join me in the kitchen

The White House Kitchen

I have never posted an article on Comfort Table before, however, I felt like I just had to share this selection from  I am always curious about what other people are eating—am I the only one checks out other people’s carts in the grocery store??—so I found some of the fun facts in this article especially entertaining!  For instance, Nancy Reagan often skipped the main course to eat only dessert! 

Additionally, I like learning the White House kitchen details like who is doing the cooking, what they are cooking, and for how many people.  (Did you know the White House has five full time chefs?!)  I admire the Obamas choice of a young chef with a fresh attitude towards food.  And I really like the fact that this type of subject-matter is getting media attention.  



Let’s hope the White House kitchen has an extra apron on hand: The Obamas have asked Sam Kass, a 28-year-old Chicago native who was their private chef, to pack up his knives and head to Washington. The New York Times reports:


Mr. Kass, one of the new breed of chefs who are concerned about the environment and about poor eating habits in this country, has been quoted as saying people in his profession should take the lead in tackling public health issues. “Not only is there an unconscionable amount of people who remain hungry, there’s even a larger population, mostly poor, who are faced with obesity, diabetes and various other problems from overabundance.”

Kass will join Cristeta Comerford, who was appointed by the Bushes in 2005 as the White House’s first female executive chef. And it seems the big building will have plenty of room for them both. According to the official White House site: “With five full-time chefs, the White House kitchen is able to serve dinner to as many as 140 guests and hors d’oeuvres to more than a thousand.” The Obamas are known for their commitment to healthy eating, but what about other presidents? Some top chef secrets from across the Web below:

First family favorites
Chef Rene Verdon, who served under the Kennedys, is usually considered the first official White House chef. His impact was substantial. Anne Lincoln writes in “The Kennedy White House Parties“:


In a house which had rarely received any genuine compliments on its kitchen, M. Verdon soon established a reputation for haute cuisine with his superb dinners, luncheons, and buffets.

But even in the kitchen, the president called the shots. According to the Chicago Sun-Times:


President Kennedy was particularly fond of Verdon’s Boston clam chowder, even though the chef pleaded with the president to let him serve it with less flour, says the 84-year-old Verdon, now living in San Francisco.

Walter Scheib, who served under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, reveals that the presidents with opposing political views weren’t so far apart on their culinary choices. Bush enjoyed any kind of Southwestern fare, from beef tenderloin to enchiladas, while a pre-heart-surgery Clinton also liked the spice, especially beef and ribs. But the first ladies, he told “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “were always on diets.”

Easy bake to fine dining
While the first ladies usually choose the executive chef, there’s clearly a relationship that develops between the whole family. Scheib, who wrote “White House Chef: Eleven Years, Two Presidents” after leaving the White House, said that W., famous for his nicknames, called him “Cookie.” And, just like any job, some days are harder than others. Scheib says the White House is a full-service kitchen: “We did everything from a bag of popcorn to a state dinner for 900 … and everything in between.”

Sweet tooth
When your dining room serves as a meeting ground for dignitaries from around the world, there’s a lot of room for creativity. Roland Mesnier, who was head pastry chef to five U.S. presidents, described some of his more amazing creations to NPR: chocolate coaches for the queen of England, sugar giraffes for the president of Kenya. When asked which White House residents were calorie-conscious, he revealed that Nancy Reagan, well-known for her svelte figure, would skip the main course so she could have dessert.

Mesnier also gave away some of Clinton’s culinary secrets to the Chicago Sun-Times:


President Clinton “loved dessert” and sometimes would push aside the fresh fruit cobblers Mesnier made to gobble down a chunk of chocolate cake, the pastry chef says. The president’s puffy-eyed allergic reaction became a clue for Mesnier that he had been a “naughty” eater, he says.

Kitchen confidential
For all its perks, the executive chef may not be the most lucrative gig in government. The New York Times wrote in 2005:


The pay, $80,000 to $100,000 a year with no overtime, for what is essentially a private family chef who occasionally has an opportunity to show off at a state dinner, is well below what top level chefs can earn on the outside.

But Scheib says that pay wasn’t much of a concern. He told ABC News that he took the job for “the singular honor to serve the first family. Most chefs don’t get to do that in a lifetime.”


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