President Bush enjoys pie a la mode; former President Bill Clinton’s sweet tooth ran to cherry tarts.
For the past 25 years, it has been White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier’s job to tickle the taste buds of his powerful bosses.
But the 60-year-old native of France hangs up his white hat on July 30 and goes on tour to promote his book of the pastry recipes he has used to satisfy the sugar cravings of five presidents and their families.
White House tenants have fond memories of his efforts.
Early last week, as the White House unveiled the official portraits of Mr. Clinton and his wife, Hillary, their daughter, Chelsea, took Mr. Mesnier aside with a special request.
She asked whether he would bake her favorite, a cobbler, for her wedding.
“She didn’t give me a date, but there could be something in the air,” Mr. Mesnier said.
Mrs. Clinton, a New York Democratic senator, was partial to mocha cake, he recalled.
Since Mr. Bush arrived at the White House, Mr. Mesnier has made a seven-layer chocolate cake each year for the president’s July 6 birthday.
Mr. Bush prefers “simple, sturdier things,” while his wife, Laura, enjoys desserts that are “more refined,” Mr. Mesnier said in his small kitchen, where chocolate giraffes were being readied for a state dinner for Kenyan officials.
Although he has served at the pleasure of presidents, Mr. Mesnier is the boss in his kitchen, where he starts work every day at 6:30 a.m.
“I supervise everything that’s made here,” he said. “I never send out a dessert without tasting it.”
Rosalynn Carter, wife of then-President Carter, hired Mr. Mesnier in 1979 while he was working at a hotel in Virginia. Mr. Mesnier had worked in hotels in Bermuda, Germany and Britain after serving his apprenticeship in the eastern French city of Besancon.
Mr. Mesnier, married to an American, was torn between his adoptive country and his native land last year when tensions were taut over France’s refusal to support Mr. Bush’s war in Iraq, which led some Americans to rename french fries “freedom fries” and boycott French wine.
“It saddened me a lot,” he said. “I am still a French patriot at heart, and an American at the same time.”
In the sweeter world of pastry making, the master chef has memories of burnt cookies and near-disasters during his long career.
The Carters’ daughter, Amy, liked to bake her own cookies to take to school. But after popping the cookies into the oven, she was in the habit of going out roller-skating, forgetting the cookies and letting them burn.
“She would come to the kitchen the next morning before going to school and ask me whether I had any cookies for her,” Mr. Mesnier said.
Once, making raspberry souffles for a dinner for Mr. Bush’s father, former President George Bush, Mr. Mesnier had his own close call when the desserts failed to rise.
Unperturbed, he quickly whipped up a new batch of eggs, redid the recipe and delivered the goods.
“I pictured myself having to tell Barbara Bush that we wouldn’t have any dessert,” he said, referring to the then-first lady.