does get affordable, high quality health care that is sustainable over time is the really big challenge."
But even with its complexities, Emanuel said, the opportunity to be at the center of the Obama administration's health care push is irresistible.
"The chance to make a difference is, I think, what drives us," he said, "and the opportunity to have health care reform enacted and be a part of that process, since it's an area I've worked on for a long time, is pretty powerful."