Behind the Scenes at the Waldorf Astoria's Posh Presidential Suite

Want to sleep like the leader of the free world? Then be prepared to shell out $7,000 a night for the presidential suite at New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel.

But for that kind of money, you really do get a piece of history.

President Obama checked in this week, becoming the latest world leader to stay in the four-bedroom suite. In fact, every U.S. president since Herbert Hoover has either stayed in or lived at the Waldorf's towers.

While it might be a great honor to have the president stay in your hotel, it's no easy task. With more than 100 world leaders and countless ambassadors gathering in New York this week for the 64th United Nations General Assembly hotels across the city are busy putting on their best show.

VIDEO: President Obama, like many other heads of state, picks the Waldorf Astoria when in New York.
null

John Doherty spent 30 years working at the Waldorf, 23 of them as executive chef. He said this week brings an exhilarating challenge: besides Obama, there are roughly two dozen other heads of state staying at the hotel.

Doherty, who is now a partner at restaurant group Wolfpack Hospitality, said the chefs work with the State Department to learn what foods the president likes and dislikes. They then review a series of menus for all of the public dinners or meetings that the president will have at the hotel. For instance, President Ronald Regan had to avoid spices and nuts.

null

Stay Up to Date on the Latest Travel Trends from ABC News on Twitter

And no, despite rumors, there is no government taste tester checking each dish for poison, Doherty said. However, the government is present in the kitchen as meals are being prepared.

George H. W. Bush was particularly interested in the food being served and would often quiz Doherty when staying at the Waldorf.

"Everybody made a big deal of him not liking broccoli but he was a real foodie. He loved everything and wanted to talk about the food and what was in it and how it was prepared," Doherty said.

One time, Doherty said he was waiting with Bush, Secretary of State James Baker and National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft for then British Prime Minister John Major to arrive for dinner.

"President Bush wanted to know what we were having that night," Doherty recalls. "I can tell you the other two couldn't give a darn -- by their body language and all -- but the president was totally engaged and wanted to know what they were going to eat."

The Waldorf and the Presidents

The Waldorf's history with U.S. presidents goes back to its start: President Hoover delivered the welcoming address at the hotel's 1931 opening ceremony. (He later moved into the hotel after leaving office.)

Since then, the presidential suite has become the commander in chief's home when visiting New York. With each passing year, a bit more of history is added.

For instance, the room on the 35th floor includes the personal desk of General Douglas MacArthur -- donated by MacArthur's widow, Jean, who lived in the hotel from 1952 to 2000. Nearby is one of President John F. Kennedy's rocking chairs. Reagan donated the gold oval mirror and eagle-based table in the entrance. President Jimmy Carter provided the eagle desk set and the eagle wall sconces were a gift from President Richard Nixon.

All of the paintings in the presidential suite are by American artists. It first featured American colonial-style furnishings and was redecorated in 1969 to resemble the White House.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...