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White House’s Executive Pastry Chef Leaving for New York

White House’s Executive Pastry Chef Leaving for New York


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The White House's executive pastry chef, Bill Yosses, will leave his post in June for another project

Bill Yosses will leave his post as the White House's executive pastry chef in June for a New York-based initiative on healthy eating habits.

Bill Yosses, who has been the White House executive pastry chef since January 2007, will soon leave his post for New York. During a recent phone interview, Yosses told The New York Times that he was inspired by the First Lady and her commitment to the relationship between food and health, and is now headed to New York where he hopes to put together “a group of like-minded creative people” who are dedicated to spreading food knowledge, helping children and adults develop healthy eating habits.

Yosses, who has already worked in New York as a pastry chef at Montrachet and Bouley, was hired by Laura Bush in 2007. Although he initially prepared traditional sugar sculptures and cookie plates for the Obamas, he was instructed to create healthier desserts in smaller portions, to be served sparingly.

Still, Yosses, known affectionately by President Obama as “The Crustmaster” for his flawless execution of several pies per holiday, says he has no intention to “demonize cream, butter, sugar and eggs.”

“Food knowledge should be part of a complete curriculum,” Yosses said. “We used to learn about food as a part of everyday growing up, but I think we’ve lost that. I think it has a place in schools.”

Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.


Obamas’ Longtime Personal Chef, Sam Kass, to Leave White House

Michelle Obama reacts next to Sam Kass as she arrives to harvest vegetables from the White House kitchen garden with schoolchildren in Washington in October.

Carol E. Lee

WASHINGTON—Sam Kass, the first family’s longtime personal chef and a prominent fixture of first lady Michelle Obama’s national healthy eating campaign, is leaving the White House at the end of December.

President Barack Obama was to issue a statement Monday calling Mr. Kass, executive director of Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative against childhood obesity, an aide who “has grown from a close friend to a critical member of my team.”

“From constructing our Kitchen Garden to brewing our own Honey Brown Ale, Sam has left an indelible mark on the White House,” Mr. Obama said in a White House release. “And with the work he has done to inspire families and children across this country to lead healthier lives, Sam has made a real difference for our next generation.”

The president and first lady are working on naming a replacement in January.

Mr. Kass, in an interview on Sunday, said his decision to leave was prompted by his marriage this year to Alex Wagner, host of a daily program on MSNBC. Ms. Wagner lives and works in New York City. Mr. Kass plans to move there after he leaves the White House.


Bill Yosses, former White House executive pastry chef, opens first NYC restaurant

Bill Yosses, the White House executive chef to the Obamas, has opened his first New York restaurant this week on the Upper East Side. Palais by Perfect Pie is a French-American bistro, where you can order the same pies President Barack Obama loved on the menu.

Photograph: Battman Studios

Seasonal pies such as apple and pecan are currently available, but diners can also expect to find pumpkin, blueberry and even savory ones as the options expand. On the savory side, Chef du Cuisine Marcos Gonzalez adds American touches to a menu focused on classic French fare. There&rsquos snapper Provençale, coq au vin and roasted duck breast to showcase the more traditional bistro items. But there&rsquos also grilled flatbread pizza, the Palais burger and cavatelli pasta. Palais, which is French for palate, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The bi-level space seats 75 and is still awaiting a liquor license.

Photograph: Tony Jalandoni

But it&rsquos the fresh pies that take center stage. As a pastry chef, Yosses baked countless pies for the Obamas. At one Thanksgiving, the Obama family famously served about half a dozen types of pies.

"Some people prefer cake. I like pie." —President Obama http://t.co/42tOiQ2ogf

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 4, 2014

&ldquoI feel like I passed some test of mastery. Obama said that it was basically the only dessert he liked,&rdquo says Yosses, who added in an interview with Time Out New York that the former president&rsquos favorite was banana cream pie at the start of his first term but that he later ate more fruit pies.

After leaving his White House position, Yosses launched an online business in 2015 called Perfect Pie. Oprah was an early fan and more recently, he went on to cater several Broadway shows, from the meat pies served in Sweeney Todd to the more recent play Network starring Bryan Cranston. Now he&rsquos found a brick-and-mortar with Palais by Perfect Pie, which he opened with his husband Charlie Fabella Jr. and pastry chef John Wu.

Yosses&rsquo restaurant is located in a storied space. It&rsquos been a French restaurant for more than 70 years and was also home to Jean Jacques Rachou&rsquos Le Lavandou, which Yosses dined at in the 80&rsquos. Rachou, who later also opened the legendary fine-dining French restaurant La Côte Basque, helped develop the menu here.

&ldquoIt&rsquos like having Escoffier in the kitchen with you,&rdquo says Yosses, referring to the famed chef widely credited for formalizing traditional French cooking methods used in kitchens across the world today, including Rachou&rsquos former New York restaurants.

Photograph: Tony Jalandoni

French cooking played a significant role in Yosses career. He spent the early years of his career in France before becoming the White House Executive Pastry Chef from 2007 to 2014. He also worked on Michelle Obama&rsquos Let&rsquos Move initiative, which aimed to help improve the health of children through exercise and better diets.

Photograph: Battman Studios

The Obamas were always health conscious, according to Yosses, but toward the end of the presidency, the family &ldquolimited the desserts to a couple days a week.&rdquo

&ldquoThe pies were less frequent,&rdquo says Yosses. &ldquoBut you&rsquove got to have a dessert once in a while.&rdquo


Can you make dessert healthier without compromising taste? Bill Yosses found the sweet spot.

As the former White House executive pastry chef, Bill Yosses recalled recently that representing America through dessert was “a fine needle to thread” during his time serving the Bush and Obama adminstrations. Whether it involved baking a garam masala–spiced pumpkin pie for the prime minister of India or perfecting a cookie replica of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fireplace, he was tasked with representing America–and all of its farmers, regions, and traditions–while paying respect to other cultures. But when Yosses wasn’t planning menus for state dinners or big events, he worked closely with Michelle Obama on her signature Let’s Move! campaign, which focused on reducing childhood obesity through better nutrition and exercise. Desserts at the White House were modified to be healthier, which set the foundation for his latest cookbook, The Sweet Spot.

Bill Yosses and Michelle Obama cooking lunch with students in the State Dining Room. Photo by Lance Cheung

In his book, Yosses asserts that desserts can be made healthier by focusing on the natural sweetness of fruits and utilizing whole grains. This doesn’t mean cutting out sugar and fat completely, as there are some corners that cannot be cut. For someone nicknamed “Crustmaster-in-Chief” by President Obama, Yosses stands by using a stick of butter for a flaky pie crust, as it’s necessary for both binding and flavor. That is, dessert isn’t the enemy as long as it’s eaten in moderation. Recipes draw upon White House favorites like fruit cobbler, a popular request from both First Families he served, and a lemon meringue pie, which Yosses claims to be “one of the few things that reached across the aisle and united partisans of both parties.”

But how exactly did this pastry chef navigate dessert menus during the holiday season while upholding the First Lady’s signature initiative? You bend the rules, Yosses explains. Certain times of year were exceptions, with the kitchen still churning out two dozen pies for a Thanksgiving feast and 20,000 Christmas cookies. He looks back on prepping for December celebrations, a White House tradition where President Obama and the First Lady threw a party nearly every day that month to thank those in their community, ranging from their religious institution to the Democratic Party, with over 1,000 attendees each night. Yosses understood there was less of a need to hold back for these blowout holiday parties. But at the same time, wholesome desserts still graced the tables simply because they tasted just as good. Yosses continued to make desserts with fresh fruits and alternative flours, showcasing what was in season.

Revising recipes and making compromises for lower fat and sugar content wasn’t incompatible with White House tradition, considering each White House pastry chef is told to make their creations original, Yosses emphasizes. With the White House Kitchen Garden at his disposal, he began to bake with more herbs, relying on their potency to deliver flavor. Yet some White House recipes were best left untouched, especially when it came to the holidays. Baking thousands of Christmas cookies per day was no small feat, leaving little room (or time) for experimentation, but Yosses still includes an adaptation of that gingerbread with less sugar in his book.

Michelle Obama had a lasting impact on Yosses and was a major influence behind the book, helping him crystallize ideas about creating more wholesome desserts that he’d been already been working on for years. “I’m one of thousands of people moved to a kind of civic consciousness after knowing the Obamas,” he says, smiling with admiration. “They’re the kind of people to encourage you to just do something, rather than just sitting on the couch.” For Yosses, that meant eventually leaving the White House and returning to New York City to educate local students on nutrition and promote STEM, continuing his socially conscious mission tied to food.

The former First Lady’s initiatives were met with some scrutiny in the food world, with critics saying she wasn’t doing enough. Some argued that the conversation about eating healthier should have expanded to emphasize cooking. Yosses is understanding of Mrs. Obama’s goals—and quick to defend her. As someone who knew her day-to-day schedule, he says, “She’s the symbol of our democracy. Her time is much better spent being that symbol, talking to people and inspiring them. That’s her role—planning the big things, not [talking about the specifics like] pulling the radishes or being in the kitchen. It’s a cynical and really small-minded approach to think that [her not talking about cooking] is a criticism of the First Lady.”

Michelle Obama’s final White House Kitchen Garden Harvest in 2016. Photo by Chuck Kennedy

As both a mom and the leader of a food movement supporting fresh vegetables and fruits, Michelle Obama had to make changes in her own home, starting with snack time for her kids. Yosses points out that there wasn’t a free-flowing buffet of cookies and cakes on offer like many imagine. Instead, there was typically a set schedule, where the team often prepared apples and peanut butter as a more wholesome after-school snack for Sasha and Malia. He clarifies, “Snacking on their own wasn’t permitted. They couldn’t just say they wanted hot chocolate. If it went through Mom, it was okay.”

Getting deeper into the secrets of snacking at the White House, he lets readers in on a little gossip. “Every afternoon, a cookie platter was sent up to the First Family’s quarters,” he writes in the book. “Although the family usually did not return until later, the cookie platter was often empty by 2:00 pm. This leaves the only suspects as the long-serving, loyal, discreet, cookie-loving butlers. I was fine with that they are the unsung heroes of the executive branch.”

You won’t hear Yosses using the word “decadent” to describe dessert, as he disagrees with the idea of food indulgence causing guilt. Being a pastry chef while advocating a better diet may seem to come with some degree of tension, but The Sweet Spot strikes a healthy balance between the two.

Lead photo by Amanda Lucidon. Cookbook photos by Evan Sung.

Lemon Curd Pie With Meringue

10 servings

Ingredients

  • Flaky Piecrust
  • 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1⁄4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, preferably grass-fed, high fat, cut into 1⁄4-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water or gin
  • For the Filling
  • ⅓ cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2¼ teaspoons (1 envelope) gelatin
  • ¼ cup local honey
  • ¾ cups lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted high-fat European-style butter
  • For the Meringue
  • 4 large egg whites
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • ¼ cup organic cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped almonds

Lemon meringue pie was very popular at the White House, one of the few things that reached across the aisle and united partisans of both parties. The filling is normally very heavy on butter, but my version is based on yogurt, with just a bit of butter for richness. Although a great meringue must be made with some sugar (in order to allow the air to be captured by the egg whites), this recipe has only about one third as much sweetener as the traditional pie, while remaining a supremely luscious dessert.


Former White House Pastry Chef Shows Off A Perfectly Presidential Holiday Pie

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – You’ve trimmed the tree, hung the stockings and wrapped the gifts, now it’s time to sweeten up the holiday with some decadent desserts.

Former White House executive pastry chef Bill Yosses just opened Palais by Perfect Pie in Manhattan’s Upper East Side and joined CBS2’s Andrea Grymes and Cindy Hsu to show off his take on a “presidential pie.”

According to his website, Yosses worked closely with Michelle Obama on her Let’s Move initiative with the goal of reducing childhood health problems related to diet.

White House Pie

  • 3 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Tsp. of Salt
  • 10 oz. of Unsalted Butter
  • 6-7 Tbsp. of Ice Water
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Tsp. of Salt for Egg Wash on the pie crust

In a food processor, briefly pulse together the flour and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture forms chickpea size pieces, (3- to 5-second pulses). Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time and pulse until the mixture is just moist enough to hold together.

Divide the dough into two equal amounts and form dough into balls, then press down into a circle, wrap the circles with plastic, refrigerate at least one hour before rolling out and lining the pie pan.

To prepare the pie shell, roll out the chilled circles on a lightly floured flat surface to about 14&rdquo diameter, with one of the circles line a greased pie pan, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Chill the dough in the pie pan for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.

Refrigerate the other circle until needed for the pie top.

Prepare the filling recipe below and fill the pie shell with it.

Pie Fillings

  • 6 Pints of Blueberriees, Washed
  • 1/2 Cup of Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup of Corn Starch
  • 1 Tsp. of Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Tsp. of Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Tsp. of Ground Cinnamon
  • Zest and juice of one Lemon
  • 1 Egg, beaten

Fill the pie shell with the fruit filling and then remove the second circle of chilled pie dough from the refrigerator.

Brush it with egg wash and lay it over the filling, press gently around the edges to mold the top and bottom pieces of dough together.

With a paring knife, puncture the top pie dough in a wide circle about 6 times with the tip of the knife to form steam vents. With a pastry brush, paint the top dough with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake the pie at 350 degrees F for 75 minutes or until the pie filling is starting to bubble out the vents and the top pie crust is golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 1-2 hours before serving.


From White House Pastry Chef to Sweeney Todd, Bill Yosses’ Career Is Sweet as Pie

In the new off-Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, the musical takes place in a pie shop built inside the Barrow Street Theatre in New York City’s West Village. Former White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses stars in a wholly original role, doling out his homemade pies, one at a time, to excited patrons.

Served with mashed potatoes and “a steaming parsley sauce known as ‘liquor,’” about an hour before the show, guests have a choice between a chicken and a vegetable pie. (I tried the chicken pie—baked with fresh vegetables and black truffle zest—while my theater companion went with the vegetarian pot pie due to her concerns about the play’s content—and the individual hand pies were delectable.) According to Bill, the idea to serve pies in advance of the performance originated, in “Tooting, South London, where the producer, Rachel Edwards, noticed a pie and mash shop located across the street from a barber shop. These things write themselves sometimes. She asked both if she could stage Sweeney there and they agreed. Then Sondheim went to see it and loved it.”

In Yosses’s new cookbook, The Sweet Spot: Dialing Back Sugar and Amping Up Flavor, Bill’s mantra “Treat sugar like salt” permeates the healthy recipes inspired by his time spent as the White House pastry chef. (Bill was the White House Executive Pastry Chef from 2007 to 2014, where he collaborated with First Lady Michelle Obama on her Let’s Move! Campaign.) There is an entire section devoted to pie—including some inventive and flavorful recipes like Kabocha Persimmon Pie and Chocolate Quinoa Kweem Pie—and this Crustmaster’s recipes won’t disappoint. (The Crustmaster, a nickname lovingly bestowed upon Yosses by President Obama during Bill’s time in the White House, is well-earned.) Although the pie section doesn’t contain recipes for Bill’s favorite pie (huckleberry) or President Obama’s (banana cream pie), the detailed step-by-step instructions are helpful for beginner bakers. And you’d be wise to heed Bill’s advice: “Don’t overwork the dough!”

Bill first learned to bake pies from his mother, and his personal record is making “85 pies in one day, when Oprah put his ‘Perfect Pie Company Fancy Valentine’s Day Box’ on her list of favorite things.” The new book, co-authored by Peter Kaminsky, is filled with ingredients like fruits, nut flours, herbs, and spices, so flavorful that you won’t even notice that you’re baking with less sugar. When asked what recipe he’s most excited about, Bill picked the “Sheba from Queens Cake” (recipe and photograph below courtesy of Avery), the “Black Sesame Parfait with Red Fruits,” and the “Farmer’s Cheese Dumplings with Raspberry-Black Pepper Compote.” He recommends that novice bakers start off with “any pudding or panna cotta” but the seasonally inspired recipes provide an endless number of options for a show-stopping dessert.

Bill’s artisanal pie company, Perfect Pie, has received countless accolades throughout the run of the show and gained many appreciative fans. Next, Bill is keen on opening a retail space in New York City in the near future. Until then, you can grab a copy of The Sweet Spotand do your best to recreate Bill’s novel takes on time-honored recipes (like the Apple Pie with Caramelized Honey and Tamarind Vinegar).


Bill Yosses to leave White House kitchen staff

WASHINGTON, March 19 (UPI) -- Bill Yosses, the executive pastry chef at the White House, is leaving his post to teach children and adults about eating better in New York City.

Yosses, who was hired by former first lady Laura Bush in 2007, was inspired by Michelle Obama to create healthier food options at the White House, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Obama asked Yosses to make more healthful desserts, and in smaller portions, that were served sparingly to her family.

"She has done it with humor and good will, without preaching, just the way you would hope the 'Mom in chief' would do," Yosses said, calling Obama "definitely an inspiring boss, a combination of spontaneity and seriousness."

Yosses said he has not given up completely on his former way of cooking.

"I don't want to demonize cream, butter, sugar and eggs," he said.

"For special, nostalgic occasions, we still make 20 percent traditional desserts," Yosses said. "Coconut cake with seven-minute frosting, lemon steamed pudding with layers of custard, mousse and cake, sticky toffee pudding, and every kind of chocolate dessert possible."

Yosses, 60, will remain at the White House until June, at which point he will move to New York City to teach culinary arts with an emphasis on healthier fare.

"Food knowledge should be part of a complete curriculum," he said. "We used to learn about food as a part of everyday growing up, but I think we've lost that. I think it has a place in schools."

In a statement, the first lady said she was "incredibly sad to see Bill Yosses go."

"I am also so grateful to him for his outstanding work, not just as the White House pastry chef, producing the most delectable creations for everything from birthday celebrations to state visits, but also as a key partner helping us get the White House kitchen garden off the ground and building a healthier future for our next generation. I wish Bill and his husband, Charlie, all the best in their future endeavors," Obama said.


A Taste of the Past: White House Kitchens, Menus, and Recipes

When she toured the White House kitchen in 1933, Eleanor Roosevelt’s housekeeper Henrietta Nesbitt found cockroaches crawling in its cupboards. In her book White House Diary she describes her first inspection of the premises—“I can’t work up any charm for cockroaches. No matter how you scrub it, old wood isn’t clean. This was the ‘first kitchen in America,’ and it wasn’t even sanitary. Mrs. Roosevelt and I poked around, opening doors and expecting hinges to fall off and things to fly out. It was that sort of place. Dark-looking cupboards, a huge old-fashioned gas range, sinks with time-worn wooden drains, one rusty wooden dumb waiter. The refrigerator was wood inside and bad-smelling. Even the electric wiring was old and dangerous. I was afraid to switch things on.”

“There is only one solution,” she told Mrs. Roosevelt. “We must have a new kitchen.”

Public Works Project No. 634 was instituted demolition and new construction on the kitchen began in the summer of 1935. During the Depression, the jobless rate was exceedingly high and Franklin Roosevelt insisted relief workers be employed for the reconstruction whenever possible. The renovation, planned by the White House staff and engineers from General Electric and Westinghouse corporations, reconfigured the working space, replaced rusted pipes, put in a whole new electrical system with all-new electric appliances, and installed more efficient dumbwaiters to transport the food to the State Floor dining rooms above. New equipment included six roasting ovens, a sixteen-foot-long stove, eight refrigerators, five dishwashers, a soup kettle, a meat grinder, waffle irons, multiple mixers, a thirty-gallon ice-cream storage freezer, and a deep fryer that held five gallons of fat. Stainless steel storage and counter tops were installed throughout.

The President and Mrs. Roosevelt were delighted, but Mrs. Nesbitt reported that the staff was overwhelmed by the latest technological innovations. They continued to do things the way they had been done in the past: washing dishes, as well as chopping and slicing food—by hand. And unfortunately for President Roosevelt, a new kitchen did not improve the quality or variety of Mrs. Nesbitt’s menus. Mrs. Nesbitt believed in economical, simple, American fare: cheap cuts of meat including brains, sweetbreads, and beef tongues mashed potatoes flavorless canned vegetables molded gelatin salads dotted with marshmallows and insipid desserts. Franklin Roosevelt once joked that the only reason he sought a fourth term of office was so that he could return to the White House to fire Mrs. Nesbitt! Although Roosevelt won his fourth election, Mrs. Nesbitt and her bland menus remained, for Mrs. Roosevelt ran the household staff. In her biography Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume Two, author Blanche Wiesen Cook writes, “ER’s curious disregard for her husband’s tastes suggests an explanation for her persistent defense of Henrietta Nesbitt: The housekeeper was one expression of her passive-aggressive behavior in a marriage of remarkable and labyrinthine complexity.”

Irwin “Ike” Hoover was the White House usher when the Roosevelts moved into the house in 1933. “Republicans dropped out of sight overnight. Those who were left seemed to have changed into Democrats,” he observed. During his forty-plus years of service he had only served under two democratic administrations, that of Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson. When he began his stint in the White House, the basement kitchen was blackened with dirt and grime, the floor covered with slimy bricks. In his memoir Forty-Two Years in the White House, he wrote that he found, “the old open fireplaces once used for the broiling the chickens and baking the hoecakes for the early Fathers of our country, the old cranes and spits still in place. Out of the door to the rear there yet remained the old wine-vault, the meathouse, and the smokehouse . . . you could still almost smell the wine odors and the aroma from the hams and bacon that must have been so deliciously and painstakingly prepared here.”

Open hearth cooking—cooking in a fireplace—was the only way to cook in the White House up until Millard Fillmore’s administration (1850-1853). Meats sizzled on spits over cracking flames or roasted within tin reflecting ovens in front of the hot fire. Iron and bronze pots suspended from a swinging crane held stews, soups, and vegetables. Bread was baked first in the bake ovens built into the back of the hearth wall, and as the temperature dropped inside the oven, in went the pies, and later the cookies and custards. Knowing how to control the cooking temperatures was an art. A cook had to have an understanding of coal and woods and their burn properties. Coal was the hottest and burned the longest. Hard woods—ash, oak, hickory, maple, and dogwood gave good heat, burned evenly, and lasted a long time. Pots and pans were moved in and out of the heat, moved close to the fire or away to control cooking time. A kitchen inventory during James Monroe’s administration included, “1 large copper soup kettle, 1 Large ham boiler, 1 large preserving kettle, 1 ditto fish kettle, with drainers, 1 Large coffee boiler, 1 Brass stew pan, 3 Large sauce pans, 19 Of different sizes . . . 2 Griddles, 1 Toasting iron, 1 Frying pan, 5 Jack spits, 3 coffee mills, 1 Old dripping pan, 2 Spit stands, 4 Trivets, 1 Marble pestle and mortar, 4 Sheet iron cake bakers.”

Today the chefs, cooks, dishwashers, and waiters in the White House kitchens must prepare and serve meals for the President and his family, as well as guests from many countries around the world. Sometimes they create meals and refreshments for five or more social events a day, ranging from family meals, to teas, to private parties, to formal state dinners, to larger receptions for hundreds of people. Many of those who have served our nation cooking for “America’s First Dining Table” feel the same about their experience as did Henry Haller, the Executive Chef for five presidential families from the Johnsons to the Reagans: “My own role as the Executive Chef of the White House has certainly been the most rewarding position I have ever held.”

See and Read More

To view historic pictures of the White House kitchen, go to: WhiteHouseMuseum.org.

For videos demonstrating open hearth cooking, go to:

Many early American historical societies and house museums offer open hearth cooking classes for young people. Using the search engine of your choice, type open hearth cooking classes along with your state’s name and you will find classes near you.

White House Menus

Thomas Jefferson was many things—writer, scholar, horticulturist, architect, interior designer, paleontologist, inventor, philosopher, politician—and an expert of wine and fine cuisine. He preferred to be addressed as Mr. Jefferson, not Mr. President, and criticized both George Washington and John Adams for their “imperial” federalist ways. He advocated a plainness of manner in presidential style but his table was set for a king. Margaret Bayard Smith, a Washington hostess and wife of Samuel Harrison Smith, the publisher of the National Intelligencer newspaper, was often a guest of Mr. Jefferson’s. She described Jefferson’s dinners as “republican simplicity . . . united to Epicurean delicacy.”

Jefferson loved all things French and employed a French cook, Honoré Julien. Patrick Henry once remarked that Jefferson, after serving as minister to France, “came home from France so Frenchified that he abjured his native victuals.” But Jefferson loved native-grown fruits and vegetables—corn, black-eyed peas, huckleberries, turnip greens. Invitations to the Jefferson’s dinner parties at the White House were coveted not only for social and political reasons, but because the food was delectable. Congressman Manasseh Cutler of Massachusetts wrote this of the dinner menu he attended at the White House on February 6, 1802. “Dined at the President’s—Rice soup, round of beef, turkey, mutton, ham, loin of veal, cutlets of mutton or veal, fried eggs, fried beef, a pie called macaroni, which appeared to be a rich crust filled with scallion onions or shallots, which I took it to be, tasted very strong and not very agreeable. Mr. Lewis [Meriwether Lewis] told me there were none in it it was an Italian dish, and what appeared like onions were made of flour and butter, with particularly strong liquor mixed with them. Ice cream very good, crust wholly dried, crumbled into thin flakes a dish somewhat like a pudding—inside white as milk or curd, very porous and light covered with cream sauce—very fine. Many other jimcracks, a great variety of fruit, plenty of wine and good.”

“Plenty of wine” was a correct assessment, for Jefferson drank one to four glasses of wine a day, ordering it by the barrel from Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal, and served four to six wines with dinner. His wine bill exceeded $10,000 for his eight years in the presidency, a princely sum in the first decade of the 19 th century.

Today, White House menus and wine lists from small dinner parties to large state dinners are much discussed by the first lady, her social secretary, and the White House chefs. The type and style of the meal or event, the special guests and their country or state of origin, the social and political goals of the event, the world and local atmosphere surrounding the meal, the availability of fresh ingredients, the season of the year, the guests’ attitudes toward alcoholic beverages, and guests’ food allergies—all these things must be assessed before planning a White House menu.

After significant research by the executive chef, the pastry chef, their staffs, and the White House social staff, a menu is developed that is appropriate for the proposed social event. The first lady, and sometimes the president, reviews the food and wine choices that are proposed and give their opinion and approval. For important occasions, like state dinners, the chefs will actually cook menu items so that the first lady and her social secretary can taste foods and work with the chefs to refine the menu.

Menus may be printed, but more often than not White House calligraphers hand-letter individual menus for guests. Guests can then take their menus home with them as a souvenir of their experience. Some guests even circulate their menus at their table requesting the autographs of their table mates. You never know who you will be sitting next to when you dine at the White House!

Menu for the James Buchanan Inaugural Ball—March 4, 1857

400 gallons of oysters
60 saddles of mutton
4 saddles of venison
125 beef tongues
75 hams
500 quarts of chicken salad
500 quarts of jellies
A four-foot cake
$3,000 worth of wine

James Buchanan, the only bachelor president, thought that multiple inaugural balls were outrageous wastes of time and energy. He reinstated the single inaugural ball concept, but had to construct a new $15,000 building* on Judiciary Square in Washington to accommodate his 6,000 guests. Guests were served on long tables set against red, white, and blue walls, and when their appetites were satiated they danced beneath a white ceiling glittering with hundreds of gold stars.

You can see pictures of Buchanan’s Inaugural Ball on the Library of Congress website loc.gov:

Abraham Lincoln’s Inaugural Luncheon Menu, March 4, 1861

Mock Turtle Soup
Corned Beef and Cabbage
Parsley Potatoes
Blackberry Pie
Coffee

Abraham Lincoln was not known for his culinary sensibilities. His was more of a “food for fuel” perspective. He often got so caught up in his work that he forgot to eat. He was partial to cornbread drizzled with honey and good cup of strong coffee. He did have a sweet tooth. A Washington, D.C. baker claimed the president was one of his best pecan pie customers. Despite his apparent lack of interest in cuisine, Lincoln did plan the menu for the luncheon that followed his inauguration. It was served midday at the Willard’s Hotel in Washington after the ceremonies at the Capitol had ended. Immediately after the luncheon, Lincoln and his family moved into the White House.

Nellie Grant’s Wedding Breakfast Menu, May 21, 1874
State Dining Room

Woodcock and Snipe on Toast
Soft Crabs on Toast
Chicken Croquettes with Fresh Peas
Aspic of Beef Tongue
Lamb Cutlets
Broiled Spring Chicken
Strawberries with Cream
Wedding Cake iced with Doves, Roses, and Wedding Bells
Ice Creams and Ices
Fancy Cakes
Punch • Coffee • Chocolate

Nellie Grant, the charming and vivacious daughter of President and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, was sent off on a tour of Europe in the hopes of removing her from the public’s eyes and press’ grasp. Bad idea Nellie made even more news across the ocean. She was wined and dined all over Europe and presented to Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace. And at age seventeen, on the voyage home, she fell madly in love with a young, handsome English diplomat, Mr. Algernon Sartoris, the nephew of a famous actress. The whole White House staff prepared for her wedding. It was to be “one of the most brilliant weddings ever given in the United States.” The bride wore a gown of white satin edged in Brussels lace a crown of orange blossoms held her tulle veil to her head. She carried a bouquet of tuberoses and orange blossoms and in the cluster of pink rosebuds at the center of her bouquet was a small flag with the word “Love” printed on it. The wedding breakfast menu was printed in gold on white satin and given to guests as souvenirs of the occasion. Gifts poured in from all over the world, but the most unique gift was a poem, “A Kiss for the Bride” written by Walt Whitman. Unfortunately, Nellie and Algernon did not live happily ever after. Algernon became an alcoholic and Nellie left him, taking their four children with her.

A Kiss to the Bride

Sacred, blithesome, undenied,
With benisons from East and West,
And salutations North and South,
Through me indeed to-day a million hearts and hands,
Wafting a million loves, a million soul-felt prayers
—Tender and true remain the arm that shields thee
Fair winds always fill the ship’s sails that sail thee!
Clear sun by day, and bright stars at night, beam on thee!
Dear girl—through me the ancient privilege too,
For the New World, through me, the old, old wedding greeting:
O youth and health! O sweet Missouri rose! O bonny bride!
Yield thy red cheeks, thy lips, to-day,
Unto a Nation’s loving kiss.

President and Mrs. Eisenhower’s Dinner Menu

in Honor of King Paul and Queen Frederika of Greece, October 28, 1955

Shrimp Cocktail
Cocktail Sauce Saltine Crackers
Sherry
Clear Consommé
Sliced Lemmon
Celery Hearts • Assorted Olives
Fairy Toast
White Fish in Cheese Sauce
Coleslaw
Boston Brown Bread Sandwiches
White Wine
Crown Roast of Lamb Stuffed With Spanish Rice
Mint Jelly
French Peas • Braised Celery
Bread Sticks
Orange and Roquefort Cheese Salad Bowl
French Dressing
Toasted Triscuits
Champagne
Caramel Cream Mold
Burnt Caramel Sauce
Lemon Iced Diamond Shaped Cookies
Nuts • Candies • Demitasse

Mrs. Ike, as President Eisenhower affectionately called his wife, was a “girlie” girl. She loved hair curls and bangs, the color pink, sparkles, tulle, flowered hats, long gloves, flounced skirts, and—at age fifty-six—she had no problem wearing sleeveless gowns that bared her less-than-firm upper arms. 1950’s America adored her because she was open, unpretentious, and genuinely loved people. Seeing themselves in her, many women viewed her as a kindred spirit, a wife dedicated to home and family. But she was far from the typical housewife. The White House staff nicknamed her “Sleeping Beauty” because she was known to lie in bed for long hours in her favorite pink negligee. The truth was she suffered from asthma and heart palpitation and needed to rest. Mamie Eisenhower was not fond of cooking her husband was the culinary expert in the family. Nevertheless, it was Mrs. Eisenhower, having successfully managed thirty households in her thirty-seven years as a military wife, who approved the menus for events large and small, including her husband’s many stag dinners. Her food choices reflected both the times and her Iowa upbringing.

President and Mrs. John Kennedy’s Menu
for a Luncheon with Princess Grace, May 24, 1961

Soft-Shell Crab Amadine
Puligny-Montrachet 1958

Spring Lamb Á La Broche Aux Primeurs
Château Croton Grancey 1955

Salade Mimosa
Dom Pérignon 1952

Strawberies Romanoff
Petits Fours Secs
Demi-tasse

Joining President and Mrs. Kennedy and the Prince and Princess of Monaco for lunch were Senator and Mrs. Claiborne Pell, Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. (the third of Mr. Roosevelt’s five wives), movie producer and director Fred Coe and his wife, and Mr. William Walton, a journalist, painter, and close friend of the president. Princess Grace, the actress Grace Kelly before her marriage, wore a fringed green jacket over a matching sheath dress, white gloves, and an unusual white turban featuring a froth of curled feathers or ribbons. (The hat was a definite fashion faux pas.) Mrs. Kennedy’s social secretary, Letitia Baldrige, in her conversations with the President the week before the luncheon, had jokingly referred to Prince Rainier of Monaco numerous times as Prince Reindeer. At one point during lunch the president turned to respond to Prince Rainer and out slipped “Prince Reindeer.” For a few days after the luncheon, Miss Baldrige was not one of the president’s favorite people. Four years later in an interview, Princess Grace was able to recall every detail of the lunch including all the dishes she had eaten. By that measure, the lunch was a huge success.

A Sampling of Recipes from the First Ladies, and a Few from the Presidents, too!

The George Washington Administration: Martha Washington and Nelly Custis Lewis

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington was a plump widow with two children when George Washington married her. She not only brought property and elite social status to the match, she brought vast property holdings, too. A self-described “old-fashioned Virginia house-keeper,” she was experienced in handling a large household and was a much admired if somewhat reserved hostess. At fifty-eight, Lady Washington was a grandmother when her husband became president. She never resided in the White House, but she managed the first two presidential mansions, first in New York City, and later in Philadelphia, with a the help of many servants as well as her own personal slaves brought north from Virginia. Her “receipt book” was filled with directions for making cakes, fools, hartychoakes, oly-kocks, possets, trifles, and chickin frykasies.

Nelly Custis was Martha’s granddaughter, George Washington’s beloved step-granddaughter. She described the average day for George Washington at Mount Vernon: “He rose before sunrise, always wrote or read until 7 in summer or half past seven in winter. His breakfast was then ready—he ate three small mush cakes (Indian meal) swimming in butter and honey, drank three cups of tea without cream . . .”

The Thomas Jefferson Administration: Martha Jefferson Randolph and Thomas Jefferson

The Virginia Housewife was Martha Jefferson Randolph’s cookbook. As one of Thomas Jefferson’s daughters, Martha Randolph occasionally acted as the White House hostess for her father during his time as president. The cookbook was published as a gift of her sister-in-law, and her father could not help but jot down his own recipes on the some of the blank pages in the book.

Read Martha Jefferson Randolph’s recipes (including Macaroni, Chicken Pudding, and Gooseberry Fool) and Thomas Jefferson’s recipes (including Cabbage Pudding and Ice Cream).

The Rutherford B. Hayes Administration: Lucy Web Hayes

Lucy Hayes was the first first lady to graduate from college at nineteen with high honors from the Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati, Ohio. Although she believed in women’s intellectual abilities in an era when women’s capabilities were questioned by many, she, like many women in the 19th century, was not yet liberated. She wrote, “Woman’s mind is as strong as man’sequal in all things and his superior in some.” Mrs. Hayes promoted simple American fare in the family’s private dining, but state dinners were executed and served in the French style with one exception no wine or alcoholic beverages were given to guests at the White House. Her temperance attitude earned her the nickname Lemonade Lucy, and many a White House visitor was disappointed that the president approved her stance.

Read Lucy Web Hayes’ recipes (which include Corn Bread and Oyster Stew).

The Franklin Roosevelt Administration: Henrietta Nesbitt

When meat was rationed during World War II, the White House had to stretch its meat allotment, too. But Mrs. Nesbitt, Roosevelt’s housekeeper, said that she would not skimp on the president’s food if she could help it others would have to sacrifice because she did not want to worry him about food. According to Mrs. Nesbitt, favorite White House meat-stretcher foods were: “stuffed peppers, stew, ham scallop, noodles and mushrooms with chicken scraps, spaghetti with meat-cakes cut down from the ‘good old American size’ to mere marbles, curries or omelets with meat tidbits croquettes for a sustaining meal in themselves minestrone soup or fish chowders, ‘both good meals in themselves’ creamed cheeses (soft ones weren’t rationed) for a satisfying light meal gumbo z’herbes (good light meal for children if less spiced) stuffed eggs (meat bits for stuffing) baked beans, deviled meats and casseroles.”

The Dwight Eisenhower Administration: Dwight Eisenhower

As mentioned, Mamie Eisenhower was not interested in cooking, but her husband was an enthusiastic cook. He had been taught to cook, sew, and clean by his mother who believed that all her sons should be well versed in what she considered to be essential life skills. The following recipe of President Eisenhower was included in a menu for a dinner given in honor of the prime minister of Canada and the president of Mexico in April, 1956.

The John F. Kennedy Administration: Chef René Verdon

René Verdon was the French chef hired by Jacqueline Kennedy to work at the White House. He received the title Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur for his contribution to French cuisine. During the Kennedy administration he became an American citizen.

Read two of Chef René Verdon’s Recipes (Strawberries Romanoff and Boston Clam Chowder) from In the Kennedy Style.

Activity Ideas for Young People

Find a White House cook booka few are listed in the reference section below—at your local library and try to create some of the dishes at home with the children and teens in your family. Cooking with recipes will increase your child’s and teen’s reading and comprehension skills, as well as challenge their math skills. It also introduces your child to chemistry. And most importantly, it is a fun activity the whole family can enjoy together! For more information on literacy/cooking activities, go to “Cooking with Cookbooks: Teaching Your Child Basic Cooking and Kitchen Safety” on the NCBLA’s website thencbla.org.

For a classroom activity choose an international event from the era of America history your class is studying. Have students research the event and the countries involved in the event. They could also research a county’s culture with the goal of planning a menu for a state dinner that would help America build a working relationship with that nation. The menu should also reflect the social and cultural norms of that time period.

To get young people excited about different eras in American history, include information and projects that address domestic history, too. We recommend two great online sources for incorporating food and recipes, both of which reveal so much about any era of history.

  • The first is The Food Timeline. The Food Timeline was created by Lynne Olver, reference librarian and International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) member, in response to students, parents, and teachers who frequently asked for help locating food history and period recipes at the Morris County Library (Whippany, NJ). The site is an independent research project and is not sponsored by, or affiliated with, any food companies. Information is checked against standard reference tools for accuracy—Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America (Smith), The Oxford Companion to Food (Davidson), The Cambridge World History of Food (Kiple & Ornelas), Larousse Gastronomique (Revised/Updated English edition, 2001), The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink (Mariani), Food in History (Tannahill), History of Food (Toussaint-Samat), and other sources as needed.
  • The second site is Feeding America: The Historic America Cookbook. The Michigan State University Library and the MSU Museum have partnered to create an online collection of some of the most influential and important American cookbooks from the late 18th to early 20th century. The goal of this project is to make these materials available to a wider audience with digital images of the pages of each cookbook as well as full-text transcriptions and the ability to search within the books across the collection.

Discussion Questions for Young People at Home and in the Classroom

  • What do food and menus tell us about people, countries, and eras of history?
  • Can food and menu choices tell us anything about historical figures’ personalities?
  • In this piece, it’s mentioned that President Eisenhower’s mother thought it important to teach him how to cook. Should everyone learn to cook? Would cooking have been an important skill for President Eisenhower to learn? Why?
  • Although some presidents have been concerned with food issues at the White House, historically it has been the first ladies who have had most influence and have controlled White House menus. What do you think will happen when a woman becomes president of the United States? Will the “first gentleman” be in charge of food, menu, and dinner planning at the White House?

Reference Sources

Baldrige, Letitia. In the Kennedy Style. New York: Doubleday, 1998.

Clinton, Hillary Rodham. An Invitation to the White House: At Home with History. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.

Cook, Blanche Wiesen. Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume 2. New York: Viking, 1999.

Ervin, Janet Halliday. The White House Cookbook. Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1964.

Haller, Henry. The White House Family Cookbook. New York: Random House, 1987.

Klapthor, Margaret Brown. The First Ladies Cookbook. New York: GMG Publishing, 1982.

Landau, Barry H. The President’s Table: Two Hundred Years of Dining and Diplomacy. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.

McCully, Helen and Bullock, Helen Duprey. The American Heritage Cookbook. U.S.A.: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc., 1964.

Truman, Margaret. The President’s House. New York: Ballantine Books, 2003.

Whitcomb, John and Claire. Real Life in the White House. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Periodicals

Haber, Barbara. “Home Cooking in the White House.” White House History Journal (Journal of the White House Historical Association) no. 20 (Spring 2007).

Ross, Alice. “Kitchens Past: Thoughts on Open Hearth Cooking for the Presidents.” White House History Journal (Journal of the White House Historical Association) no. 20 (Spring 2007).

Tederick, Lydia Barker. “A Look at the White House Kitchens.” White House History Journal (Journal of the White House Historical Association) no. 20 (Spring 2007).

©2016 Mary Brigid Barrett The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance

OUR WHITE HOUSE. Illustration © 2008 by S. D Schindler. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.


White House Pastry Chef Resigns, Michelle ‘Partly to Blame’

School children aren’t the only ones recoiling from Michelle Obama’s healthy food initiatives. White House executive pastry chef Bill Yosses has resigned, with the New York Times claiming that Michelle is “partly to blame.”

An accomplished New York chef, Yosses was originally hired by Laura Bush to make his famed sugar art, fruit soufflés and cookie plates. But when Michelle took over, she instructed the dessert master to make healthier treats and smaller portions. She also strictly reduced the number of desserts served to the first family.

According to the Times, Yosses replaced butter with fruit purées, replaced sugar with honey and agave, and replaced modern flour with whole grain and heirloom versions.

“I don’t want to demonize cream, butter, sugar and eggs,” Yosses said. He added that the departure was “a bittersweet decision.”

Mrs. Obama released a statement saying she is “incredibly sad to see Bill Yosses go.” She also said: “I am also so grateful to him for his outstanding work, not just as the White House pastry chef, producing the most delectable creations for everything from birthday celebrations to state visits, but also as a key partner helping us get the White House kitchen garden off the ground and building a healthier future for our next generation.”

In lieu of parting gifts, I recommend sending donuts, cupcakes and cookies to Sasha and Malia.


PHOTOS: Rick Bayless' White House-Mexico State Dinner MENU, RECIPES

The White House has unveiled the menu and additional details for Wednesday night's state dinner honoring Mexico, prepared by guest chef Rick Bayless of Chicago, and also released the following statement about the menu:

Mrs. Obama worked with Guest Chef Rick Bayless and White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford to create a menu that reflects the best of American cuisine, continuing this White House's commitment to serving fresh, sustainable and regional food, and honoring the culinary excellence and flavors that are present in Mexican cuisine. Herbs, radishes, and lettuces used in preparing tonight's dinner were harvested from the White House Kitchen Garden. White House Executive Pastry Chef William Yosses and his team made desserts using White House honey in the Graham Cracker Crumble and Goat Cheese Ice Cream.

And the menu itself:

Jicama with Oranges, Grapefruit, and Pineapple

Citrus Vinaigrette
Ulises Valdez Chardonnay 2007 "Russian River"

Herb Green Ceviche of Hawaiian Opah
Sesame-Cilantro Cracker

Oregon Wagyu Beef in Oaxacan Black Mole
Black Bean Tamalon and Grilled Green Beans
Herrera Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 "Selección Rebecca"

Chocolate-Cajeta Tart
Toasted Homemade Marshmallows
Graham Cracker Crumble and Goat Cheese Ice Cream
Mumm Napa "Carlos Santana Brut" N/V

For a rough preview of what state dinner guests might expect from Bayless' menu, as well as a look at the menu itself and the East Room of the White House prior to the dinner, flip through the brief slideshow below:

Caryn Rousseau of the Associated Press reports:

Will it be his pork with green tomatillo-avocado salsa, or the duck breast in red chile-apricot mole?

Perhaps the bacon-flavored corn masa cakes stuffed with black beans.

At the first family's request, Chicago chef Rick Bayless has been mum on his menu for the state dinner Wednesday to honor Mexican President Felipe Calderon, though he's dropped some hints:

_ He's preparing a black mole sauce that takes days to make from scratch and includes more than 20 ingredients. "It's a really laborious thing," Bayless said. "But for an event like this nothing is too difficult."

_ Herbs and lettuces from the White House garden will be used in at least one course. "We're not sure exactly what we'll get," he said, "but we'll play around with that . "

_ For dessert, strawberries picked from a local farm will be involved.

Fittingly, the celebrity chef with three top restaurants in Chicago specializes in contemporary Mexican cooking. He said Mrs. Obama requested the menu secrecy so the first family's 200 guests won't feel as if "they'd eaten the meal before they got there."

This is the Obamas' second state dinner, and Bayless is the second guest chef that Mrs. Obama has requested. In November, award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson prepared a meal for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The first couple are no strangers to Bayless' cuisine, having dined out on his cooking in their hometown. Bayless has called them "adventurous" eaters and said they ordered tasting menus.

Bayless was inspired by Mexican market foods more than two decades ago. He's the author of several Mexican cookbooks, appears in his own PBS series, "Mexico &ndash One Plate at a Time," and has competed on Bravo's "Top Chef Masters."

He has also earned his share of awards: In 1988 Food & Wine named him best new chef. Three years later, the Beard Foundation named him best Midwest chef, then national chef of the year in 1995. Bon Appetit magazine named him cooking teacher of the year in 2002.

But he considers preparing a White House state dinner a career highlight.

"It's moving into a different realm that I don't usually cook in," Bayless said. "I'm really honored to be able to offer what little thing I can offer to creating this special moment."

Planning for the state dinner started months ago, when Bayless said he proposed several menus and narrowed them to the best choices. Then White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford visited Bayless in Chicago for a special tasting and to see plate presentations.

"I went to the table to ask them how everything was," Bayless said. "It was very clear that Chef Comerford was not there to have a good time. She was there to do her job."

Bayless passed muster with Comerford and aims to prepare a state dinner "that will be both well executed and really interesting."

Cooking at the White House, he said, does have some restrictions. He said officials have to know where all the ingredients come from. At one point, he was told he couldn't bring his own knives (eventually he got permission.)

"I said that's like asking a famous runner to run in someone else's tennis shoes," Bayless said.

The chef said he never would have expected his type of modern cooking to be served at the White House.

"It's really a testament to the Obama administration," Bayless said. "They're really taking the wraps off everything and saying what's appropriate for right now."

Bayless told the New York Times he would be making on recipe in particular -- green ceviche with cucumber. The recipe for it is available here.

Before arriving in Washington, Chef Bayless spoke with NPR, giving additional details:

[M]ost people in the United States think - still think of Mexican food so much in terms of the simple street foods like tacos and such. And I certainly wanted to feature something that I consider to be Mexico's greatest dish. So, yes, Im going to be making a mole and I think it's got 27, 28 different ingredients in it.

[. ]

There's no ingredient that we're going to be bringing from home. The biggest challenge for me is to actually create the food that we do in our restaurants in the White House kitchen. I think there will probably be aromas in that kitchen that have never been there before.

Lynn Sweet has some logistical details at the Chicago Sun-Times:

In a further crack down on reporting, the White House this time is not planning any advance event to preview the dinner. Last year on the afternoon of the India dinner, Mrs. Obama's East Wing set up sample table settings the first lady arranged for a briefing on the history of state dinners for the group of girls she is mentoring. I'm told reporters will be able to see a place setting only just before the dinner.

[. ]

The main Calderon dinner is in the East Room desert and entertainment will be on the South Lawn in order for more people to be invited. The East Room only holds about 200.

And Rick Bayless has been actively tweeting from the White House, but not from the White House! There was a mini controversy between Bayless and the Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet over the White House tweeting that wasn't, the full details of which are here.



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