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White House Chef: Eleven Years, Two Presidents, One Kitchen Hardcover – January 17, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Hired by First Lady Hillary Clinton to become White House chef in 1994, Walter Scheib faced a daunting challenge—to take an outdated kitchen focused on traditional French cooking and make it a modern showcase for restaurant-quality American food, featuring the best seasonal ingredients and vibrant contemporary flavors. Scheib seized the opportunity and the world noticed. Menus and even some culinary controversies were reflected in major publications such as the New York Times and Newsweek, and were the subject of political cartoons like Doonesbury. Scheib's meals were praised by high-profile epicures including Julia Child and French prime minister Jacques Chirac. As more was accomplished, more was expected, and Scheib stepped up, serving thousands of innovative meals during the Clinton years and through the first term of the Bush administration.

In this fascinating memoir, Scheib shares a personal, kitchen-eye view of life in the White House during his eleven years "at the stove" under two very different administrations. He offers an intimate portrait of the Clinton White House—and captures how the arrival of the Bushes changed everything. You'll read about:

  • Preparations for state dinners honoring many world leaders, including the dinner for Nelson Mandela, one of the most anticipated White House events during President Clinton's time in office
  • Scheib's twenty-nine-hour "day" (without sleep) orchestrating the White House Millennial New Year's Eve celebrations
  • The Clintons' mandate for authentic "local" dishes at the G8 Summit meal in Colorado, resulting in a meal featuring American buffalo, cowboy rollups, and rattlesnake
  • President Bush's tee ball games on the White House lawn and the president's insistence that the hot dogs must be steamed, never grilled

Scheib also captures the more personal side of his job—serving as private chef to the first family. You'll read about Scheib:

  • Cheering up Mrs. Clinton with an off-the-menu dish of Sizzling Fajitas when it seems she's having a challenging day
  • Serving President Clinton a big Porterhouse Steak with Béarnaise Sauce and Onion Rings when his wife is out of town
  • Teaching Chelsea Clinton how to cook before she goes away to college
  • Bantering with President Bush—who calls him "Cookie"—almost daily about "what's for lunch"

Full of revealing anecdotes, photographs, menus, and special White House recipes—from the Pecan-Crusted Lamb with Red-Curried Sweet Potatoes that helped Scheib ace his job audition to the Vodka-Marinated Salmon and Kasha Pilaf prepared for the ever-merrier Russian president Boris Yeltsin to Laura Bush's Roasted Beet Salad at lunches—White House Chef is a treat for everyone who loves food, politics, or both.

From the Back Cover

"An engaging book about life at the Executive Mansion. . . . Hillary Clinton had charged this fiercely competitive, meticulously organized chef with bringing 'what's best about American food, wine, and entertaining to the White House.' His sophisticated contemporary food was generally considered some of the best ever served there."
—Marian Burros, New York Times

White House Chef

Join Walter Scheib as he serves up a taste—in stories and recipes—of his eleven years as White House chef under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Scheib takes readers along on his whirlwind adventure, from his challenging audition process right up until his controversial departure. He describes his approach to meals ranging from the intimate (rooftop parties and surprise birthday celebrations for the Clintons; Tex-Mex brunches for the Bushes) to his creative approach to bringing contemporary American cuisine to the "people's house" (including innovative ways to serve state dinners for up to seven hundred people and picnics and holiday menus for several thousand guests).

Scheib goes beyond the kitchen and his job as chef. He shares what it is like to be part of President Clinton's motorcade (the "security bubble") and inside the White House during 9/11, revealing how he first evacuates his staff and then comes back to fix meals for hundreds of hungry security and rescue personnel. Staying cool under pressure also helps Scheib in other aspects of his job, such as withstanding the often-changing "temperature" of the White House and satisfying the culinary sensibilities of two very different first families.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (December 29, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471798428
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471798422
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #330,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By truvalor on February 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Walter Scheib's White House Chef is a fascinating and compelling memoir of the inner workings of the White House kitchen and what it takes to be the Executive Chef of the House. After reading the book, I was greatly encouraged that this was not yet another tabloid infused penning of the lives of high profile people. It reads as a forthright account about Chef Scheib's personal interactions with the First Families and his kitchen family in both daily events and even the life-harrowing event of 911. The Chef's retelling of what it was like to be in the White House during September 11 is not to be missed.

In addition to reading the book, I thought it was important to experience the Chef's cuisine. As a professional cook, I sought out to test the recipes in my kitchen and see if they actually work. Both the Cream of Celery Root Soup and the Thai-Spiced Sweet Potato Soup with Gingered Bok Choy were absolutely fabulous. The Cream of Celery Root Soup could easily be adapted for Vegans (by the omission of cream) and still taste great. The last dish I cooked was the Curried Chicken with Basmati. It is an incredibly aromatic dish that is both satisfying and flavorful. I did have to tweak the seasonings and the directions because I increased the proportion size quite a bit. In fact, I used the recipe for a catering. I simply replaced the whole chicken with chicken breasts. The dish was gone in no time and received some very positive reviews.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Martin C. Mongiello on February 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As the Camp David Executive Chef for three years (standard military tour) I am thrilled to see my boss with such a wonderful book. He has done a beautiful job with it! The recipes are WOW and the story is REAL.

I wish there had been dozens of pages of color food photographs but the photos enclosed of people and story is more than enough to get FIVE STARS! Walter is a wonderful and loving person always interested in doing right and well. A great leader and realistic manager of peace and productivity.

The book as was written by Mr. Friedman is interesting and electryfing to read. It seems like everyone involved did a super good job of teamwork. Typical for normal people doing extra-ordinary results! As a cookbook with awesome recipes - enjoy! As a storybook with fascinating anecdotes - enjoy!
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By David J. Huber VINE VOICE on June 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Scheib has given us a pretty good look into the life of a White House chef under two administrations: one (the Clintons) that really wanted to make the White House into a place of entertainment and a place to show off America's best foods, and one that, well, isn't interested in that.

The recipes are good, interesting, and worth the cost of the book as well.

But what I find most interesting in the book, and what I was most hoping for when I ordered it, was a look at the non-flashy daily grind of life in the White House, and Scheib provides us many anecdotes, from Bill Clinton ordering huge steaks when his wife was away, to George Bush popping his head into the kitchen after a run and asking "What's for lunch?"

I enjoyed the stories of the giant dinners and elegant soirees, but it was the daily stuff I found most interesting: where the First Families enjoyed eating, their comfort foods, Chelsea Clinton making cookies with friends, Chelsea's first adult-style evening of entertaining, Scheib fighting with the purchasing staff to get better quality produce, that Bush likes his toasted cheese sandwiches cut at an angle, how the White House staff fill the elevator at lunch time making it difficult for the chef to get food to the president while still hot, the personalities of different people, and so on. While it is a world famous house, with incredibly important stuff going on, it's still a workplace for many with all the personality adventures of a workplace, and it's also home for one family that, for the most part, act like any other family or any other people. That is the aspect of the book I most appreciated, and which I wish had a lot more.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Valaya Gaudet on January 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A cookbook and a fascinating read all in one! I haven't taken the time to try any of the recipes yet because I simply couldn't put the book down. The anecdotes are lively, informative, touching, and never pompous in spite of the formal setting in which the events took place. The recipes are mouth-watering and several of the dishes seem easy to prepare. Highly recommended.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By kramax on March 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an Australian with a fascination with the White House and US Politics generally, I looked forward to reading this 'inside look' when I saw it reviewed on FOX News. The author is a hard working perfectionist chef, perfectly suited to the exacting standards of White House entertaining and the Clintons who encouraged greatness from the national residence. The menu and invititation copies were nice to see, for those who will never get an invite to the White House. The menus are all American classics or variations on same. It was an interesting 'inside' look at domesticated Hillary Clinton and a different view to the one we are seeing now as a presidential candidate. I was also interested to read the author's perceptions of the George W Bush's, who are portrayed as dull and uninterested in food or in presenting the White House in greatness. They throw very few State dinners or events, and eat the same dull food throughout the year. I highly recommend this book.
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