Eating Zingerman’s With The President

We overheard a conversation between the members of the secret service and Zingerman’s employees talking about President Barack Obama’s arrival. They told everyone to keep the news of Mr. Obama eating at Zingerman’s off of social media for fear that the place would be swarmed. We overheard them mention that Mr. Obama would be on the top floor of Zingerman’s.

The Zingerman’s floor was crowded with about 15 secret service members, a private film crew, private photographers, and a team of people overseeing Mr. Obama’s seating arrangements. A large table at the back end of the Zingerman’s top floor was pushed to the side to create room for a much smaller table where the president would be seated.

As things were being adjusted, we asked secret service members if they needed any help setting up and they asked us to get five waters and four iced teas for Mr. Obama and his guests. We did. So later this week, when Mr. Obama is thinking about how pleasantly hydrated he is, he might not exactly give Community High students credit for that feeling, but we really do deserve it.

When we reached the top floor of Zingerman’s, the place looked relatively normal. One wouldn’t suspect that one of the world’s most powerful men would be eating there in just a half hour. Apart from the men in black suits sweeping over people with handheld metal detectors, it looked like an average day at Zingerman’s.

As the president’s motorcade drew near, more members of the secret service showed up and began moving tables andbriefing customers for the arrival of the president. Everyone was told to not to take pictures, to act normal, and stay seated when Mr. Obama arrived.

The secret service checked people’s bags for weapons. Every time someone went downstairs and returned, they had to be scanned by the metal detector again.

Video by Oren Steiner

We had the privilege of talking to the lucky people Mr. Obama was scheduled to eat with. They sat on the second floor of Zingerman’s, waiting for their lunch-mate’s arrival. They sat nervously, smiling with excitement.

He arrived at his table to sit between Mira Friedlander, a 22-year-old political science major at the University of Michigan who introduced the president before he gave his speech, and Aisha Thurman, a 36-year-old mother of three children who earns minimum-wage pay.

Video by Fernando Rojo

According to Thurman, she became aware that she was going to dine with Mr. Obama late the night before. “I was honored. I’m glad he was really listening,” Thurman told The Communicator after the president’s speech.

When Obama finally made an appearance, Zingerman’s grew quiet. He walked around and shook everyone’s hand. He talked to each table individually. His charismatic aura was enough to fill the entire room in an awe-inspiring way. At one point he told a joke and literally everyone in Zingerman’s laughed–even though it wasn’t even that funny.

First-hand writing by Sophia Simon.
Interviews and reporting by Fernando Rojo.

Read More: President Obama’s full speech.

Selfies with President Obama.

The President’s Air-Force-One Arrival.