Blown sugar oranges filled with mousse, fruit and sorbet decorative arrangements, a chocolate carriage with raspberries—as White House executive pastry chef for nearly 26 years, Chef Roland Mesnier created desserts for five presidents. Mesnier passed away this summer at age 78.
Mesnier was one of the longest-serving White House chefs. First Lady Rosalynn Carter hired him in 1979. He retired during George W. Bush’s administration.
Born in 1944, Mesnier grew up in Bonnay, France, as one of nine children. He began his career in pastry at age 14. He left home with a cardboard suitcase and five francs (about $12 in today’s currency) to begin his apprenticeship in Besançon. He later worked in Paris and several German cities before landing a job at the esteemed Savoy hotel in London.
In 1967, Mesnier became a pastry chef at a Bermuda hotel. While living on the island, he met his future wife, a vacationing teacher from West Virginia. A decade later, he worked at The Homestead resort in Virginia. Several patrons who savored his pastries convinced him to apply for the position of White House pastry chef. He met with an insistent Carter, who persuaded him to take the job—and arranged a surprise U.S. citizenship for him.
During his lifetime, Mesnier prepared desserts not only for first families but also for heads of state at parties, receptions, and dinners. Sometimes he prepared thousands of pastries at once! Chef Mesnier claimed that he never made the same dessert twice.
“Over the 25 years I’ve been here, I’ve noticed that Democrats usually eat more than Republicans,” Mesnier noted. The confection king also observed: “If the guests are mostly ladies, they will usually eat more pastries than men.”
At Christmas, Mesnier’s elaborate themed gingerbread houses bedecked the White House. One favorite featured children’s books. Visitors spotted beloved characters, including a certain hungry caterpillar, Winnie-the-Pooh, and Humpty Dumpty perched on the Truman Balcony.
Mesnier admitted making more pastries than usual for holiday parties—because goodies tended to “disappear into pocketbooks or pockets,” later turning up as Christmas tree ornaments in people’s homes.
When asked in 2004 about working at the White House, Mesnier said, “You don’t think about free time, spare time, etc. Because your time is at the White House. Any time you are needed you have to be there.”
“It could be Christmas day, Easter, your birthday, your mother’s birthday, your child’s birthday . . .,” he explained. “The White House always comes first.”
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord. — Colossians 3:23
Why? In his vocation, Chef Mesnier knew where his allegiance lay. We too should exhibit loyalty to Christ and “do all for the glory of God,” even if our jobs serve others in comparatively small ways.
Wow!! This guy sounds like he was an amazing person. I loved all of his creations!
His desserts sound really good and they looked really good too! I looked him up on the internet and he had him own web page! I thought that was really cool! :)
my sister is in school for baking but I don't think she will end up in the white house.
I think the pastries looked lovely. He did amazing work.
Those creations look amazing! They look delicious too! Pastries are always so good. I think that is interesting about Democrats eating more than Republicans, and ladies eating more pastries than men! Interesting observations! Although that would be a cool job, I can understand why he retired after a while, because like he said, the White House always came first. he was probably able to spend more time with his family after he retired. I bet they got some cool desserts for their birthdays and such! XD
I agree! Those are good observations. He will be missed.