Who Was Tafari Campbell? Barack Obama's Personal Chef Dies While Paddleboarding Near Former President's $12 Million Martha's Vineyard Estate

Campbell had previously worked as the sous chef in the White House kitchen while Barack Obama was in office.

The man who drowned while paddleboarding on a pond near the Obamas' Martha's Vineyard estate has been identified as the former first family's personal chef. Authorities confirmed on Monday afternoon that the body of Tafari Campbell, 45, was found in 8 feet of water about 100 feet from the shores of the Obamas' $12 million estate on Edgartown Great Pond.

Campbell disappeared on Sunday evening while paddleboarding on Edgartown Great Pond, Massachusetts, along with another person. Emergency crews were dispatched immediately to the Obama residence in response to the incident. Overnight, rescue operations were initiated from the property, involving divers, Coast Guard helicopters, and resources from various agencies.

Tragic Death

Tafari Campbell
Tafari Campbell Twitter

Campbell's body was eventually discovered using sonar scanners deployed from a boat around 10 a.m. on Monday. Police confirmed that the Obamas were not present at their home during the incident.

Campbell had previously worked as the sous chef in the White House kitchen while Barack Obama was in office. Later, he was hired to be part of Obama's personal staff.

In a statement, Michelle and Barack Obama said that Campbell, who was married and had 19-year-old twins, held a cherished place in their family. They described him as one of the top chefs in the White House kitchen.

Tafari Campbell
Tafari Campbell with his wife Sherise Instagram

"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."

"Today 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."

Heartbreaking Incident

According to another person who was paddleboarding on the pond when Campbell drowned, they saw him struggling in the water before he submerged and did not resurface. At the time of the incident, he was wearing all-black attire and did not have a lifejacket on.

A timeline of Obama's nostalgic journey as a President
Barack Obama Reuters

Search crews found his board and hat shortly after their arrival.

According to Campbell's family, as reported by the South Florida Sun Sentinel in 2009, he had always displayed a keen interest in cooking, often preparing dishes when his large family gathered for visits.

He pursued his passion further by graduating from a culinary school in Virginia and even had a brief experience of owning his own restaurant before eventually applying for a position at the White House.

Campbell was initially hired during the George W. Bush administration. When Barack Obama assumed the presidency, Campbell was among the four White House cooks who were asked to remain in their positions.

Tafari Campbell
Tafari Campbell Twitter

During the Obama presidency, Campbell gained recognition for brewing White House honey ale beer, which was made using honey sourced from Michelle Obama's South Lawn garden.

Campbell often shared photos online showcasing various aspects of his life, including moments with his wife, Sherise, and his culinary creations.

In one post from 2017, Campbell and Sherise were pictured in the ocean in Aruba, and he humorously captioned the picture with #stillcantswim.

Following Campbell's tragic death on Monday, Sherise posted a photo of her husband on Instagram, expressing her profound sadness and heartbreak.