Presidential Pastries

This month I pushed myself to find the time to finally finish, “All the President’s Pastries,” by Roland Mesnier. I met Mesnier at a sugar demonstration several months ago, and found him both truly talented and wonderfully intriguing. After the eye opening class into the world of pulled sugar, I picked up both his books: “Dessert University,” an exploration of the pastry basics, and “All the President’s Pastries,” which chronicles his life, including a detailed account of the twenty five years Mesnier spent as the White House pastry chef. Having spent several years of my own childhood in Washington, DC, I was equally intrigued by the life of Mesnier as the secret spot sweets hold to the First Family, and began to eagerly read into the story of the White House pastry chef.

Roland Mesnier, a tall, round French man, is in person a truly jovial sort, and the pleasant energy he carries comes across in the pages of his book. His rags to riches story is just as interesting, if not more so, as the time he spent creating elaborately plated desserts for the world’s leaders. There is a certain romanticism about Mesnier’s early childhood, growing up in the Comte region of France and entering his apprenticeship at age 14, to learn pastry arts like his brother. Reading about the Old World way, where a young pastry cook is taught by his chef in return for housing and a promise of work, Mesnier makes me feel a nostalgia for something I never knew myself. And he brings you along as he continues to learn and grow in some of the great hotels, from London’s Savoy to the Princess in Bermuda. His story is one to admire.

Mesnier’s story comes to America as his experience as a chef in Virginia, at the Homestead, and then he begins the tale of the Presidential sweets. For the second half of the book the focus shifts away from Mesnier and details vividly the First Families, their distinct idiosyncrasies towards the ending of the meal, and the many galas, parties, and dinners Mesnier was responsible for creating elaborately constructed desserts for. He shares with the reader his personal experience of the 25 years he spent as White House pastry chef, from creating birthday cakes for many members of five different First Families to tearing away chocolate chip cookies from allergic Bill Clinton.

As the story turns to tales of White House desserts, parties, and treats, the focus becomes slightly cloudy. In many sections, Mesnier jumps from one idea to the next in an almost irrational manner, so that in one sentence you are reading about Hilary Clinton’s team of women, coined Hillaryland, and in the next about an orange sorbet Mesnier molded for a state dinner. The facts are quite interesting, but often the ordering and way in which they are presented makes the book become a hard read.

“All the President’s Pastries,” ends quite nicely, with Roland Mesnier returning from retirement to help out the White House once more. The book tells a truly interesting story about an the life of an interesting chef and the lives of five of our nations First Families. The pastries and desserts that Mesnier created at the White House are captivating, both in prose as well as the pictures included throughout the book. “All the President’s Pastries,” proves another good read.

All The President’s Pastries

All the President’s Pasteries

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Sui Generis said,

    Sounds like a good read. Adding it to my “To Read” list. LOVE LOVE LOVE this site.

  2. 2

    Kat said,

    Thanks Sui! It is a good book, I hope you enjoy reading it, and please let me know what you think!


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