The Death Of Roland Mesnier Has The Food World Shaken

He first joined the White House in 1979 and retired in 2004 and served at the pleasure of no less than five US Presidents, from Jimmy Carter to George W Bush, per BBC. It was thanks to him that the White House became known for its elaborate desserts and whimsical Christmas gingerbread houses, and Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier was proud that in the 27 years he was White House pastry chef, the sweets table of the Commander-in-Chief did not see the same dessert twice, per The Washington Post.

Mesnier died on August 26 at a home in Northern Virginia at the age of 78 of what his son George said was complications from cancer. He is also survived by two sisters and a brother.

The accomplished pastry chef was born in Bonnay, eastern France, and left to begin an apprenticeship when he was just 14 at a Patisserie in Besançon, per Associated Press, an area located more than 300 miles from his hometown. Before he arrived in the United States, work took him to kitchens in Paris, Hanover, and Hamburg in Germany, as well as London, before he took a job at The Princess Hotel in Bermuda, where he met his future wife, an American named Martha Whiteford per The Washington Post. It was during a stint in Virginia when he found out that the White House was looking for a pastry chef.

Mesnier was known as a perfectionist

First lady Rosalynn Carter hired Mesnier in 1979 as the White House's sole pastry chef, where he was allowed to create a kitchen that he could call his own and staff it with whomever he chose, per Cassidy and Fishman. But while it might look like he was given a free hand, The Washington Post says Mesnier was hired because he had promised to serve up lighter desserts. The chef became known for his lower-calorie substitutions, molded chocolate, and delicate sugar work.

Mesnier was known for being meticulous: he tasted everything he made and made sure he knew what foods the presidents favored. The Post says Mesnier once called it his mission to provide some comfort to the first family, who lead their lives in a high-pressure goldfish bowl. He was quoted as saying that if he "could take away that pressure for five minutes, then I did my job. That was my role in the White House, to put a smile on the face of the first family."

Mesnier had plenty of stories about the presidents whom he had served

Roland Mesnier's role and dedication made him a fountain of information when it came to the lighter side of life in the White House. Mesnier revealed a few of the First Families' secrets to The Washington Post in 2012: that the late Barbara Bush, wife of President George H.W. Bush, liked serving overcooked fish; that President Bill Clinton's brother-in-law liked pork chops so much he could eat five or six in one go; that President Ronald Reagan was not allowed chocolate, but when his wife Nancy was out of town, the president was treated to a bowl of chocolate mousse. The chef knew that Bill Clinton might have been allergic to sugar, flour, and chocolate, but that didn't keep him from having a sweet tooth; and George W Bush loved his pecan ice cream, per Barron's.

Mesnier also had a few partisan observations involving dessert habits, saying, "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 than men," per Associated Press.

Mesnier had an expensive weakness

Mesnier had a weakness revealed when former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev visited the White House bearing gifts: two giant containers filled with Russian caviar. And while The Washington Post says they were meant to be destroyed, Meisner couldn't allow it to happen. He says: "I looked at the other chef and said, 'I don't know about you, buddy, but I'm willing to die for what's inside. So I'm taking one home, and you can have the other one.'"

Mesnier's death was mourned by the families he served on social media. Hillary Clinton tweeted: "I have such fond memories of Chef Mesnier. He loved making people smile with his beautiful creations, including his famous gingerbread houses at Christmas. He will be missed!" as she shared a photo of herself with the legendary chef. The Reagan Foundation and Institute shared a tribute too, saying, "We are sorry to hear of the passing of Roland Mesnier, who served as chef to the White House for 26 years and for 5 US Presidents, with 25 of those years as the White House Executive Pastry Chef. His passion, commitment, and love for his work will always be remembered."