The former White House sous chef for Barack and Michelle has been identified as the man found dead following a paddle boarding disaster on the Obama’s property in Martha’s Vineyard.
Tafari Campbell’s body was found on Monday by divers after disappearing in the pond that backs on to Barack Obama‘s extravagant $12million estate.
The 45-year-old vanished on Sunday evening while he was out with another paddleboarder on Edgartown Great Pond, Massachusetts, and emergency crews were dispatched to Obama’s residence.
In a statement, Michelle and Barack Obama said Campbell – who was married with 19-year-old twins – was one of the top chefs in the White House kitchen: ‘Tafari was 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. 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.’
‘That’s why, when we were getting ready to leave the White House, we asked Tafari to stay with us, and he generously agreed. He’s been part of our lives ever since, and our hearts are broken that he’s gone.’
Campbell’s family told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in 2009 that he had always shown an interest in cooking and would frequently whip something up when his large family came to visit.
The sous chef was eventually hired under the George W. Bush administration, and was one of just four White House cooks asked to stay on under Obama.
During the Obama presidency, Campbell became known for brewing White House honey ale beer, using the honey from Michell Obama’s South Lawn garden.
‘I immediately thought of the African Americans who brewed beer for Washington and Jefferson, and was pleased to see the historical arc played out through the suds,’ historian Adrian Miller writes of Campbell in his book The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas.
Campbell would visited Martha’s Vineyard numerous times, playing golf on several occasions at the nearby Farm Neck Golf Club.
He was last on the island in 2021, though it is vague whether he stayed on the Obamas’ property, which they purchased in 2020.
Photos Campbell posted online of his life often displayed his wife, Sherise, and his food concoctions.
In one post from 2017, Campbell and Sherise could be seen in the ocean in Aruba. He captioned that picture #stillcantswim.
Following the news of Campbell’s untimely death on Monday, Sherise shared a photo of her husband to Instagram saying she was ‘heartbroken.’
Staffers at Edgartown Meat and Fish Market also paid respect to the chef, whom they remembered as a ‘wonderful guy’.
‘We saw him last week, he was such a nice and happy guy,’ one staff member told DailyMail.com. ‘He didn’t seem to live here but would be here a lot in summer and fall, and bought various things.
‘He was nice and quiet, it’s awful to hear that’s happened to him.’
The employee added that Campbell ‘had been coming here for a few years now.’
‘When he came in he would chat to us about what he was cooking up,’ the staffer said. ‘One of the things he would always special order is juice — orange juice and strawberry lemonade.’
Witnesses first told cops on Sunday night that a man – later identified as Campbell went underwater and then briefly reappeared as he struggled to stay afloat, before submerging again around 7.46pm.
The witness – who was not identified – was paddle boarding on Edgartown Great Pond with Campbell.
A massive joint-agency search was put in motion when a 911 call was made from the Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard home on Turkeyland Cove Road. The former president and first lady were away from the residence at the time.
The dispatch call said: ‘Edgartown Fire and Water rescue personnel, Turkeyland Cove Road. For a 40-year-old male, possible drowning.’
In the aftermath of the call, Chief Alex Schaeffer of the Edgartown Fire Department told the Vineyard Gazette, island police and firefighters conducted door-to-door searches.
Firefighters also searched the pond’s shoreline by foot.
The search efforts then continued Monday morning for the beloved chef who was last seen wearing all black without a lifejacket.
His paddle board and hat were found Sunday – and his body was discovered around 10am Monday in the eight-foot-deep waters approximately 100 feet away from shore.
@DC_Draino on Twitter:
We’ve now learned the man who drowned while paddleboarding in front of Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard estate was Tafari Campbell, their sous chef in the White House and current personal chef, but this raises some important questions: Who else was with him? A 2nd paddleboarder was reported Was there any foul play? Pushing? Shoving? Was he provided a life vest? If not, why not? Is there video footage? I imagine Obama’s house has extensive surveillance footage Was he under the influence? If so, who served him and allowed him to paddleboard while drunk? How long did people wait to call 911 after he was submerged? Were any Secret Service present? If so, did they assist? It’s always a tragedy when a life is lost, but this deserves an investigation to see if anyone else was at fault.
????We’ve now learned the man who drowned while paddleboarding in front of Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard estate was Tafari Campbell, their sous chef in the White House and current personal chef, but this raises some important questions:
Who else was with him? A 2nd paddleboarder was… pic.twitter.com/JK6xYoh7yA
— DC_Draino (@DC_Draino) July 24, 2023
Did he accidentally catch a glimpse of Michelle Obama's package?
— Vince Langman (@LangmanVince) July 24, 2023
I've SOLVED the mystery of Obama's chef's drowning!???????????? pic.twitter.com/AY53526Dfe
— Santa Surfing (@SantaSurfing) July 24, 2023