Looking for a Woman Chef: The 2005 Palace Revolt

Walter Scheib

In 2005, sparks flew in the White House kitchen. And the conflagration came not from the Crêpes Suzettes. No indeed. White House chef, Walter Scheib, formerly chef of the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, found himself in the same pickle that other French-trained chefs working at the White House experienced over the years. Scheib, who served as White House Executive Chef from 1994-2005, was fired, the official reason being that he didn’t meet the standards of First Lady Laura Bush in style. Or whatever. He was a modern incarnation of another French chef, one Madame Petronard, chef for President Benjamin Harrison,  peddling too many rich sauces.

The Washington Post printed a brief, and daunting, description of the job:

The White House kitchen is typically open 16 hours a day, preparing meals for the president and his family, small luncheons and dinners, buffets for large receptions and the highly scrutinized State Dinners, with menus designed to highlight both American cuisine and the country being honored. Planning for state dinners begin two months before the event. And let us not forget the thousands of hard-boiled eggs for the annual Easter Egg Roll.

A blog for chefs, Super Chef, posted a whole series of articles about possible women chefs suitable for the White House – Laura Bush chose none of them, but instead elevated an in-house female candidate, Cristeta Comerford, to the position.

Cristeta Comerford
Cristeta Comerford

The following list shows how seriously Super Chef author Juliette Rossant took the idea of a woman becoming the White House’s chef:

Profile: Melissa Perello for White House Chef
Profile: Alice Waters for White House Chef
Profile: Jody Adams for White House Chef
Profile: Tamara Murphy for White House Chef
Profile: Allison Vines-Rushing for White House Chef
Profile: Lucia Watson for White House Chef
Profile: Barbara Lynch for White House Chef
Profile: Suzanne Goin for White House Chef
Profile: Louise Lamensdorf for White House Chef
Profile: Anita Jaisinghani for White House Chef
Profile: Julie Francis for White House Chef
Profile: Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger for White House Chef
Profile: Traci Des Jardins for White House Chef
Profile: Anita Lo for White House Chef
Profile: Sara Moulton for White House Chef
Profile: Nora Pouillon for White House Chef
Profile: Scooter Kanfer for White House Chef
Profile: Cat Cora for White House Chef
Profile: Diane Forley for White House Chef
Profile: Zarela Martinez for White House Chef

© 2008 C. Bertelsen

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