Former White House Chef Dishes on Presidential Families

Both presidents enjoyed entertaining; although after September 11, all formal social activities were curbed for a while, with Scheib's food preparation duties focused entirely on the Bush family. Scheib's official duties included working with both first ladies, planning menus for White House State Dinners for foreign dignitaries and guests, one of the biggest social undertakings of a White House.

Scheib served up a few details about the first families, though not anything too incendiary. For instance, who knew that now-Sen. Hillary Clinton had a collection of hot sauces from around the country? According to Scheib, Mrs. Clinton had 150 different bottles in her pantry closet.

And although both administrations didn't share the same politics, they did share a love for enchiladas, salads, sorbets and fresh fruit. But, Scheib is quick to point out, when the first wives were away, both presidents loved their junk food.

Being in charge of the White House kitchen also means adjusting to the dietary needs of all members of the first family. When Chelsea Clinton decided to become a vegetarian, the kitchen staff had to learn how to accommodate her, and when she was preparing for college, Scheib treated the first saughter and her friends to precollege cooking classes.

President Bush -- famous for assigning nicknames to people around him -- referred to Scheib as, what else, but "Cookie," and often entered the kitchen asking, "Cookie, what's for lunch?" Scheib always made sure to have Mr. Bush's presidential preferences in stock, which included: peanut butter and honey sandwiches (creamy not crunchy), BLTs and hamburgers.

Although Walter Scheib tries to make it sound as if the first family is like any other, living in the White House offers some obvious perks; for instance, their favorite foods are always in stock in their private kitchen. Since Chelsea Clinton loved Dove ice cream bars, for eight years the White House kitchen was fully stocked with them -- in all flavors.

Scheib still lives in the Washington, D.C., area, busy working on a book about his experiences as first chef, consulting, and doing private catering deals (he quoted us around $70,000 for 250 people). When asked if he would return to his old post in 2008 if his old boss happens to make her way back into the White House, he jokingly said, "Well, that is two different questions -- there is a lot more chance of her coming back to the White House then me coming back to my old job."

If you're in the mood to serve a meal fit for a president, try Walter Scheib's following recipe for enchiladas, a favorite dish of both first families he served. Democratic readers take note: The Clintons usually preferred braised chicken added to the cheese mix.

Click to the next page, and enjoy.


(4 portions -- 8 enchiladas)

For the filling and tortillas:

8 ounces grated jalapeño jack cheese

8 ounces grated cheddar cheese

2 ounces Queso Fresco cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups sweet onion, large diced

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 tablespoon cumin ground

hot sauce to taste


8 fresh or store-bought corn tortillas


- In a sauté pan over medium heat, sauté diced onions in oil until tender and slightly colored -- 4-6 minutes.

- Season with coriander, cumin, hot sauce and s&p.

- Let onion mix cool to room temperature, and hold to fill enchiladas.

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