The White House
President George W. Bush
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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.

Roland Mesnier
White House Pastry Chef
July 27, 2004

Roland is planning on answering many questions today. We have received a very high amount of emails. Stay close, will be answering soon...

Roland Mesnier

Hi, I'm Roland Mesnier, the Executive Pastry Chef at the White House for the past 25 years. And I'm very happy to take your questions and I will give you the smartest answers I know.

lovin, from california writes:
how can I make amazing creme brulee?

Roland Mesnier
Creme Brulee really is simple to make. I have used a recipe that I created in the White House for years which is stove top creme brulee. Unfortunately, it would take too long to explain it here. But it is very good and goof proof.

Donna, from Ohio writes:
What kind of training do you have and how did you get the job at the White House?

Roland Mesnier
Well I have on the job training. I did not attend any fancy schools or universities. I started at the age of 14 in a French pastry shop and then traveled half of the world to learn different recipes and techniques from different countries.

How did I get this job? Totally was at the right place at the right time.

Anukul, from Pittsburgh, PA writes:
Could you share how being a pastry chef in the Whitehouse is different than being one anywhere else? Does the Secret Service prevent you from serving flaming desserts: crpes suzette, bananas foster, etc.,?Also, what do you think is the greatest American dessert?

Roland Mesnier
First of all, to be the pastry chef at the White House you have to be totally dedicated to the profession, the job and the First Family.

You don't think about free time, spare time, etc. Because your time is at the White House. Any time you are needed you have to be there. It could be Christmas day, Easter, your birthday, your mother's birthday, your child's birthday -- you are going to be at the White House if you are needed.

The White House always comes first.

Everything you do has to be perfect. There is no guessing or any "second times." Whatever you send out has to be absolutely perfect. There is no "oops." Or maybe or "I think."

Perfection is no accident. It is just something that you need to apply at the White House.

The Secret Service, by the way, has not restricted flaming desserts. But I do restrict it, because on one Christmas a lady caught on fire. She was wearing a fox shawl around her neck, she leaned over on the dessert table and whoops she was on fire.

So no flambe at the White House. Thank you.

Marc, from Little Rock writes:
Mr. Mesnier, What has been the highlight of your employment at the White House? What do you plan to do after your retirement and has the White House named your replacement?

Roland Mesnier
My employment at the White House has been the greatest adventure and the greatest way to spend my working years. It has been incredible and hard for me to explain. Very rewarding.

And now that I will be moving on, I plan on doing a lot of fun things like traveling and enjoying good wine, good food and seeing beautiful scenery. I don't know who my replacement is going to be, but I wish him or her good luck.

Andy, from Lakeville, Minnesota writes:
I can't seem to make a pie crust worthy of my fish let alone a President. What's your secret to a great pie crust?

Roland Mesnier
The secret, Andy, is a good can of Crisco. And even the President will enjoy it.

Daniel, from Washington, DC writes:
It is a pleasure to speak with you I've long admired your amazingly beautiful desserts Considering the number of people who suffer from food allergies, I wonder if you have to prepare more than one type of dessert for a State Dinner or official function in case someone isn't able to enjoy it? Do you have any standard fall-back options that you prepare?

Roland Mesnier
Yes, we are very aware of people that come to dinner and have different allergies and preferences of food. We are always prepared for that. In fact, several family members in the past have had some allergies. So in that case instead of creating a special dessert just for the person who has an allergy, I was more inclined to make a dessert that everybody could enjoy.

I didn't want to make the person who had the allergy feel different.

Charles, from Washington, Pa writes:
I really love sweet treats. I was just wondering, what is your personal favorite dessert dish?

Roland Mesnier
My personal sweet treat is apple pie. It is very simple and has a lot of flavor. I like actually all kinds of dessert that is made with fresh fruit. That is my thing. I prefer that to chocolate or other ingredients. Fresh fruit is beautiful to eat just the way they are or you can create some fabulous dessert too.

I like Granny Smith apples for apple pie or Rome apples. Or there is a new apple created in Virginia called Honeycrisp which is a new apple. It is a cross of several apples and it is called Honeycrisp.

Kevin, from Cincinnati , Ohio writes:
I adore your art very much from what I have seen here on line and on TV. How many First Family's have you been in service to at this point?

Roland Mesnier
I have served five First Families and I have enjoyed every one of them. They have all been different. They all have their own styles. But at the same time, you have to pay very much attention to their desires, their tastes, their likes and dislikes so you can be successful.

But it has been a real pleasure to do that for me. Thank you for watching the special on TV.

Taylor, from Chicago writes:
Did you interact with the Presidents' kids? Was that fun?

Roland Mesnier
Yes. I have a lot of stories. Two come to mind.

Amy Carter liked to bake cookies for school. I remember once when she came home from school and said, "Roland, can I have some ingredients for my recipe?"

I gave her the ingredients for sugar cookies. And I said, "So you are going to make these, right?" And she said, "Oh yeah."

So, she went upstairs and mix the ingredients, put them in the oven and then went roller skating. Next thing you know, the kitchen is full of smoke. I saw what happened, but I didn't say a word. Instead, I made some cookies.

The next morning, Amy came down to the kitchen in her pajamas and she said, "Roland...."

I said, I know what you want. I could smell it last night. You burned the cookies, didn't you?

She said, "Do you have anything for me?"

I said, "Of course, I do."

Another story I remember one year where it didn't really snow in Washington. And the only place where there was snow was on the South Lawn. They brought in snow machines from Snowshoe (ski resort).

They had a snowman contest on the lawn. The only place in Washington where there was snow. My son entered the contest and Amy Carter was in the contest as well. They were competing against each other.

My son won. And Peggy Fleming, the famous ice skater, came to give out the prizes.

Jared, from Akron, OH writes:
What type of frosting for a cake gets you the most compliments?

Roland Mesnier
There are many different frosting for cakes, but the one I would say gets the most compliment is one that I call the All American Buttercream. Which is made of butter, powdered sugar, warm milk and vanilla flavor.

Kayla, from Bentonville, AR writes:
Thank you, Mr. Roland Mesnier, for taking my question. For a state dinner, or some event like it, how many desserts do you have to prepare for the guests? Thanks again and God Bless.

Roland Mesnier
When we do a State Dinner, it is usually a very long series of different desserts that we put together to make one main dessert or two desserts.

Usually we have on the platter, serving 10 people, the main dessert complemented by fresh fruit pieces, or some scoops of ice cream depending on what the dessert is.

On the other hand, we have another presentation of cookies, homemade chocolates, candy, and that usually is the centerpiece of the tray.

To give you an idea, for state dinners, one of the Italian state dinners we had blown sugar swans, for India we had chocolate white tigers, for Kenya we had blown sugar giraffes. We always try to do something different for the visiting head of states.

Whitney, from Alabama writes:
Do you have chefs in the kitchen 24/7?

Roland Mesnier
Yes, in the kitchen we do have chefs not 24 hours a day, but at least I would say 16 hours a day, on duty.

The First Family, however, does not snack. They are usually very regimented on that. They eat meals at specific times and there is very little food served or eaten between meals which makes it easy for us to plan a schedule in the kitchen.

Ryan, from New Jersey writes:
What do u have to do as the white house pastry chef, is there a large demand for pastry in the white house?

Roland Mesnier
There is a lot of demand for pastries in the White House. As we do not only fix the dessert for the First Family but we have large parties, receptions, teas, dinners to prepare for.

Let's say there is a reception at the White House for 500 which is not uncommon. I have to have over 3,000 pastries ready.

Why such a large number?

I plan the number of pastries according to who will be at the reception. Over the 25 years I've been here, I've noticed that Democrats usually eat more than Republicans. I've also observed that if the guests are mostly ladies, they will usually eat more pastries then men.

Also, some of our pastries tend to disappear into pocketbooks or pockets. And those usually end as Christmas ornaments in different people's homes. So you see why we have to plan for so many pastries at Christmas time.

Jack, from DC writes:
Have you worked somewhere else besides the White House, Roland? Thank you.

Roland Mesnier
Yes. I've worked at pastry shops, restaurants and resorts halfway around the world.

I've worked at pastry shops in Germany, Hotel Savoy in London, Cinq George Hotel in Paris, Vivarois Restaurant in Paris, Princess Hotel International in Bermuda, the Acupulco Princess, and the Homestead Hotel in Hot Springs, Virginia. I was recruited at the Homestead Hotel for the White House.

I was in Bermuda for nine years. My son was born in Bermuda. I took my wife to the hospital when my son was going to be born on a scooter. You know the Vespa? She sat on the back on the Vespa with a suitcase and went to the hospital.

Stefano, from Italy writes:
what do you think about italian way of cooking?

Roland Mesnier
Interesting question.

Well you know Stefano, Italian cooking I think is great.

It is absolutely beautiful. As a matter of fact, I can't wait now that I'm going to be retired from the White House, to visit Italy.

I've always seen beautiful displays of food in different magazines, newspapers and sometimes TV. I know that Italy has the best ingredients to work with. And this is what I was envious of. You have all these beautiful things to cook with.

Italy is high on my list to sample your cooking.

Orlando, from NJ writes:
I can't get my dough to rise. How should I get sweet dough to rise, to make huge delicious cinnamon rolls?

Roland Mesnier
I'm sorry to hear that you have problems with getting your cinnamon rolls to rise. I would suggest using a bicycle pump next time. : )

Will you be creating Chelsea Clinton's wedding cake when the time comes??

Roland Mesnier
I would love to do it, but Chelsea asked me briefly during a visit to the White House. But it was not an official request.

Bente, from Oslo, Norway writes:
Dear Mr. Roland Mesnier,Do you have a recipe for a good American apple pie? If you have, may I please have a copy?

Roland Mesnier
I'm glad you enjoy the good American apple pie. I'm not going to give you a specific recipe, but I will give you the key ingredients of what should be in a good apple pie.

First you make a good pie dough. But you may not have what we call Crisco in Norway. You'll need to get some. You need that for the dough. You need a good crisp apple which you are going to pre-cook with butter and sugar and put that in your dough.

And that's as simple as it gets. Maybe a little cinnamon if you wish. That's the best apple pie in the world.

Argauxa, from Silver Spring writes:
I don't know if I'll ever get married - but will you make my wedding cake?

Roland Mesnier
That's a good question. But first I think you should find a man. And then we'll talk.

Heather, from Washington, DC writes:
What was your favorite dessert to make? Having viewed your marvelous creations in person during the Christmas holiday open house, you are a genius, not only for your creations, but given the size of your kitchen. We will treasure our holiday photos. Best wishes in the future.

Roland Mesnier
I really don't have a favorite dessert to make. Being a pastry chef I like to do all types of dessert. Believe it or not this is what kept me in the White House back in 1979.

I came from a large hotel where I had a lot of staff underneath me. Therefore, I was doing less and less baking. When I came to the White House, I was the only person on board. I was doing absolutely everything myself.

This is where I realized why I became a pastry chef in the first place. Because I totally enjoy, even today after 48 years in the kitchen, to create anything from a simple cookie to a pie to a wedding cake to a beautiful showpiece which you have seen on television for Christmas.

You can see, unless you have this desire you should not become a Chef.

Scot, from Rock Hill, SC writes:
Do the President and his family have midnight snacks? What do they have?

Roland Mesnier
No, the President and his family do not have midnight snacks. They are very good at respecting meal time hours and do not eat between meals as you have to understand they have to be very careful with their diet most of the time.

Therefore there is no snacking and usually there is no food available if they wanted to snack.

Mikey, from Ontario, Canada writes:
Hi Roland, It must be a lot of fun to cook for the President. I would like to know which pastry is the most appreciated at the White House. And if possible, can you describe that pasty to us, Thank.

Roland Mesnier
Yes, it is a lot of fun to make desserts for the President and his family and guests. The most liked pastry in the White House is something that is very difficult to answer because we do such a large variety of things.

We are trying to keep desserts and pastries interesting so we change a lot. We create a lot of new things. So it is not possible for me to say what is the most appreciated.

But I can assure you that every dessert is made with the fullest of attention and the best ingredients we can find. We like to keep the President and the First Lady happy, so therefore everyone can be happy.

James, from Michigan writes:
Roland, if you were a pastry, what kind of pastry would you be? I've always wondered.

Roland Mesnier
If I were a pastry James, I would like to be a big, fat doughnut.

Jackie, from Morgantown writes:
Hi Mr. Mesnier Do you ever feed Barney desserts?

Your friend

Jackie (age 7)

Roland Mesnier
No, I don't give Barney desserts because it is against the rules and regulations. The President and First Lady have requested that we do not feed Barney because we want to keep Barney slim and trim like everyone else in the residence.

Why should he get fat?

But Barney has a way of getting his own dessert. If he happens to see me in the elevator or anywhere in the White House, he runs to my shoes and starts licking them.

Guess why? There is sugar on my shoes, and buttercream and chocolate. Barney absolutely loves it. He would know my shoes among thousands of other shoes.

Roland Mesnier

Goodbye. Thank you for your questions. I hope to talk to you again.

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