This President May Have Been The Most Difficult To Cook For

The U.S. has had its fair share of heads of state with some rather notable gustatory proclivities. In fact, our current president Joe Biden is a known ice cream enthusiast. And before him, there was Trump, who likes his steaks well done and doused in ketchup, not that celebrity chef Alton Brown finds anything wrong with that.

If all of history's presidential chefs were still around, the internet could be far richer with stories of unusual presidential predilections like squirrel stew (per The Daily Beast), prune whip (via Dallas Observer), and hard cider for breakfast (via Colonial For now, firsthand accounts of the eating habits of recent presidents will have to suffice, not that they disappoint!

Take, for example, some of these tasty revelations made by a White House pastry chef who was privy to 25 years worth of priceless moments in presidential dining history. And then, of course, there are the delectable bits found in a 2010 interview between historian Richard Norton Smith and the late chef, Henry Haller, who headed up the White House kitchen between 1966 and 1987 (via The New York Times). While Haller enjoyed cooking for each of the five different presidents he served during his tenure, it seems some were easier than others, with one, in particular, being exquisitely difficult to cook for.

President Lyndon B. Johnson was tough to please

During John F. Kennedy's brief tenure in the White House, he and his wife, Jackie, employed French-trained chef René Verdon to prepare rarified meals for esteemed guests and he seemed happy to oblige, per The New York Times. But everything changed on November 22, 1963, when the death of JFK put his vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson into the Oval Office and the State Dining Room (via The White House). Suddenly, beef filet au jus gave way to barbecued spareribs and crème brûlée was now tapioca pudding. Verdon felt it was beneath him and tapped out in 1965. 

Unfazed, Lady Bird Johnson hand-picked Swiss-born New York hotel chef, Henry Haller, as Verdon's successor, per a 2010 interview with the Gerald R. Ford Foundation. Haller was, however, forewarned by the FLOTUS herself that pleasing the president would not be easy. Indeed, it was not, with Johnson quickly finding fault in Haller's handling of Florida pole beans — he had left the stringy stems intact. Johnson's response was to just do it himself and then hand a fistful of stems to Haller, along with a warning: never again. 

To his credit, Haller, who died in 2020 at the age of 97, had no problem with Johnson's brusqueness. "I mean, the President was right, but he was very polite, he called me 'Mr. Haller,'" Haller said in the above interview. "He could have called me something else, you know."