My youngest daughter Kara is leaving tomorrow for a move to the Washington DC area, which means I had to find a cookbook about the White House. I have a few, mostly about First Ladies, but a lot of those recipes are rather old and boring. Not so in this book. Roland Mesnier, pastry chef to five presidents over a span of twenty-five years, was the original “Ace of Cakes.” His creations are astounding. I wanted to scan a bunch of them to put on the blog, but they all say “Official White House Photograph,” and I didn’t want the FBI showing up at my door. There are beautiful photos of the chefs’ creations such as a “Topiary Valencia,” a majestic dessert for the King of Spain; a frozen dessert for the 50th anniversary of NATO, consisting of a strawberry ice cream bombe surrounded by tiny flags of many countries; a star-shaped cake for President Reagan’s birthday; an anniversary cake for the Clinton’s, which looks more like a small wedding cake; the most beautiful gingerbread houses imaginable, including one shaped like the White House; and a birthday cake for President George W. Bush with a fishing theme complete with a huge fishing pole coming out the top.
Oh, if those creations could talk. In the span of twenty-five years, it’s a safe bet to say that there would be fascinating conversations, to say the least. The chef provides behind-the-scenes insight into the tastes and obsessions of the five Presidents and First Ladies he served – Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and both Bush’s. He witnessed world events from happy celebrations to the shock and sorrow of 9-11, which was a harrowing chapter to read. The book is more memoir than recipes, but a few of the recipes that are included are Presidential favorites such as Jimmy Carter’s Creme Caramel with Honey, and Pecan Bourbon Pie; chocolate chip cookies and apple souffle for George H.W. Bush; cherry pie crumble for the Clinton’s; and chocolate crepes for George W. Bush. The book gives a unique glimpse into White House life, along with great recipes from a chef who could probably write a lot more than just one book of what he saw and heard in twenty-five years!
The end of the book contains Chef Mesnier’s “Ten Golden Rules for my Successor,” which you may find interesting and insightful:
1. Never forget where and for whom you are working.
2. Create the greatest desserts in the world for the great and good of this world.
3. Use the finest possible ingredients.
4. Always be available for the First Family and their guests.
5. Stay hopeful and keep smiling, even when it hurts, when it really hurts.
6. Don’t put yourself on show. If people want to see you, they know where to find you.
7. Stay on your guard and watch what you say. Choose your words carefully.
8. Don’t let a compliment go to your head. Remain humble.
9. Never forget, whatever your professional title, that you are simply a servant at the White House.
10. Take care of your colleagues on your way up; you may find you need them on your way down.
These photos were taken a few years ago when Kara was visiting Washington, DC, not ever imagining she would end up living nearby with a bright and exciting future ahead of her.
You became your dream, Kara.