I had the great pleasure of having a grand dinner with with former White House executive chef, Walter Scheib. In October a bunch of YPO/WPO members of the Food & Beverage Network and the Beer, Wine & Spirits Network (I chair) got together in Chicago for 3 days of learning and networking. It was a fantastic event, with best of the best resources, speakers, and activities. One highlight was our evening with Walter Scheib.
Here is a little background on Walter from his website The American Chef.
(White House Executive Chef, 1994 – 2005)
“For the last eleven years, I have had the honor of doing daily what most chefs would be lucky to do once in their life time. That honor was serving the First Family of the United States.”
– Walter Scheib, March 2005
Walter Scheib has quite a story to tell. In fact, he has two stories to tell. The first involves the rise of an American chef to the most storied position in the land. The second offers an intimate, human view of two First Families, the corridors of political power, international personalities, and the most famous building in the United States, from a unique vantage point: The kitchen.
In April 1994, after a lengthy application and screening process, Walter Scheib became the chef to America’s chief executive and the First Family. First Lady Hillary Clinton, impressed by the comprehensive spa menu Scheib had developed for the Greenbrier resort, as well as his highlighting of American cuisine, personally hired Scheib. For 11 years, he prepared everything from simple family meals to elaborate and formal State Dinners. His culinary creations dazzled and delighted White House guests including Nelson Mandela, Emperor Aikihito, Jacques Chirac, Boris Yeltsin, Vaclav Havel, Lady Diana Spencer, Tony Blair, Vicente Fox, and others, not to mention the thousands of congressional members, journalists, and other House visitors who got to know his food.
A highlight of Scheib’s White House achievement was his creation of a distinctly American repertoire for the nation’s First House. He continues to speak with eloquence and pride about America’s bounty today, praising the artisan cheese makers, green grocers, mushroom foragers, master bread makers, fishermen, ranchers, and farmers who have helped our national market basket evolve, and make quality cooking more accessible than ever. “America is rich in amazing produce, meats, and fish,” Scheib say
s. “Using just a few excellent ingredients, anyone can make a perfect meal with very little formal training.”
Chef Scheib was very personable and probably the coolest part of the our evening together was all the interesting stories from his days in the White House for both President Clinton and Bush. There were many funny ones.
The meal was excellent and creative. Menu at right. Jay Wright the EVP and COO of Constellation Wines hosted our reception with a fun tasting of some of their wines from around the world. Constellation Wine worked with Chef on the pairings. I was not a fan of everything, but it was a great experience. My favorite dish was the first course – Seasame crusted Halibut with Red Curried Sweet Potato Soup. This was paired with the 2010 Nobilo “Icon” Sauvignon Blanc. Nice.
The best part was hanging out with Chef afterwards. He joined us at our “afterparty” that I hosted with 3 Amigos Tequila and Napa Smith Brewery. We enjoyed a Napa Smith Organic IPA together and chatted about his current business, travels and great food. He is a big fan of great beer and agreed with my contention that a beer dinner is easier to create than a wine dinner as beer actually can accompany more foods in a more complimentary way. Don’t get me wrong, I love wine, but we are seeing more and more of this kind of thinking. Its great to get confirmation from a talented chef like Watler Scheib.
Chef Scheib’s book is called “White House Chef”. It is far more than a cook book. It is an interesting look into life inside the White House.