Michelle Obama on her Netflix children's series Waffles + Mochi and the food that brings her comfort
As if Michelle Obama didn't already have enough on her plate, the former first lady and best-selling author is adding children's television star to her bounty with her new Netflix series, Waffles + Mochi (premiering Tuesday). In what she calls a "natural extension" of her work in the White House and her Let's Move! initiative, Obama, 57, immerses families in joyful culinary adventures as they follow the titular duo traversing the world in their MagiCart 3000.
Here, she tells EW about the food that makes up the story of her life and what far-flung escapade she would embark on if she had her own magic flying cart. Watch the video above, and read on for more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Waffles and Mochi are lovable taffy-colored characters who meet famous chefs like José Andrés and Samin Nosrat and stars such as Rashida Jones and Common to learn about local ingredients and dishes before returning home to their supermarket. What meal says "home" to you?
MICHELLE OBAMA: When I'm looking for a little comfort, I can't go wrong with a plate of fried chicken and red rice. One bite and I am instantly transported back to my mother's cooking and our kitchen table on the South Side of Chicago. Finish it off with some red velvet cake, and I'm in heaven.
As first lady, children and improving food IQ were always paramount for you, and now you're continuing that work with this series, as well as a campaign from Partnership for a Healthier America called Pass the Love w/ Waffles + Mochi.
If you want to help kids build good habits, you can't lecture them about eating healthy or harp on them about eating their veggies. You have to meet kids where they are — don't expect them to come to you. That means giving them something to have fun with, something full of jokes, wonder, and characters to interact with. That's where Waffles and Mochi come in.
When your daughters, Malia and Sasha, were little, what were the biggest mealtime challenges you overcame as a parent?
I still remember stretches where it felt like I was cooking chicken and broccoli just about every night. I knew the girls liked it, and it was easy for me to cook, so it became my go-to. Often the tough part isn't just trying to get our kids to eat something; it's trying to find the time to plan out our family's meals for the week, get to the grocery store, and get it cooked before bedtime. These are universal challenges most parents face, and I hope this show will help spur some new ideas for parents.
We learn about roots in the show, from literal roots to familial ones. What was one of the most significant sources of nourishment your parents gave to you that you strive to pass on to your daughters?
My mother listened a lot more than she lectured. She always gave us the space to figure things out on our own. Being raised like that has been such a gift to me in my own parenting journey. I'm not always successful, but whenever I get the urge to offer too much advice or steer my girls in one specific direction, I try to step back and let them do their thing. In the end, that's the best way for them to learn about who they are and who they want to be.
You and your family are all incredibly busy people. When you're in a hurry, what's the recipe that you can make with your eyes closed?
Well, even if I'm not doing a lot of the cooking anymore, our family has always loved comfort food, so mac and cheese or chili have long been in the rotation. And we've been known to order a pizza or two. A little melted cheese always helps ease away the day's stresses.