tv Chef to Five Presidents CSPAN September 3, 2018 9:50am-11:05am EDT
thought no disrespect to the others that brett kavanaugh was the best. >> our rights hang in the balance in this nomination. and brett kavanaugh's resume alone isn't enough to merit >> watch our in-depth profile of brett kavanaugh tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span, cspan.org or listen with the free c-span radio app. next, former white house executive pastry chef roland mesnier. he spoke at a white house historical convention and decease ent transcende dedescendants from james monroe to gerald ford. >> good afternoon. hi, everybody. i've been coming around saying
hi to you saying if i got up to the stage, i needed a round of applause. [ applause ] and the reason is i creamed my foot about six weeks ago and this is my first outing and first walking up steps and only for roland mesnier would i climb steps. so good afternoon. so on behalf of the white house historical association, welcome to the 2018 presidential site summit. we're delighted your here and look forward to many partnerships when this summit is over. i'm anne stock, a member of the white house historical board. and i'm chair of the retail committee so here's my plug. any time this week, stop by our shops and buy, buy, buy. you knew i would have to say that. there's a pop-up one right outside where we're eating.
there's a full-line store across pennsylvania avenue and another full-line store at 1610 eighth street. so stop by any of them. show your summit idea and receive a 10% discount. and now the real reason i'm here. i've had the great pleasure of working with our next guest speaker, chef roland mesnier, for the first five years of the clinton administration. i was the white house social secretary and he was the executive pastry chef. and i still hold him responsible for the weight that i put on while working there. and i mean it, it was about ten pounds. because i used to sneak over there every day. roland is a world renown pastry chef and author who has held important positions in the most prestigious hotels -- the savoy in london, the george sank in paris and the green briar in west virginia. he served five -- count them --
five extraordinary presidents -- jimmy carter, ronald reagan, george h.w. bush, bill clinton, and george w. bush. and i think that deserves a round of applause. [ applause ] but to many of us he was a very good friend and trusted colleague, and here's where i got in trouble, he was always ready with a cookie, a truffle, a piece of cake or sliver of pie no matter what else was going on in the white house that week. and when it comes to creativity, i may be biased but few match roland in that department. over the years, everyone from local tourists to global heads of state have marvelled at his one-of-a-kind creations. his holiday gingerbread houses were consistently amazing, whether modeled on the president's boyhood home, the first lady's or even socks the
cat. and when president and mrs. clinton hosted their first state dinner for their majesties, the emperor and empress of japan, mr. roland was ready. he did his research taking inspiration from the japanese cherry trees along the tidal basin here in washington, and he created what he called simply cherry sorbet. but believe me, this dessert was anything but simple. picture a foot tall hand blown sugar cherry with white almond ice cream, california bing cherries, and yes, cherry sorbet nestled inside. a chocolate basket with bamboo handles and hand-painted cookies, marzipan cookies, made to look like sushi completed the masterpiece. it was a work of art.
her majesty was so enraptured she asked to meet rowland and congratulate him personally. i was scared to death because i thought something was wrong when she called people over, but she just wanted to say congratulations on the beautiful dessert. and she was far from his last admirer in those years. my mouth is still watering thinking about the beautiful, clever and always, always delicious concoctions this man created. please join me in welcoming my friend and chef extraordinaire, the imcomparable -- incomparable roland mesnier. [ applause ] [ applause ] only for you, darling.
>> this is a very tricky podium here. is this a ski slope or a podium that they have here? i'm not too sure. this thing goes down a little bit? remember, i'm just a pastry chef. i'm not an engineer or anything of that kind. >> is that good for you? >> yes, the papers may fly everywhere, i don't know.
good morning, everyone. welcome to the beautiful capital city of washington, d.c., of course. and the beautiful willard hotel. yes, my name is roland mesnier. and i was the executive pastry chef at the white house for 26 years. served proudly five presidents. you know, to get into the white house, everybody wants to work at the white house, until they get the job. then they don't know what to do with it. i really mean it, that's the truth. you have to understand this job is very scary. because of the people you are serving. you're no longer serving just anybody like in a restaurant or hotel or whatever, you're
serving people that have achieved great things in life, that have great jobs, great things, so you better be on the same level with your food. i also served numerous of emperors, kings, head of states, all during my tenure. but when i started at the white house, i was already in that line of work for 20 years learning under the best chefs available in paris, france, in germany, and especially the hotel that i always mention because that particular hotel used to be known as the number one hotel in the world. still exists today, but i think it lot a little bit of its luster through the years, because now it's part of a chain. those days the savoy was owned by a family.
big difference. big difference. and the customer, the guests that we were feeding at the savoy those days, just to give you a short list. we had a lot of people from hollywood, of course, frank sinatra, audrey hepburn, gregory peck. we also had the white house family all the time. and i served the queen -- i served the queen of england a long time ago for the first time, and many, many after that. and also, we has liz taylor, charlton heston, james kagney, and then we had jackie kennedy that could be coming for dinner, but at the same time she wasn't a kennedy anymore, she was just -- she was still jackie kennedy, but she was not married. the president has already passed
away. and onassis, that became her husband later on would have a dinner at the savoy with his girlfriend at the time, which was maria callas, the opera singer. so this is the caliber of the people we fed every day at the savoy. enough to give you a heart attack everyday. we had a customer to savoy that was a billionaire, this man, when he came, he always would reserve a big round table. and he expected every time to receive -- at the end of the meal, to receive an enormous silver tray filled with home made chocolates and cookies and all that. he expected it. he did not order it. one kind of cookies had to be there all the time on the tray.
it was kind of a bend cookie. they were so delicate, if you picked one up and dropped it at the table, the table at the savoy, the cookies had to shatter in thousand pieces. if the cookies didn't break, it was called -- take this garbage out of here, i don't want it, it's not any good. he didn't even taste it. so, you know, the pressure was on. the pressure was on. and in the center of this big silver tray, there was a beautiful sugar display. it was an exceptional place.
after that i was the pastry chef for the princess hotel in bermuda, and i was also the pastry chef for the governor's palace in bermuda. the princess was owned by the richest man in the world, his name was d.k. ludwig, and he had many business. he was a real businessman, let me tell you. and he had a hotel built in acapulco at the time, called the acapulco princess. the first hotel was shaped like a pyramid, and then after that some chains picked up the design later on. when i was doing the scene in acapulco, we also had -- we also had the billionaire also that died at the hotel, we had to feed him, i have his name here somewhere, but my papers got rearranged.
my paper is not exactly the best. what was his name? howard hughes. remember howard hughes? he had exited the top floor of the hotel, and we fed him, he didn't want to see anybody. we fed him under the door, every plate of food needed to fit under the door. that was the end of the life of this man. so all sort of crazy thing was asked for him to live on really. then after that i came back to france for a while, pastry chef all the -- at the george cingue hotel, which was a family-owned hotel, and then i worked at a restaurant in paris.
and i was back in bermuda by popular demand. the homestead hotel was my next job where i spent five years, and this is where my family and i started our life in the united states. i also was a consultant to the greenbriar hotel for six years. so those were very significant places, jobs, where quality needed to be. not just anyone could work there and say, i'm going to be the pastry chef there tomorrow, no, no, no, you needed to be very experienced in many ways. by the way, after my speech, i will take some questions if you ever need clarification on something. then in 1979, mrs. roselyn carter had to spoil it for me. because iches very -- because i
was very happy at the homestead. and some of her staff were coming to the homestead regularly and saw my work and approached me one day and said, roland, mrs. carter is looking for a pastry chef, why don't you apply? i said no i'm happy here, i don't want to go to washington. i understand they have a mental problem in washington and i'm not about to get that disease so i'm staying away from that place. then you start again on me. when are you coming? i said, oh, man, no interest. the white house called me and i said, roland, i'm going to bring an employment sheet and i want you to fill it in, if you don't mind. and also, mrs. carter wish for
you to come for a tour at the white house. that was a trick! [ laughter ] that was a trap, ladies and gentlemen. so any way, i accepted. in those days, i drove all the way from virginia to downtown, d.c., to visit the white house. now i was driving a 1965 dodge dart, avocado green, not the prettiest thing to bring down to d.c., let me tell you. but you know, the nicest thing, those days, they let me drive on pennsylvania avenue, they opened the big gate to drive right in, and they asked me to park my avocado onto the colonnade. is that beautiful or what? i said i'll start to like this place. if i get a job here, i'll park here every day. that didn't last very long. took a tour of the white house and who should be on the tour
welcoming me? mrs. rosalyn carter with open arms. she was so nice. called me by my first name, gave me a hug and she said, come with me, we need to talk. so she pulled me on the side in there, and with her social secretary, the late gretchen boston, very, very nice lady, and we talked. and that's when mrs. carter asked me if i would like to take the job for a little bit. so you cannot say no to the president, you cannot say no to the first lady. i said, madam, i will give you five years and then we'll see. okay, that's good, that's good. so gretchen boston, the social secretary, reminded mrs. carter that i was not an american citizen. i was on green card. i was legal. green card. so nope, mrs. carter said to
gretchen, said listen, gretchen, i want him and i want him bad, do you understand? [ laughter ] and now. so don't worry about that, i'll fix it when he comes to the white house. and sure enough, if you wonder why i love mrs. carter very much, because of what i'm going to tell you next, because one day, surprise, surprise, i'm working in the white house kitchen, this dude shows up from nowhere and says, get into the car that is outside, there's a black limosine, get in the car. i have no idea what he is telling me, so he's taking me to the train station to some
offices and -- in an office where the guy stopped to ask me what's about the american government, and i said nothing. very simple, i don't know nothing and she was getting very irritated with me. she says, do you know who the president is? i said sure, i feed him everyday, his name is jimmy carter. good, you passed the test. i was ready to say what test are you testing me, what for? and so after that he said get back in the car, so they drove me back downtown in -- not downtown in alexandria, and this lady is waiting for me on the doorstep carrying a bible, i said, who died? she said no joke, no joke, this is business here. put your hand on the bible and repeat after me. i said sure, i did just that. congratulations, you are an american citizen. well, ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen, only in
america you leave your house in the morning as a foreigner, come back as an american citizen. is that a beautiful country or what? [ applause ] and this is why mrs. carter has been in my heart all my life. as a matter of fact, i was able to do something very special, last year for their wedding anniversary, i think, i forgot if you are 70 or something, they were celebrating at the naval academy, i forget, what is the town? annapolis, thank you, and with a friend of mine, we made a wedding cake. she did not know -- the president did not know, and we showed up at dessert time and enter the room with this wedding cake. those two were so happy to see me again after so many years. they gave me a big hug and everything, and the president and mrs. carter were in
fantastic shape, let me tell you. for all that they have done all their lives, i love those people. they are very honest, very nice, very, very nice. you know i was at the white house. as a pastry, chef we lived a lot of things. not directly because we're not allowed, and i'm glad it's the case because too many people will take advantage of that, and we are not at the white house to show our faces. we are there to take care of the president and first lady regardless of the party they represent and whatever they are. and let me tell you, to have been able to do that, to present them with this case, it meant so much to me and for them. it was very fantastic. and the president and first lady were so happy. i remember when they walked into the room that day, after working all day, they were working all day, fund-raising, and they both
went on the dance floor for 20 minutes no stop. at their age, i never think, this is fantastic. totally fantastic. so -- and every president that i served has given me different stories, if you will, true stories, this is what i want to be very sure you understand. i do not speak in public to repeat what people told me. unless i lived it, unless it happened with me, i will not repeat it, the same for all my books. i wrote seven books, eight books, i think number eight is in the making, but i was really on top of things to make sure that what is printed is the truth and the fact. there's many white house books out there. many. and some of them i wouldn't even use them to put it on the bottom
of my bird cage, that is because, it is lie after lie, they make up stories to be interesting. because they didn't have anything else to put there. i said to -- when i start writing book, i told people about my books. if you see something in my book that is not correct, let me know. i want to know. well, i'm still waiting. it's been 15 years. so just to say, it dares to be because i figure that we are doing history here. this is history. that's what the young people will read, and whatever they read about a certain first lady and president has to be very, very accurate, very correct. so that's why, something i would have never, never passed without doing that. you know, as i said, the white house is a very intimidating place. i always had the fear of
failing. my first year on the job most people in the white house thought that i was probably an arrogant man because i didn't speak to nobody. that had nothing to do with arrogance. it has to do with failing because i needed to concentrate like this. you know, talking about that, i am amazed today where we're going. i hope there's some young people here, but let me tell you one thing, and this is what i see when i travel, and this is -- although it's factual, you go to a restaurant or somewhere, you ask a waitress or waiter for three things, she will have two wrong and the last one she will forget it. i'm not teasing you. most people say i didn't order it. never mentioned it. and what is this? oh, i'm sorry, they're big on sorry, as you know, everybody's sorry. sorry, sorry, everybody's sorry.
and nobody's sorry. that's what bothers me. when i say sorry, i mean it, i really mean it. i was raised and brought up in a very poor family in france. nine children. very tiny house. we had no electricity and no running water in the house. but trust me, when we were told to do something, you didn't forget. because if you did, you never forgot after that. they made sure to put it in your head, that you would never forget. today, everything is, oh, who cares, who cares. enjoy yourself. man, enjoy yourself. don't worry, they'll never know the difference. take it to the table. i am not happy on that. i like to spend good money on it, but i expect something in return and people are not focused.
-- focusing. not focusing at all. mostly on the job. you know why? hello, darling, is that you? did you enjoy last night? i can't talk now. but this is enough. but when i was at the white house i was a very strict boss. and when i hired somebody i would say, i want you to listen and listen good, because i am only going to say it once. if i have to say it again, you will be taking the door and never coming again. that's up to you, that's your decision. i say, you start at 8:00 to, with. i don't want you to come in with a can of coke in your hand. or talk about the other guy about what you did last night. there's no importance here. here we work. here we are here to produce the best we can, and i need you to have all your concentration to
do that. and i have to deny you of that then you're not any good to me. so decide if you want to say here or if you want to go. very simple and i noticed one thing. most people worked best when someone set some regular line and established those guidelines and make sure they are respected. this is enough of this bologna thing to play, you know, they think every -- you turn on tv they all dance, now they dance. i said great, that's going to feed the people, continue dancing. you know, you need to dissect. it is now -- it's a time where you have to be serious and do a job. when that is over, i don't care what you do with your life. you want to dance, go dance. but not in here. and i had young women who worked for me a little bit, and she was kind of losing hair. i would find hair in pastry.
is it disgusting? can you imagine if this hair happened to go to the first lady, the president or some guest? so i pull her aside, i said, tomorrow morning i want you to come with the hair net. chef, why? why? that's going to -- my coiffeur is going to be damaged. i said if you want me to damage it, i can do it right now. no problem, hair net. she showed up the next day, no hair net. and she -- the same day she was going to enter a competition and she asked me if she could bring a piece of cake to me to taste to see if it was good enough for the competition. i cut into this cake. what is the first thing i pull out of the cake? [ laughter ] i said, now, do you want a picture of this thing? you know what that is? so do me a favor. take your tools, go home, don't come back, that was it.
that was it, but just to say, you need today, i could solve -- ladies and gentlemen, in no time, i could solve 50% of your crisis. when you read the paper and you read the crisis, i could put it out there and tell my wife, i tell my wife, she tell you, she's right there, i don't lie to her, i said i know exactly what happened there. i know what happened. this has nothing to do -- but you know in washington the remedy to everything is more money. we need more money. you know what? i want to be very honest with you, money stinks. i don't have any money, never had, never will and i don't care. i'm a happy man because i do my job the right way. i want to produce the best i can. whatever we put in front of the president and first lady, i always wanted it to be so well
received, and i always thought if i can give them a sweet moment with my dessert, when they go through so much everyday and also the beat up they get every single day. which president did not get beat up, i don't know. i'm sorry to say there's something very wrong with this thought, very wrong, very wrong. i could solve -- and you know what? most of the time the things that i say, months ahead to my wife, two months later there it is, oh, see, remember what i told you? there it is. i could have saved -- we could have saved two months of headache if they'd just come to roland. [ laughter ] but i'm not bragging about myself. i was just raised a different way. very much a different way. money was not an objective. money usually is what will rot something, definitely to the core.
as long as you have enough money to live on, what the hell do you care? do you need three car? five car? six car? do you drive all of them at the same time? i don't know. are you a genius somehow? but it is very important to me. and i am -- and know what i'm telling you now, all what i'm telling you now, is going into the food business the same. that's why i never went to school to learn how to bake. i learn on-the-job training working in some great hotel for some great chefs, and those chefs, they were just like i describe how i was at the white house. if you want to stay here this is what you need to do. and so on. anyway. just to give you -- i want to give you a couple lines on what is going on in the food business. have you noticed all these terms
that they use that most of the chefs don't even know what they mean. especially they use french terms that i say i know they don't know what they mean. they don't know nothing about french, but they want to impress you. cuisine couture. you know what that is? i saw it on a menu not too long ago. cuisine couture. you know what couture is? it has to do with clothes. does he sew a steak together? i don't know. now, you know, cuisine abbatoir. that's slaughterhouse. is that something you want to hear just before you eat? there's the famous tuna cassoulet, which is nothing but a tuna casserole. and i'm sure you've seen the chefs on tv that just want to impress you. in america, if there's ever a shortage of cheese, i think there will be a revolution like we've never seen.
have you noticed? have you seen those guys that cook on tv? there is cheese absolutely in every dish. they used to be worried about cholesterol. no more, cholesterol is good for you. eggs, don't eat eggs, you're going to die. eggs are fabulous for you. they're feeding you bologna every single day, but you are eating it with the biggest spoon you can fine. that's the shame. nobody stood up and said, excuse me, chef, you just say that but i didn't think that was correct. i've read differently. i've known different. no, no, no, no, no. we eat it with a big spoon. you know? i can predict to you the restaurant of the future. they're going to weigh you on the way in, weigh you on the way out and tell you the difference. remember when you used to eat and had a nice table cloth and
nice flower? and the silverware was so shiny? where is it today? have you seen a waiter when they clean the table? no tablecloth, they come with a wet one and push the garbage on one. this is not the time to be somebody that knows -- what is wrong with the tablecloth? you know, in the day, we ate at the table with the tablecloth. they were made of paper. and do you know when the meal was over, you asked the waiter for the bill. the guy took his pen, and he wrote on the napkin and said, there is your bill.
then you put on a clean tablecloth every time on your table. i mean, have we progressed or not? no. we have progressed for people that don't care to make an effort. don't care to work. that we protect all the way. but a professional, you know, to do something great, something good. if it's in food or anything, you know very well it takes hard work, concentration. and you have to dedicate yourself. you know, when i was at the white house, i would say, i don't care who was the president. and that didn't mean nothing to me. the only thing that i dealt with that, one day during the george w. bush presidency, i said, i'm going to pull that republican and democrat to have a good time together. so i created a dessert which is in one of my books. it's brown sugar, and a donkey
brown sugar sitting on his back with the elephant with the front leg extended. and there is a shoe grugar tray and a dessert on top of that. a huge dessert. and it was all made of blonde sugar, donkey or elephant, and again, no more than -- try some of it and come back and tell me what you think. so anyway, the dessert came in, and i say, my gosh, we are going to hear something, you know? and not a peep in the dining room. i said, whoa, what is going on? so incidentally, the dining room went crazy. flash going off, everybody laughing, having a great time, why -- one of the guests got the
idea, bright idea, to take his knife at the end and decapitate an elephant. boom. and then the republicans, boom, decapitated the donkey. and that happened at every single table. remember, there was and one dessert at the table, there must have been 16 or 17 tables. they were having a ball, bang, bang, bang. they all came back, no heads, but i liked it, i said, they thought i was going to be mad. and i said, why should i be mad? i made that for you? for one time the republicans and democrats came together for at least five minutes. so for me, that was a real success. well, ladies and gentlemen, i think i need to stop. but i want to take questions, yes, because i lost the timing.
i don't know, we'll take questions, okay? because the question will -- any question you have, and i am very knowledgeable about everything, about money problems, what is it? my style? that's a good question. you are not going to believe me, you're going to think i am lying. when i started at the white house, i had zero stuff. and i had no pastry shop, no pastry kitchen. i was in the main kitchen with the cooks. and the main kitchen at the white house would have been about, let's say from this table over there, come here to a square, that was about it. now as a pastry chef trying to work with chocolate when the chef is browning meat on the
stove. impossible to do, okay? and so that was very hard. anyway, i made it work for seven years. seven years and after seven years, i went to see mr. waters, very good man. and by the way, the workload got stronger, bigger. and i said, i'm not putting a knife under your toe or anything, but if you tell me that i cannot have a pastry kitchen, i will be leaving. i have a job waiting for me. pastry kitchen, yes, you will get it. and i said that with a serious face. my wife can tell you, she never saw me, she never saw me. we have a son, i don't even know when that happened.
i hope you remember. it's a joke. but no, it's true. my wife, many times, we never did anything, we couldn't do anything. my life was centered with the white house. she can tell you. 12, 14, 16 hours a day was not uncommon. i would say to her, next weekend we go out to dinner, i would come home and say, no dinner, the president and first lady are celebrating something tonight. and i would know that i could not have done it any other way. this is not possible for me. i would not have enjoyed myself. so, you know, so i asked my boss, i said, i also need a serious raise. because i have two jobs. all my life i had two jobs. i was not only at the white house as a pastry chef, but i'm the one who catered the first
professional pastry program in washington, d.c. that was -- i started that. and we were producing about 20 chefs a year. because there was no pastry chef in washington. so -- go home, sleep a couple hours and back to the white house the next day. and that evening, probably to the school to teach forour five hours. that was a very hard time for me, very hard time. so anyway, he said yes to the pastry kitchen and the raise. and after a while, i was not hearing from him. i said, you have not come back to me about the money.
are you paying me something? because i want to quit on the job, then, i can't do that. he said, yes, it's going to be good, substantial. and he was, it was, he kept his promise. and the pastry kitchen, that's when he started to say. we're trying to find a spot where we can do it. and i will help you do it. he kept his promise. he was a very good man. so the -- we did come to that, i got a plan, and usher at the wh house, he was also an engineer, so he was good to work with for the equipment, the space and all that. and i have the pictures, not with me today, of my equipment, but all my equipment is to blow up with a cane in front of the white house to bring my refrigerator into the place, it was very small, one tiny.
and there was one elevator to go up that was also very tiny. and the staircase was one of the spiral ones, you know, like on the submarine. but it was better than nothing. and it worked, it worked for me very well. and later on, he gave me another room, that would turn into the chocolate room at the white house. which is where we would make chocolate and everything. so everything happened with time if your heart was in it. the white house was a place made for me. i loved to work there because they let me produce whatever i wanted to. but all my dessert was significant in some ways. you know, like when we did, sometimes dessert for italy. i find something special at home, in town, and that would be duplicated in a pastry, of
course, maybe to decorate the tray of the pastry and everything. i mean, i did that all the time. all the time, all the time. and that's what -- you know, one of the first ladies were very, very tough, if i would say, she was great, i loved to work for her because she knew what she wanted, was nancy reagan. trust me, you better do what she asked you to do. and do it the right way. and that's nothing wrong there. again, i love to work for people like this. i would rather do that than people who say, i don't know, i'm not too sure. we don't want that. we don't want that. okay. i remember very quickly the last one was mrs. reagan. some day at the white house, we're going to have the queen of the netherlands. and the netherlands is known for
the beautiful tulip. anyway, i already had showed nancy reagan two desserts which she said, roland, no. nancy reagan, i studied her early on, she's an interesting character. when she was going to give you the zinger, her hand goes boop, and she did that to the reporter on television. when the reporter would ask her a question, i would say nancy going, oh, man, you don't know what is coming. i have a chill in my spine for you, man. i feel for you, man. and sure enough, boom. she was -- i loved her to death. i loved her to death. you know, i say that i became the pastry chef i am because of nancy reagan. and i mean it every time, i mean it. because she was so on what she wanted. and that was it. you better make your dessert.
that time, sunday noon, again, remember, this will be tuesday night, to anything going on in my head at the same time, she's having lunch in the solarium of the white house, it's right on the top, beautiful home, and there was a table up there for some reason for something else, and the president was eating in one end and nancy reagan on the other end. they were eating lunch. when i came with a dessert, nancy reagan looked at the dessert and -- i said, man, brace yourself, man. and roland, that's not going to do. she would never say what, but that's not going to do. president reagan came to my rescue and said, honey, you are talking to his wife, honey, leave the chef alone. that's a beautiful dessert.
and so -- nancy reagan looked up to the president and said, honey, eat your soup, this is not your problem. so he went down and ate his soup. well, i don't care, that's not my thing. so anyway, then i went down to the kitchen, and, you know, one word came to mind, suicide. i said, there's a stock pot on the stove boiling. i am probably going to jump in, because i don't know -- i was only at the white house a year, a year and a half. i said, that's going to be a short stay. so i am really in despair, utter despair. and for mrs. reagan, she said, roland, come back to the
solarium. i know exactly what i want to do. that's a lot of stairs to change your mind. when i get there, she said, here's what you're going to do. the netherlands is known for the tulip. i want you to make sugar baskets, basket made of sugar, that big. one per table. with the beautiful handle. and on the handle, i want you to put four tulip on each handle. and i also want the basket to be filled with home made assorted fresh fruit. i said, mrs. reagan, this is beautiful, i do agree. and remember, i was the only pastry man at the white house in those days. and i would have to make 15, 16 of those. and sunday noon. so i told mrs. reagan, i said, this is beautiful. but madam, there's only two days
left before the dinner. here comes the challenge. roland, correction, you have two days and two nights. you know, still have the chill in my back today, right now as i speak. and i said, yes, madam, thank you very much. after i went back to my kitchen and started cooking sugar. for some of you that don't know what a sugar basket is, it is all made of sugar. weaved like a basket. you can look in my book of desserts, there's a sketch that shows you how to make sugar baskets. and then you have to make four tulip baskets, so at the time, 15, you can count how many sugar baskets that is. and plus i had to make many other things. the head of the business don't stop because of that. so she said, i have two days and two nights.
now, ladies and gentlemen, here is when you know how it is. because, of course, it did happen and happened well. and she got so many compliments. and when i, on my home that night, i said, this is what courage is. that's what it is when you have passion for something. you're not going to say, oh, i don't have time. i have to play with the computer. or, no, not possible, i'm by myself. no, no, i would be less of a human being if i had done that. i said, mrs. reagan, yes, it's going to happen. and it did happen. it happened. and there are pictures of those desserts in some of my books. and, you know, i was -- i think
this is what pride is. you know, you're not born with pride in you. pride is something you cultivate. cultivate all the time. and you can -- this is why i said, nancy reagan made me who i am. because i said, i want this feeling again. and for the next dinner, i want to feel that feeling again. and it worked for me. it worked for me. and if it's flat, if it did not work this way, i did not feel very good for myself, okay? question now, question, anybody question, please? yes, young man. ah! remember what i said earlier, if someone talk to you, listen. especially if you're a waiter or an engineer, it doesn't matter. because you see engineers that don't listen, we'll see what happens with the d.c. subway,
okay? all right? i won't say no more. yes. [ inaudible question ] >> i don't have any idea, okay? no. okay, next please. yes? >> the dessert that you got the most compliments on? >> well, i would say the dessert that -- the one for the emperor of japan. i wanted to create a dessert for the emperor of japan that nobody knows what it is until they dig into it. i see this comment very well. they were big bowls that looked like an oversize d -- the size f inside a bowl. that bowl needed to be cut in
half. it's tough to cut sugar in half, very brittle. those two were placed in white chocolate so it was soft. so it looked like the cherry was open. and inside i placed a round bowl of almond ice cream, which is white. now, follow me here, this is the important thing. and then in the middle of that there was another bowl that was made of the cherry sorbet, which is prepared. now, just picture, please, whereabout i give you the key to -- if you dig into that white bowl, because the guests at the white house, this was a dessert for a table of ten, no, remember the guests served themselves. they served themselves. now, if you go into the white bowl, what is going to appear?
thank you, sir, you win. the flag of japan. i wanted to do something a little bit that was not just a dessert, but you dig into it, there's the flag of japan. and then after that we serve another basket full of clo chocolate. and they were all shaped like sushi. very nice. so can you imagine just picture the job, and the dinner for japan was pretty big. i think maybe 200. >> 189. >> oh, wow. b 189. well, that was big enough for 20 tables. so that is 20 of those to make. and at the white house, i have no place to work.
i have to -- i have to -- remember, i have to store the stuff, because the sugar, after you make sugar, if you don't use it, it gets sticky, especially a day like today, the humidity, sugar does not like humidity. so i needed to have a space to store them. then after they were cutting them and in the chocolate, they needed to be stored. and now that's even larger. and then you have to -- another thing you have to really plan well is the ice cream when it comes to the table has to be perfectly soft. you don't want anybody to go, start poking the thing, and you go like this. so the timing, everything has to be worked out. so that was, for me, the dessert that was so many components to work up. yes? >> was it worth it? the dinner was in the rose garden, so there was humidity outside. the timing on this was
absolutely ycritical. or you would have had a melted mess. >> yes, thank you, exactly. so, you know, for me, the more difficult time i had, the more power i feel. do you understand that? many people say, oh, too difficult. i don't know why you bother. why i bother? for my insight, my feeling. and to feel proud, it feels good, it feels good. and with the year passing at the white house, i learned to love the first family at the white house, the president and first lady, whoever they were. and many times people ask me the same question, which one was your favorite? and i say, they were all my favorite. you're a good politician. that had nothing to do with politics, it's the truth, it's the truth. they all were absolutely fantastic, fantastic with me, first lady, the president, no
problem. and so many times i have conversations -- and i can assure you another thing. during all my years in the white house, i have seen every first president and first lady cry and love. and i tell you one thing, it gets right to your heart. because the first family, become your family with you. many times, when i first come into the white house, i put -- i say, would you put your body to heal them? there is not even a question. you don't have things like this. trust me, compliment, tap on the
back. i worked 26 years in this position. and i know, i never, never -- with the president and first lady had deception in what they were expecting. so my profession was very important to me. this is why television and all that, i couldn't care less. all these poor souls there that go on the food network and stuff, do they know what they're doing? do they know it's a shame what they're doing? do they know that they are telling you stuff that is not true? like, do you know now when they do some sugar sculpture on television, do you know what they use? there's not one ounce of sugar in it. i will tell you what they use, you know, cough drop? you know what cough drop is made of? it's a product that looks like sugar that you can flavor, but
has zero sugar in it. and it's so easy to work with because it does not get affected by the humidity. do you know cough drop many years of you who have been around for a little bit, they used to stick together after you opened the bag. now they don't stick anymore. but the pastry chef that still comes on tv, they are not even pastry chefs, don't get me started. i mean, they're not. they're not, they're not. we're totally different breed here, okay? they -- taking you for fool every single day, every single show. yes? >> two questions. which president or first lady was the most demanding, and not just in a bad way, but who had the most afternoon bismbitious u and the least? and why did you retire when you did? >> about that, no president and
first lady forced me on any -- except nancy reagan with the basket the one time, but most of the times, i decided on the dessert. and the and many will look at it and say yea or no and the first lady was involved. there was more than one person involved there on saying yes/no, okay? so -- after the -- when i started to have that feeling about doing special stuff, or i plan the dessert, it was always over the top. don't come and ask me to make a pie. the pie shop is around the corner. it's meant to be special. special. a lot of times the dessert -- they invited head of states.
it's too easy. has to be something else. and then sometimes -- there's a story on that, but we need to curb it. yes? >> would you sample to make sure it's going to work? >> yes, samples, the first lady would sample and secretary would come around and look and -- [ inaudible [ before,. >> i didn't finish your last question over there. which was? >> why did you retire when you did? >> because i was really going downhill physically. 16-hour days catch up with you and i was in really, really bad shape. one day i sat down with my wife and i said, listen, we need to decide on a date. i need to stop this. i cannot do that anymore. and before -- because of the style i created, don't tell me to do simpler thing. i could not do that. i could not do that. so, you know, that's why.
yes, yes, i'm sorry. the answer, yes. >> in all those years, did the sugar ever stick? what advice would you give -- >> sugar -- no, no, no problem with sugar but souffle, an interesting one. that was not even part of my control. we were doing a hot raspberry souffle, which is delicious. the recipe i use, that dessert could be a low-calorie, diet dessert, if you will, because it was wonderful. made with fresh raspberries and everything. we were doing that for -- i forget which country. that was in spring. i put that on the menu. i wanted hot raspberry souffle.
tested the recipe, checked it out, tested, tested, tested, everything. everything was about timing. and it was beautiful. so, it come the night of the dinner. i knew what time. okay, let's start the egg white. whip the egg white. we were whipping the egg white at the time. and you know what? it never came up. i said, man. or different word. so, at the dinner, the white house takes a little bit less than an hour.
we wash the bowl. start all over. it don't come up again. it's sticking. you know at the white house, when they come for dessert, you cannot say, i need another 10 minutes. you cannot do that. the only word the butler wants to hear is, speak up, now. so, we were cutting eggs again. washed the bowl. when i heard -- this is when i was still working in the main kitchen with the chefs. i heard executive chef about the mayonnaise they made on the machine that morning. do you know how many drops of oil it takes to mess up on those egg drops? one drop, two drops, that's it, forget it. they do the mayonnaise, but i didn't see it. i wasn't there when they did it appear so the oil splash on the machine.
so, when you came with your merringue, you don't know what it is. when i heard them talking, i said, oh, my god, should i kick their ass now or later? i was very upset, that they didn't have the sense to tell me. be careful, we made mayonnaise. so, luckily i washed it under the machine and there goes the egg whites. now, meanwhile, i have lost a great deal of time. now, here it comes, because when you have knowledge and you have experience, you can risk that because you've been there before. but a young kid out of school, forget about it. what's he going to do, call 911, call his mother? probably call his mother. no, no. so, i gave the order to crank up the oven maximum.
the stove even. the stove that you cook on. maximum. and the souffle we put on baking man, over the flame, to get that boost, you know, and i was able to save a great deal of time on the souffle. you know what, when the butler came in and said, souffle, pick up, ready, not even a minute delayed. not even a minute. that happen if you have the experience. don't tell me the guy that just graduated from the school, from the country club, i call the school, country club, no school. and, no, this is not possible until you lived it, unless you were there. food is a different kind of business, definitely. >> what is your favorite dessert? >> pie.
raspberry, apple. i love a good old american pie because most pies are no good. bottom crust that is not even baked. it's like noodle. every time you find a good pie. are we good? we want -- oh, book. we are going to be selling books at cost. my latest book that came out last year, which is "the white house and gingerbread." is a wonderful book. has many recipes, gingerbread, christmas dessert recipe. in this book we have this fabulous eggnog recipe, which is the original from the white house, which was messed up by another chef. and nobody will -- no, i'm -- i'm telling you the truth. you want to know the truth. hold on. i told you.
you know, the eggnog every night went down the sink. after the party, went down the sink. nobody want to drink it. in my time, there was never enough eggnog. and i brought that back. [ inaudible ] >> i see you've been in it. and it's true. but that was a delicious eggnog. the book, i will be signing it if you buy it. remember, christmas is just around the corner. let me save you some time on shopping. this book is so good, so good, the recipes are so true. and the book is based on the truth. if i were you, i'd buy several
cases, put them in my basement, because these books will be a lot of money. i'm not kidding you. take a look at it. and it's -- and i will be signing it. beautiful signature. and everybody gets my business card with every book that i sign, which has my information. now, when is the last time you want to buy a book and the author gave you his phone number? and anything happen to you like that? but this author has been giving a card with his phone number for 15 years. this is thousands and thousands of books. you know what. i've never received a phone call to complain. so, that tells you something. that should tell you something. i started working with them after i finish at the white house. and i was so taken by the quality of all they sell. i mean, really, if you look for beautiful christmas presents, or
present, and it's located two steps from here. it's worth while to go see the store. christmas shopping done, boom, boom. this is why i decide to do my book with them. because at first i went with the big publisher, you know, simon & schuster. i was not really tiblgckle pink with them. but then the association really groom the way. they don't shortchange anything. they like my dessert. if it takes six hours? then let's do it, do it right. this is why i appreciate working with them. i hope we will continue nice communication we have for a long time. ladies and gentlemen, i wish you the best of time in d.c. i will see you again around. but enjoy yourself and i hope you'll enjoy this speech.
listen to lectures in history on the go by streaming our podcast any time, anywhere. you're watching american history tv. only on c-span3. this labor day american history tv is featuring sessions from the white house historical association's presidential site summit. last week representatives from presidential sites around the country came to washington to discuss their common work and 21st century challenges. among those attending were descend ants of presidents from james monroe to gerald ford. we'll continue our coverage of the presidential sites summit in a few minutes. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979 c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. and today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of
congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c., and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. american history tv is on c-span3 every weekend, featuring programs on the presidency, the civil war and more. here's a clip from a recent program. >> he expanded the knowledge of the contributions of african-americans to american history to world history. and that was always his end goal, to integrate that content into how we look at history in the united states and the world. and he just provided the specific information we needed
to incorporate that. giving teachers and parents and professionals an outlet. one of his most famous works is the education of the negro and talks about issues of education, incorporation of content into our general public education system. and i think writ large that's something we still need to think about, how do we incorporate multiple stories into our public education, not just through set curriculum and our educational system, but through sites like this. >> you can watch this and other american history programs on our website, where all our video is c archived. that's c-span.org/history. next on american history tv, we hear about the long history
between american presidents and the press. speakers include former white house press secretaries and reporters who have covered the presidency. they include mike mccurry who worked for president clinton and ron nessen who served president ford. the white house historical association held this summit in washington, d.c. to introduce our distinguished panel of presidents and the press is another very distinguished journalist and author and director of the white house transition project and also member of the board of the white house historical association, my fellow colleague and also my fellow colleague as the committee that we have that work together to bring this summit to life. martha kumar has been instrumental, has added a lot to the planning of this,