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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Today's guest: White House Chef Walter Scheib

Walter Scheib
May 22, 2003

Walter Scheib
Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you all for your questions, and I hope that you find the answers informative and interesting. Let's get started...

Jonathan, from New York writes:
Do you ever cook casual food such as hamburgers and french fries for the president and his guests?

Walter Scheib
Yes. The First Family eats all styles of food depending on the occasion.

Hal writes:
I am currently working in the "restaurant business" here in Washington (as a busboy). I would like to bus tables at the White House. Where can I get an application?

Walter Scheib
While we currently do not have any open positions, we do keep resumes on file.

BBQ writes:
Our President is from Texas - do you have a grill and/or smoker at the WH to make barbecue?

Walter Scheib

Billie, from Greenville NC writes:
I am sure there are no average days in the White House. However, on a day when there are no state dinners, how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners would your staff normally prepare?

Walter Scheib
We prepare all the meals for the First Family and any guests that they might have. This can vary from day to day.

Andrew, from U.S.A. writes:
Approximately how many days and/or hours does it take to prepare a State Dinner.

Walter Scheib
We typically start the planning for a State Dinner two months in advance. A tasting dinner is done for the First Lady and her comments are noted. A revised menu is then submitted, and a second tasting may or may not be done. The ordering of food takes place about a week and a half before the dinner, and preparation starts two days in advance. Most of the actual cooking takes place within two hours of service time.

Barb, from Michigan writes:
What is President Bush's middle name? Everything just says George W. Bush - what's the W stand for? Thank you!

Walter Scheib
His middle name is Walker. If you would like to read more about the President, go to

Wilson, from USA writes:
When preparing a state dinner do you try to give guests a highlight of American cuisine or is your goal to prepare something to meet the tastes of the guest's home nation?

Walter Scheib
Typically, we try to highlight the best and most interesting in American food, wine, and entertaining. American cuisine consists of influences from all countries, so we try to feature flavor combinations or cooking techniques from the guest country as part of the State Dinner menu.

Teddy, from Washington writes:
Mr. Scheib, thank you for taking this opportunity to discuss you interesting position within the White House. Are you an Emeril Lagasse fan? Have you ever been in the kitchen at the White House and thrown pepper on a dish and yelled BAM!

Walter Scheib
Emeril has visited us several times at the White House, but I do not use his schtick!

Bonnie, from New York writes:
It must be very plan an appealing meal for so many people. How do you manage a menu that suits everyone's dietary needs--sugar, allergies, etc??

Walter Scheib
The Social Office forwards the Kitchen a listing of individual dietary and food preferences for all our guests. We make special meals for each special need.

Elise, from Los Angeles writes:
That head usher is handsome and elegant. Tell him to stay, and stay, and stay. He is wonderful!

Walter Scheib
I will be happy to let him know and pass this along to his wife of many years.

Wendy, from Doylestown, PA writes:
Any special recipies to help put some spice into a 40 year marriage? Any help would be appreciated.

Walter Scheib
I have only been married 22 years, so I am still looking for those ingredients.

Sally, from Alexandria, Virginia writes:
In your many years as a chef - how many times have people sent food back to the kitchen? How do you handle such situations? I recently sent food back at a DC-area restaurant and was surprised how accomodating the chef was...he fixed the problem right away - AND WITH A SMILE!

Walter Scheib
We are not a hotel or a restaurant, we are a private home and our clientele is only four people. Luckily, we know their likes and dislikes very well. This helps prevent this problem.

Fred, from Flint, Michigan writes:
If you were having a hot dog, what would you put on it - ketchup? mustard? Relish? All of the above? I think that mustard is best. Not ketchup!!!!!!!

Walter Scheib
Even as an elementary school student, I was very picky about my food preparation and my mother was on strict instructions that my lunch should be three hot dogs everyday. One should be served with ketchup, one with mustard, and one with both. So you can see, I covered all bases.

Scott, from Johnson City, TN writes:
How much does the color of the food you prepare come into consideration? Have you ever thought of color-coordinating your meals? For example, serving all green food for one meal? i.e. salad, pasta with pesto sauce, spinach and pistachio ice cream for desert? I think that would be a good idea.

Walter Scheib
Food should appeal to all senses, not just taste. So, yes, color does come into play when designing plates.

Dana, from Denver writes:
Reading your bio I learned that both you and your wife are graduates of the CIA, so, who does the cooking at home?

Walter Scheib
We both share the cooking - actually it is dependent on our family schedule and mood.

Chad, from Berwick, PA writes:
I always enjoy watching the videos on this website about state dinners. Are there any plans on posting some of the recpies on the webpage?

Walter Scheib
If you would like to see some recipes from the 200th Anniversary of the White House dinner in November 2000, the White House Historical Association has published a book on this wonderful evening. Included are several recipes from the dinner menu.

Rob, from San Diego, California writes:
Given that your boss hails from Texas - do you find yourself preparing a lot of Tex-Mex - or do you have free reign to craft your own menu for things like State Dinner? How much does the nation of the President's guests come into play when putting such menus together?

Walter Scheib
Considerations in developing a State Dinner menu are directed by the First Lady's desires, dietary restrictions of the guest country, and seasonal excellence of product available.

Jane, from Seattle, WA writes:
What was your favorite state dinner and why?

Walter Scheib
Being a part of each and every State Dinner is an honor and privilege. Representing our country is the high point of my position.

Terry, from Huntsville writes:
Baked Alaska? Who likes that? I say MORE PIE! Thoughts?

Walter Scheib
Check back next month with Chef Mesnier, the White House Pastry Chef when he appears on "Ask the White House."

Question, from Washington, DC writes:
Excluding yourself, who do you consider to be Washington's best chef? Please also include the name of their restaurant...

Walter Scheib
Obviously, I would have to say my wife.

Jorge, from Hamburg, Pennsylvania writes:
What is your favorite wine? Why?

Walter Scheib
It is hard to say what my favorite wine would be. The good wine must be paired with the dish being served to be fully appreciated.

Seth, from WA DC writes:
How much pressure is there on you while preparing a state dinner? Have you ever prepared anything that was a failure - that people didn't care for???

Walter Scheib
We are not like a restaurant - if there is a problem, we cannot comp the dessert. So, we test and re-test all menu items before we serve them to our guests.

Red, from California writes:
I am a fan of red wine - but I am also a fish-lover. Is it ok to order red wine with fish?

Walter Scheib
Absolutely, you should drink a wine that you enjoy with every course.

Sylvia, from San Francisco, California writes:
If you were to enjoy one last meal - what would you have? Where?

Walter Scheib
I would have a ten course Thai banquet served on the beach in Phuket, Thailand.

Jimmy, from Post Falls Idaho writes:
What is the most difficult dish you have ever prepared?

Walter Scheib
The most difficult aspect of cooking is getting top quality ingredients if you are able to get outstanding ingredients, simple cooking techniques will always produce great meals.

Mark, from Boca Raton, Florida writes:
Greetings from your former residence, Boca Raton. You'll be happy to know it's been rainy all day. What's the process for selecting the White House Chef? Did you 'beat out' a lot of candidates? How did the President hear about you?

Walter Scheib
I was lucky enough to be selected from a large number of applicants to both interview and audition with the First Lady. I'm not sure exactly what separated me from the other applicants, but I am honored to have been given the opportunity to serve the First Family.

Tony, from St. Louis writes:
I am having Filet Mignon tonight with a side of creamed spinach. I prefer red wine -- Cabernet, Merlot? Your pick.

Walter Scheib
Cabernet with steak would be my choice, but as we have said before, wine is a very personal choice.

Jim, from Great Falls, Virginia writes:
Hi dad its Jim, how are the questions going

Walter Scheib
Get off of the computer and do your homework! Just kidding, things are going fine. See you when I get home.

Tanya, from Seattle, Washington writes:
Any advice for aspiring chefs?

Walter Scheib
Be sure that you really love the field, because it requires a tremendous time and energy commitment. If you have that commitment, get the best training that you can - either through on the job training or culinary education. I graduated from the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, NY, so I am partial to their training.

Susan, from New York writes:
Hi Walter! Do You also care for Barney and Co.? What have they ordered today?

Walter Scheib
They do have their own favorites, but they don't come from the kitchen.

Crystal, from Falls Church, VA writes:
Chef Scheib- What has been the most interesting and challenging menu or dish you executed while at the White House? Do you get to travel with the President? Do you have a favorite carrot cake recipe?

Walter Scheib
We hope that all of the menus are interesting and challenging. The chefs team has traveled to New York, Colorado, and Florida to prepare food for State functions for the First Family in the past. However, we only travel to perform official state functions.

Denny, from Olympia, WA writes:
Is everything at the White House made from scratch? Do you only use items grownmade in the U.S.?

Walter Scheib
Yes, everything is made from scratch (with the exception of condiments, oils, vinegars, etc.). Most of the products we use are grown or produced in the U.S.

Stephanie, from Illinois writes:
Hey Walter! Shouldn't you be like cooking dinner for the first family right now? What time do they eat dinner?

Walter Scheib
Normally, I would be in the kitchen, but this evening, the President and Mrs. Bush are not in residence.

Walter Scheib
Thanks for the good questions. Hopefully this has shed some light on the workings of the White House Kitchen. Good Luck and Good Cooking!

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