Roland Mesnier's Comical Observations From Working At The White House

Life as a professional chef is inherently stressful, but the pressure reaches new levels when your diners include some of the most powerful people in the world. That's the kind of heat you face as a chef in the White House kitchen. Insider reveals the unique stress factors present in the executive residence, which include feeding up to 140 guests and transporting meals up and down a spiral staircase. On top of that, you've got to factor in presidential pickiness, making this a job only suited to the most committed perfectionists in the culinary world.

Even amongst the loyal ranks of the White House kitchen, Roland Mesnier stood out for his unparalleled devotion. The native of Bonnay, France served for 25 years as the White House executive pastry chef, from the day First Lady Rosalynn Carter hired him in 1979 to his retirement in 2004 after serving five administrations, per the Associated Press. He was perhaps most famous for the elaborate gingerbread houses he constructed every Christmas, but it's the stories he collected along the way that truly define his legacy.

Tales from the President's kitchen

Mesnier was known to dish on the eating habits of presidents and esteemed guests. The Washington Post recounts a public address in which Mesnier said that Nancy Reagan tried fiercely to regulate her husband's diet, but anytime she left town, Ronald would pig out on steak, mac-and-cheese, and chocolate mousse. Mesnier revealed even more in a public Q&A forum just before his retirement. In his answers, preserved by the White House Archives, he cheekily notes that he always prepared a surplus of pastries because guests would sneak them into their pockets and purses to take home. Democrats, he claimed, ate more than Republicans, though he did not speculate as to why. It turns out White House dinners sometimes involve real danger, as Mesnier had to put a moratorium on flamb├ęs after a guest's fox shawl caught fire at the Christmas banquet.

In his archived commentary, Mesnier places particular emphasis on his relationships not just with the president, but with the first family as a whole. He recalled the day that a young Amy Carter filled the kitchen with smoke after leaving a batch of cookies in the oven too long. Ever affectionate, Mesnier surprised her with a fresh batch of his own. There was one individual who couldn't enjoy Mesnier's food: the Bush's dog Barney. However, despite George and Laura's admonitions, Barney couldn't help but lick the buttercream off Mesnier's shoes every time they met.