Behind the Scenes at the Waldorf Astoria's Posh Presidential Suite
President Obama stays at the Waldorf Astoria for United Nations meeting.
Sept. 22, 2009— -- 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.
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.
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."