The Clintons Were Surprisingly Casual In The White House Kitchen

There's the classic saying that goes, "Celebrities, they're just like us," but for the White House culinary staff, that expression is taken to the next level. Working as a chef is a high-stress job; there's no denying it. Preparing someone's food means you can make or break their day, and cooking for the President and their family has got to be intense, to say the least. The job of the President is stressful on a good day and high stakes on a tough day; you can imagine that chefs at the White House would want to make sure that mealtime is satisfying.

There have been many stories of the lives of White House chefs throughout the years, and there are many chefs who have stories to tell. Often times about strange foods the Presidents craved, penchants for fast food, or even the odd request for a meal or dish the chef didn't want to serve.

The duties of the White House Chef are not as easy as simply cooking the President their favorite dish. Beyond the day-to-day, there are duties like preparing to cater state dinners or hosting leaders from around the globe. You'd expect the relationship between the first family and the White House culinary staff to be rather formal, given the responsibilities the cooks and chefs have. One first family, however, had a particularly tight connection with their culinary staff that bordered on chummy, and that was the Clinton family.

The President visits the kitchen

According to People Magazine, President Bill Clinton had a friendly connection with then-White House sous chef Martin Mongiello, whom he called Marti. Chef Mongiello, who now runs the Inn of the Patriots Bed and Breakfast and Presidential Culinary Museum in Grover, North Carolina, served under four sitting U.S. presidents during this time in the military but says that Clinton was his favorite.

"I always have felt that Big Bubba was fantastic," he told Dr. Diane Hamilton on her Radio Show. He shared that Bill and Hillary Clinton would come and spend time with him and the kitchen staff. He said that Bill would often go in and chat for a bit, maybe watch some TV with the kitchen staff. Visits even lasted as long as an hour. Chef Mongiello said this first made him nervous, but he learned to accept the President's more casual relationship with the staff and that he grew to enjoy their camaraderie (per People Magazine.)

Equally casual was Hillary Clinton, who Mongiello says once came into the White House kitchen wearing a green facial mask. Chef Marti Mongiello wasn't the only member of the White House's culinary staff that the Clintons befriended.

Sweet friendships

Politico reports that the Clintons were also close with the late Chef Walter Schieb, who had a particularly trusting relationship with Mrs. Clinton during her years as the first lady. According to the article, Schieb liked to push boundaries and get creative in the kitchen. He once convinced Mrs. Clinton to serve roast bison during a dinner for the 50th anniversary of NATO — a meat less commonly served during the 1990s. While Mrs. Clinton was reluctant at first, Schieb convinced her with a tasting of the dish, and it ended up on the menu. Politico notes that Chef Schieb appreciated Mrs. Clinton's passion for trying new foods and being inclusive in exploring other food cultures.

In addition to that, Politico also noted that Chef Schieb taught Chelsea Clinton cooking lessons at the White House when she was in high school, and she was also quite close to pastry chef Roland Mesnier who taught her how to make pie crust (per The Hill.) After Chef Mesnier passed last year, Chelsea Clinton tweeted a heartfelt tribute to him. Prior to that, when Chef Schieb passed in 2015, the Clinton family released this statement: "Walter used his immense talents not only to represent the very best of American cuisine to visiting leaders, but to make a difference in people's lives across the country."

An age-old adage says, "Don't bite the hand that feeds you." In the case of the Clinton family, it appears they chose to befriend it instead.