Roland Mesnier's Biggest Concern When Making Dessert For Presidents

Chef Roland Mesnier's culinary passion began as a kid when he worked at a French patisserie in exchange for a place to sleep. This early start was the foundation for his long and successful career. Mesnier went on to work as a pastry chef in London, Paris, Bermuda, and eventually, the United States — where he was discovered and brought to the White House by President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalyn (via Chef Roland Mesnier).

Mesnier went on to serve five presidents in 27 years at the White House, according to the BBC — the longest tenure of any chef. While observing work and life at the White House, Mesnier aimed to alleviate some of the challenges associated with presidential roles and responsibilities. Mesnier used unique pastry molds and unconventional instruments such as ice picks and tire-pressure gauges to prepare pastries for banquets, build massive gingerbread houses, and adapt recipes to suit health-focused trends (per The New York Times). But serving dignitaries carried its own set of stresses.

"When you are at the White House, I noticed that 'oops' should never be used at any time," Mesnier told Erin Bakes. "I always double-checked and triple-checked the recipes and the outcome and if there was an imperfection, we just did not serve it. That was my philosophy." Mesnier had an even bigger worry when catering White House events.

Striving for originality

"My biggest worry was that they would get bored with my work," Mesnier confessed to Erin Bakes. "Every one of the presidents had a cake or something that he preferred. I tried not to do the same desert twice."

Mesnier recounted an experience that could have turned disastrous when serving the Queen of Denmark. When egg whites weren't rising and time was running short, Mesnier exhausted potential solutions: First, he tried a new batch; then, he changed the recipe completely. Fearing for his job, he added sugar to the eggs, set the soufflé on a baking pan, and placed the concoction over a high burner. Mesnier believes his experience saved him — and his job — for the soufflé rose, and dessert was served.

In addition to authoring several books before his death shook the food world, Mesnier won numerous medals and awards for his pastries, was named to the French Legion of Honor, and was inducted into New York's Chocolate and Pastry Hall of Fame (via Chef Roland Mesnier).