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Obama chef updates: Obamas pay tribute to Tafari Campbell after Martha’s Vineyard paddleboard death


Obama’s personal chef brews beer at the White House

Barack Obama has paid tribute to his personal chef Tafari Campbell after he tragically died in a paddleboarding accident in the water close to the former president’s home in Martha’s Vineyard.

Police in Edgartown, Massachusetts, confirmed on Monday morning that the search for a then-unidentified African American man, 45, had been called off after a body was recovered from the town’s Great Pond.

Officials later named the man as Campbell, who had worked for the Obamas at the White House and then joined the family as their personal chef afterwards. Police said neither Mr Obama nor his wife Michelle were at home when Campbell died.

“Tafari was a beloved part of our family,” the Obama family said in a statement about his passing. “Our hearts are broken that he’s gone… we join everyone who knew and loved Tafari, especially his wife Sherise and their twin boys, Xavier and Savin, in grieving the loss of a truly wonderful man.”

Campbell’s Instagram account described him as a keen golfer, with numerous photos of finely-presented dishes, videos of him golfing and practicing swimming, and loving pictures of him and his wife together.

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Obamas mourn ‘truly wonderful man’

The Obamas have paid tribute to their longtime personal chef, describing him as “a beloved part of our family”.

“When we first met him, he was a talented sous chef at the White House – creative and passionate about food, and its ability to bring people together,” the family said.

“In the years that followed, we got to know him as a warm, fun, extraordinarily kind person who made all of our lives a little brighter.”

Io Dodds25 July 2023 10:11

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Conspiracy theorists flock to widow’s Instagram page

All too predictably, the conspiracy theories have already begun.

On Monday night an Instagram post by Tafari Campbell‘s wife Sherise had been inundated with comments groundlessly claiming that the chef had been murdered by Barack Obama.

“Sorry for your loss, but Obama did it,” said one. “Your partner worked for some very evil people,” said another. One used the hashtag #ObamaBodyCount, referring to long-running smears against the Obama and Clinton families.

There were numerous similar posts on Twitter, and in far right channels on the chat app Telegram.

Perhaps this should go without saying, but there is absolutely no reason at this time to think that Campbell was murdered. Police have not given any sign that they suspect foul play, instead citing witness testimony suggesting that Campbell drowned by accident.

Unfortunately, a lack of evidence has never prevented the USA’s first Black president from being a magnet for conspiracy theories, especially in the post-Trump era where such fantasies have become obligatory on many parts of the American right.

Io Dodds25 July 2023 08:59

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Old White House video shows Campbell brewing beer

A video has emerged showing Tafari Campbell brewing beer for Barack Obama back in 2012, thought to be the first time any president has brewed alcohol on the actual White House grounds.

“You don’t want to go too fast, creating a lot of air, which will make the beer taste bad,” Campbell tells the camera as he siphons liquid into a container in a video posted to YouTube that year.

The part featuring Campbell himself starts around 1m54.

Io Dodds25 July 2023 07:52

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Everything we know so far

Here’s a roundup of everything we know so far, by Io Dodds and Andrea Blanco.

Emergency services were called to the Obama residence around 7.40pm on Sunday, with a witness telling officers that they had seen another paddleboarder sink underwater after struggling to stay on the surface.

Divers and boats with sonar were brought in to aid the search, leading to the recovery of the paddleboarder’s body on Monday morning.

That afternoon, police named the man as 45-year-old Tafari Campbell, who had worked as a personal chef to the Obama family during their time in the White House and continued to work for them after Barack Obama left office.

Read their full story here.

Anuj Pant25 July 2023 07:07

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Instagram videos show golfing, deadlifting

Campbell was also a keen amateur golfer, according to his Instagram account.

One video showed him practicing his swing, asking followers to judge his form with one of two options: “Chef, you ready” and “Stick to cheffing!!”

Other videos showed him deadlifting weights and cycling alone during the early Covid-19 pandemic, recording his journeys with a GoPro camera.

Io Dodds25 July 2023 04:50

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A ‘spectacular’ estate in the playground of America’s wealthy

The Obamas’ estate in Martha’s Vineyard was bought in 2020 for a $11.75 million, following years of annual holidays to the coveted island getaway.

According to People magazine, the house itself measures 6,892 sq ft and sits at the heart of 29 acres of land, with seven bedrooms, eight baths, several stone fireplaces, and a boathouse.

LandVest, the luxury real estate firm that handled the sale, describes it as “the perfect family compound “setting for generations to come”, citing its “spacious and dramatic living room”, “private sun deck”, and spectacular water views” of the Great Pond.

(LandVest)

Io Dodds25 July 2023 03:44

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Sherise Campbell says she is ‘heartbroken’

Campbell’s wife Sherise Campbell, also a professional cook, has reacted to her husband’s death with one word: “Heartbroken.”

Mrs Campbell posted the brief message on her Instagram page on Monday evening, along with smiling pictures of her husband.

Sherise Campbell posts on Instagram following her husband Tafari’s death

(Sherise Campbell via Instagram)

Io Dodds25 July 2023 03:44

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Campbell may have only recently learned to swim

Videos and comments on Campbell’s Instagram page suggest that he may only have learned to swim, or to swim confidently, in the last five years or so.

Under one holiday snap from October 2017, showing Campbell and his wife Sherise standing chest deep in crystal-blue waters in Aruba, one follower asked: “But can you swim though? Lol.”

Campbell responded with a “weary face” emoji, suggesting frustration or lamenting. The Independent has contacted that person for comment.

A pair of videos posted about a year and four months later showed him practicing various swimming strokes over beginner distances, with the hashtags “#Progress” and “#survivalskills”.

Io Dodds25 July 2023 02:38

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Instagram photos show loving husband proud of his craft

Campbell’s Instagram account is that of a man who took great pride in his craft, enjoyed golfing and improving his fitness, and loved his family.

Interspersed between numerous photos of elegantly-presented dishes, from Chinese dumplings to peach-flavoured mini bread puddings, there are numerous snapshots of him with his wife Sherise, who runs a baking and catering firm and whom Campbell frequently described as his “best friend”.

One photo showed the young couple’s wedding way back in 1999, with the caption “happy 21st anniversary!!!!”

Tafari Campbell with his wife, whose face has been blurred out of respect for her privacy

(Tafari Campbell via Instagram)

Others showed them seeing 2018’s smash hit film Black Panther, eating at a restaurant, and at the beach on holiday in Aruba.

Some of the food pictures are artfully arranged so that they form one larger photo on Instagram’s grid-like feed.

Tafari Campbell marries his wife in 1999. Her face has been blurred out of respect for her identity.

(Tafari Campbell via Instagram)

Io Dodds25 July 2023 01:55

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‘The first alcohol brewed on White House grounds’

Campbell previously had a brush with public fame in 2012 when he helped brew a series of ales using honey from the beehives set up by Michelle Obama on the White House’s South Lawn.

“George Washington brewed beer and distilled whiskey at Mount Vernon, and Thomas Jefferson made wine, but there’s no evidence that any beer has been brewed in the White House. Although we do know there was some drinking during prohibition…”

A petition to release the recipe gained around 12,000 signatures, leading the White House to acquiesce.

Io Dodds25 July 2023 00:45


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