Obama Crashes First-Ever Kids' State Dinner

(Image Credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP Images)

President Obama made a surprise appearance at the first-ever kids' "State Dinner" hosted by the first lady at the White House today, celebrating the young winners of a national healthy recipe contest who proved food can be "healthy and tasty at the same time."

"Usually, I get invited to the state dinners. So this time I just had to crash," the president said as he entered the ornate East Room to squeals of excitement from the young guests. "I had to crash the party because I did not want to miss out on all the fun."

The children, ages 8 to 12, were all winners of the "healthy lunchtime challenge," a nationwide competition that asked kids and their parents to submit recipes for lunchtime meals that were "healthy, affordable and tasty." Today's "State Dinner" luncheon featured a selection of the winning recipes, including "Yummy Cabbage Sloppy Joes" and "Quinoa, Black Bean and Corn Salad."

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"I could not be prouder of you, the young people, because, you know, it's hard enough to follow a recipe and make something good to eat," the president said. "I'm not a great cook. I'm an OK cook. I can make a good omelet and toast. … Let's face it, I don't cook that often these days, but I remember cooking, and it's not always easy to make something that people like to eat."

"Then for you guys to actually come up with recipes that are healthy and tasty, and to do it in a way that helps to contribute to spreading the word about healthy eating among your peers, that's a really big deal."

The White House spared none of the pomp and circumstance of a State Dinner. The children, dressed to the nines, were announced as they entered the White House and interviewed by eager reporters.

White House chef Sam Kass MC'd the arrivals and spoke with guests about their recipes as they entered the East Room.

"Is this not cool?" Michelle Obama said as she welcomed the 54 contest winners and their guardians to the White House. "This is just so very cool. And understand, it's not just cool for all of you. I mean, this house has been abuzz with this event. I think this is one of the best events that we've ever had here, our very first-ever Kids State Dinner, so, so awesome."

The first lady sat with the children as they ate their healthy lunches off the red Reagan state china, sitting at round tables with large bouquets of bright red tomatoes and green apples.

The White House chefs and a team of judges critiqued more than 1,200 entries to pick the winning recipes from each state and territory and recreated the winning recipes for today's lunch.

"You're here because your recipes truly stood out, right? And that's really saying something," the first lady said. "You came up with dishes that were packed with nutritious, delicious ingredients, dishes that are good for you, but more importantly, they taste good too. See? It can happen, healthy and tasty at the same time."

Lunch was just the beginning of a fun day at the White House for the winners, who were also treated to a concert by Big Time Rush and given a tour of the kitchen garden.