Former President of the United States Barack Obama is celebrating his 60th birthday at Martha’s Vineyard this weekend where plant-based foods will be the star of the show. According to a menu leaked to Bloomberg by parties close to the celebration, the former POTUS will offer guests at least one fully plant-based menu featuring top innovators in the world of alternatives to animal products. The menu will feature Spam Musubi made with a combination of plant-based beef and pork from Impossible Foods and JUST Egg—a mung bean-based vegan egg made by California-based startup Eat Just.
While it is not clear if the celebration will feature multiple menus, the plant-based menu was curated by Grammy-winning musical artist Questlove, drummer of The Roots. The menu also features Questlove’s Cheesesteak Eggrolls made with Impossible Foods’ plant-based beef and a never-before-seen cheese sauce crafted by Perfect Day, a food-technology startup that creates animal-free, dairy-identical whey proteins.
Photo credit: Thomas Miller
The Obamas’ plant-based legacy
During his two terms in office, Barack Obama stood behind Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States, in her efforts to promote healthier eating habits to children through her Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (which requires schools to serve more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, providing access to healthier foods for low income students). The former FLOTUS also founded nonprofit Partnership for a Healthier America. In 2020, the organization’s annual summit featured Ethan Brown—founder and CEO of vegan company Beyond Meat—as the keynote speaker. Michelle Obama also created and hosted children’s Netflix show Waffles + Mochi, in which she explores many plant-forward topics.
Shortly after leaving office, Barack Obama delivered a keynote speech at the Seed & Chips Global Food Innovation Summit in Italy. There, the former POTUS spoke about the negative impact of animal agriculture on the environment and the need to move toward more sustainable protein sources. “As people want to increase more meat consumption, that in turn is spiking the growth of greenhouse emissions coming out of the agricultural sectors,” he said, adding, “We’re also going to have to find ways to produce protein in a more efficient way.”
Questlove loves plants
Questlove’s menu for Barack Obama’s 60th birthday celebration is heavily influenced by his growing involvement in the plant-based industry in recent years. In 2019, Questlove and a group of other celebrity investors—including tennis legend Serena Williams, music mogul Jay-Z, and comedian Trevor Noah—helped Impossible Foods close a $300 million funding round. Soon thereafter, Questlove created the Questlove Cheesesteak—a meatless sandwich that features Impossible Foods’ plant-based meat. The sandwich was first tested at the Roots Picnic (an annual festival created and hosted by The Roots) and eventually featured on the menu at 40 Live Nation-organized events, including at Phillies games at Citizen Bank Park in Questlove’s hometown of Philadelphia.
Last month, Questlove—along with vegan race car champion Lewis Hamilton and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey—helped another plant-based company raise a substantial amount of capital. The group participated in a $235 million funding round for The Not Company (NotCo), a Chilean food technology startup that uses artificial intelligence to create plant-based replicas of animal foods such as mayonnaise, burgers, ice cream, milk, and more. NotCo recently entered US retail with NotMilk made from a unique combination of pineapple, cabbage, peas, bamboo, beets, and chickpeas. The company aims to use the new capital to expand its plant-based products throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.
Questlove has been promoting plant-based eating as far back as 2012, when he embarked on what he called “the great vegan experiment” in an effort to “be the first member of the hip-hop generation to live past 60.” Now 50, Questlove is helping others thrive at age 60 and beyond, including Obama.