Barack and Michelle’s former White House sous chef has been identified as the man found dead after a paddle boarding accident at the Obamas’ estate on Martha’s Vineyard.
Tafari Campbell’s body was recovered Monday by divers after she disappeared into the pond that backs Barack Obama’s sprawling $12 million estate.
The 45-year-old went missing Sunday evening while he was out with another paddleboarder on Great Lake in Edgartown, Massachusetts, and emergency crews were dispatched to the Obama residence.
In a statement, Michelle and Barack Obama said Campbell – who is 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 White House sous chef — creative and passionate about food, and the ability to bring people together. In the years that followed, we got to know him as a warm, funny, incredibly 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 graciously agreed. He has been a part of our lives ever since, and we are heartbroken that he is gone.’
Tafari Campbell, 45, (pictured with wife Sherris) was found dead by divers on Monday after he went missing while paddle boarding in the pond that backs onto Barack Obama’s sprawling $12 million estate.
Tafari Campbell worked in the Obama White House from 2009-2017.
Campbell (as seen in a video produced by the White House) became a ‘beloved member’ of the Obama family
Campbell is seen in the background of an interview Savannah Guthrie of the Today Show conducted with the former president at the White House.
Campbell’s family told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in 2009 that he had always shown an interest in cooking and would often whip up something when his extended family came to visit.
He graduated from a culinary school in Virginia and briefly owned his own restaurant before applying for a job at the White House.
The sous chef was eventually hired under the George W. Bush administration and was one of only four White House cooks asked to remain under Obama.
During the Obama presidency, Campbell became known for brewing White House honey ale beer using honey from Michelle Obama’s South Lawn garden.
‘I immediately thought of the African Americans who brewed beer for Washington and Jefferson and was delighted to see the historic arc through the Sud,’ writes historian Adrian Miller in his book The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, From the Washington’s.
Campbell visited Martha’s Vineyard several times, playing golf on several occasions at the nearby Farm Neck Golf Club.
He was last on the island in 2021, though it’s unclear if he was at the Obamas’ property, which they purchased in 2020.
Campbell’s photos of his life posted online often feature his wife, Sherris, and his food pairings.
In a 2017 post, Campbell and Sherris can be seen in the ocean in Aruba. He captioned the photo #stillcantswim.
Following news of Campbell’s untimely death on Monday, Cherise shared a photo of her husband on Instagram saying she was ‘heartbroken.’
Following the news of Campbell’s untimely death, his wife Cherise shared this photo on Instagram saying she was ‘heartbroken’.
In addition to Sherris, Campbell is survived by two 19-year-old sons
Campbell’s family said she always loved to cook, and would whip something up whenever the extended family got together
A photo shared in 2017 shows him and Sheris enjoying the waters of Aruba with the hashtag #stillcantswim
Staff at Edgartown Meat and Fish Market also paid tribute to the chef, who they remembered as a ‘wonderful guy’.
‘We saw him last week, he was a very nice and happy guy,’ a staff member told Newstimesuk.com. ‘He didn’t seem to live here but he was here a lot in the summer and autumn and bought various things.
‘He was nice and calm, so sad to hear something like this happened to him.’
The employee added that Campbell has been ‘coming here for years.’
‘When he came he would talk to us about what he was cooking,’ said the worker. ‘One thing he always special ordered was juice – orange juice and strawberry lemonade.’
Tafari and Sherise were married in 1999. They are pictured here on their wedding day
In Obama’s White House, he became known for brewing honey ale—Michelle Obama used honey harvested from her South Lawn garden.
The chef often visited the Edgartown Meat and Fish Market on Martha’s Vineyard. Here he is pictured with his family
Witnesses first told police on Sunday night that a man – later identified as Campbell – had gone under the water and then briefly re-emerged while struggling to stay afloat, before submerging again at around 7.46pm.
The witness – who has not been identified – was paddle boarding on Edgartown Great Pond with Campbell.
A 911 call from Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard home on Turkeyland Cove Road sparked a massive multi-agency search.
Dispatched call states: ‘Edgartown Fire and Water Rescue personnel, Turkeyland Cove Road. For a 40-year-old male, probable drowning.’
The former president and first lady were not at the residence at the time.
A search resumed Monday morning for the revered chef who was last seen dressed in black without a lifejacket.
His paddle board and hat were recovered on Sunday – and his body was found around 10am on Monday in eight feet of water, about 100 feet from shore.
Campbell was last seen paddle boarding in the pond behind Barack Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard property shortly before 8 p.m. before falling under the water.
Search vehicles were seen on Turkey Cove Road Sunday night. A joint-agency search began last night at Edgartown Great Pond
Emergency services rushed to the scene on Martha’s Vineyard last night. It is understood that the 911 call and dispatch address for the incident came from Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard home.
Photo: Edgartown Great Pond. A desperate search was launched for Campbell after the paddleboarder went missing in the waters off Martha’s Vineyard on Sunday.
The restoration mission was just yards from former President Obama’s seven-bedroom Massachusetts home — a 6,892-square-foot mansion by the water (pictured).
In a statement Monday, Massachusetts State Police said: ‘The body of the missing paddle boarder was recovered from Edgartown Great Pond by Massachusetts State Police divers shortly before 10 a.m.
‘MSP Underwater Recovery Unit divers deployed side-scan sonar from a boat and recovered the victim’s body after Massachusetts Environmental Police officers located it.
The US Coast Guard, Edgartown Fire, Air Wing, detectives and the Dukes County Sheriff’s Department were part of the rescue operation.’
A command post was later set up at Wilson’s Landing, across the narrow cove from the Obama mansion.
Just after noon, the Edgartown Police Department confirmed that Wilson’s Landing had reopened. Edgartown Great Pond is an 890 acre body of water.
The man’s death is being investigated by state police along with the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office and Edgartown Police.
A view of Obama’s home from Turkeyland Cove where Campbell served as Obama’s personal chef
Search continues for missing paddleboarder near Barack Obama’s estate The former president bought the mansion pictured here in 2019
A helicopter, part of a search mission, was seen flying over the area on Monday morning
The rescue operation was just yards from former President Obama’s seven-bedroom Massachusetts home — a 6,892-square-foot mansion near the water.
He bought the Martha’s Vineyard home in 2019 for $11.75 million.
Previously, the massive estate was owned by Boston Celtics owner Wycliffe Grassbeck.
The massive property features a swimming pool, outdoor fire pit and vaulted ceilings.
There are also two wings that run off the main house that are perfect for entertaining guests.
The former first family is no stranger to the island — spending seven summers there while Barack was president
Their home is on the edge of Edgartown Great Pond, with views of the Atlantic Ocean
Outside, the land comes with its own private beach and a boathouse
Outside, the land comes with its own private beach and a boathouse.
Their home is on the edge of Edgartown Great Pond, with views of the Atlantic Ocean.
The former first family is no stranger to the island — spending seven summers there while Barack was president.
Obama is also a keen paddleboarder – and has been pictured engaging in the sport over the years on holiday in Hawaii.
The Obama Foundation has been contacted by Newstimesuk.com for comment.
The Secret Service had no comment.
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