White House Pastry Chef Hangs Up His Apron

Mesnier Retires After 25 Years of Delighting Heads of State

White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier with one of his traditional gingerbread houses.

White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier in 1997, with one of his traditional gingerbread houses. White House photo hide caption

itoggle caption White House photo

As the head pastry chef to five U.S. presidents, Roland Mesnier has dazzled heads of state and diplomats, celebrities and royals with his culinary creations. But after 25 years, the French native is retiring from White House kitchen duty.

Mesnier, who first came to work for President Carter, once made chocolate coaches for the Queen of England. Japanese royalty was treated to sugar baskets filled with sushi. And there was a sweet tower built for the king of Spain.

White House visitors are astonished when Mesnier points to his life-like creations and says, "Everything you see here, you can eat."

NPR's Renee Montagne visited with Mesnier in his tiny kitchen in the White House basement as he prepared to leave.

Below, one of the White House's less elaborate dessert recipes:

White House Ginger Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder (rounded)

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 large tablespoon solid shortening

6 teaspoons butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg (or 2 if small)

1/2 cup molasses

Additional sugar, as garnish

Sift together dry ingredients including spices.

Cream shortening and butter until fluffy.

Add sugar slowly, then egg and molasses, and beat thoroughly.

Stir in dry ingredients all at once.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls (the size of a walnut) and roll into sugar spread on waxed paper.

Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets, flatten with fingers, and sprinkle colored sugar on tops of cookies.

Bake at 325 degrees for 7 minutes.

Let stand a minute before removing from sheets.

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