Monday, April 19, 2010

For Former White House Pastry Chef, Life is Sweet

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. — With his chef’s-eye perspective of life inside the White House, Roland Mesnier served a platter of amusing anecdotes Saturday at a WV Book Faire event.

He recalled former President Bill Clinton’s penchant for big parties and hearty appetite for sweets, which presented a challenge: Clinton was allergic to chocolate, dairy products and flour.

Mesnier — who retired after more than 25 years as the White House executive pastry chef — said he made a low-calorie strawberry cake that Clinton appeared to enjoy; he once ate half of a cake by himself.

One day, Clinton wanted leftover cake and was upset when a butler couldn’t find it. Clinton’s voice rose and he pounded a table.

“We think that Al Gore is the one who took it,” Mesnier quipped.

Mesnier, 65, a native of France, told story after story at Blue Ridge Community & Technical College, where he was a celebrity judge for the book fair’s Edible Book Contest.

“There was a time when he ate alone a lot,” Mesnier said of Clinton. “Even the dog wouldn’t eat with him. I don’t know if you remember those days. They were rough in the White House.”

“No more comment,” Mesnier added as the audience laughed.

Mesnier said thousands of people visit the White House daily during a three-month period around Christmas. If he didn’t start the season with 120,000 pieces of cookies and cake, the pastry shop couldn’t keep up.

Part of the demand was from what Mesnier called “the club of blue-haired ladies.”

Younger women were little trouble — they were usually dieting and trying to fit into size-2 skirts, he said.

But the blue-haired ladies ...

“Beware: Those were cookie thiefs,” he said.

Mesnier described them wandering along, opening their pocketbooks, looking around, whistling — and pushing entire plates of cookies into their bags.

The women later had their husbands drill holes in the cookies, which they would string up and give as Christmas tree ornaments, he said.

“So we had to bake not only for the ... guests, but for all of the neighbors of the blue-haired ladies,” Mesnier said.

Read the rest of the story here.

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