Retired White House Pastry Chef Mesnier Shares Dessert Tips

Photo of Chef Roland Mesnier at Dover Downs

Chef Roland Mesnier demonstrates how to make raspberry chocolate dessert cups during a Chocolate Festival held in the Dover Downs Hotel in Dover, Delaware on 11/25/11.
Chef Roland Mesnier demonstrates how to make raspberry chocolate dessert cups during a Chocolate Festival held in the Dover Downs Hotel in Dover, Delaware on 11/25/11. | Source

“What is so wonderful about Roland is that his fantastic pastry and confections always look beautiful and taste divine. In short, he is the best there is!” ~ Hillary Rodham Clinton

Photo of Chef Mesnier at Chocolate Festival

Chef Mesnier and assistant from Dover Downs Hotel making preparations for food demonstration at the Chocolate Festival.
Chef Mesnier and assistant from Dover Downs Hotel making preparations for food demonstration at the Chocolate Festival. | Source

Roland Mesnier at the Chocolate Festival in Dover Downs Hotel

When I read that Roland Mesnier, the longest-serving White House pastry chef and author of three books, Dessert University, Basic to Beautiful Cakes, and All the Presidents Pastries: Twenty Five Years in the White House, A Memoir, was going to give a free lecture at the Chocolate Festival at the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino and share stories about his years of service to 5 different American Presidents I knew I had to go hear him speak. What I didn't realize was the fact that he would also be giving a food demonstration and that the members of the audience would be invited to sample his delicious creation. His recipe for raspberry chocolate cups is in his book, "Dessert University" and will also be posted on the Dover Downs Hotel website within the next few days. Like all his recipes, the ingredients are common- real whipping cream, raspberry puree, seedless raspberry jam, vanilla and corn syrup are blended together and poured into individual chocolate shells that can be purchased online or at a local gourmet food store. Garnish with a fresh raspberry on top and you get the delectable looking dessert cups in the photograph I took.

Raspberry Chocolate Cups Made by Chef Mesnier

Close up of the raspberry chocolate cups made by Chef Mesnier. Samples were shared with the audience and were delicious!
Close up of the raspberry chocolate cups made by Chef Mesnier. Samples were shared with the audience and were delicious! | Source

Chef Mesnier's Gingerbread Replica of Mt. Vernon

Chef Mesnier's Life Story

By any measure Roland Mesnier has led an extraordinary life. Born into a family of 9 children in a small village in France, his early years were spent in a home with no electricity or running water and the family was so poor they could not afford to buy a Christmas tree so the siblings would go out and cut down a small tree in a nearby forest and set it up on their mother's sewing machine console. Each child, including the boy who would one day grow up to be pastry chef for American Presidents was given an orange for their Christmas dessert/present.

As a young boy Roland was expected to work every summer to earn money to support the family and the jobs he had before the age of 11 were on farms. But the summer he turned 12 he worked in a bakery where his older brother was the bakery chef. He thought the smell of real yeast dough baking in the oven was a heavenly scent and knew right away that this kind of baking was for him. Thereafter his dream was to become the best pastry chef in the world and he spent his youth and young adult years learning to bake as an apprentice. To this day, he is a strong believer that experience is the most important factor in learning how to be a good chef. Add knowledge of the way that cooking ingredients interact with each other, a creative imagination that loves experimentation, and you have the makings of a great chef.

The story he told about how he, an immigrant working on a green card visa as pastry chef in an exclusive family owned hotel in Virginia, came to be a pastry chef at the White House was delightful and shows how important a professional chef's reputation can be. His dream was to be the best chef in the world, not White House pastry chef. Washington insiders who were patrons of the hotel were raving over the desserts he was creating and encouraged him to apply for the White House position but he loved where he was working and never applied. One day he received a phone call from first lady Rosalynn Carter's personal secretary asking him to "Please come to visit." He did, and when he met the White House staff he didn't like them but when he met with Mrs. Carter she greeted him with a kiss, addressed him by his first name and talked with him for a full twenty minutes after which she offered him the job saying he was, "The cutest pastry Chef." He was so charmed he accepted the position but there was one snag- he told her he was not an American Citizen. The first lady said, "I will take care of it." and true to her word, she did. Two weeks after he was working as White House Pastry Chef a limo picked him up at the White House and took him to take his test. He said he didn't know many of the answers to the questions that the immigration officer asked, but when asked, "Do you know who the president is?" he nodded his head and said, "President Jimmy Carter- I feed him everyday." He passed the test and to this day feels grateful that Mrs. Carter helped him become an American Citizen.

Chef Mesnier loves challenges and never rested on his laurels when working at the White House. Instead he took great pride in creating new desserts every day and in always being prepared for the unexpected arrival of guests. For example, in the three weeks leading up to Christmas he would have 120,000 pieces of cakes and cookies in his freezer for both planned and unplanned dinners and events. Another thing he took great pride in was knowing how to prepare dishes from all around the world so that guests from any country could find something from their culture when they would eat at the White House.

When Chef Mesnier speaks and answer questions it becomes obvious that he has a great attitude and always puts a positive spin on things. For instance, when asked what his best tasting dessert is he answered, "All of them." When asked which president was the most difficult to please he made a point of rewording the question saying, "I never thought of any president or his family as being difficult but the Reagans were perfectionists. They knew how to entertain on a grand scale and Mrs. Reagan always knew exactly what she wanted. It was my pleasure to create it to the best of my ability. When speaking about his early years he said he didn't mind being poor because he was born to great parents who loved all their kids and spent a lot of time with them.

Chef Mesnier's Tips

When preparing a special dessert for company Chef Mesnier said that the cook should "Open a bottle of wine and have one glass before starting," then he jokingly added, "This helps the cook relax and if the food doesn't turn out well there is the rest of the bottle left to help the cook feel better!" With a twinkle in his eye he recommended that on Valentine's Day the cook should, "Prepare a special treat for his/her lover by baking something late at night dressed only in an apron- but be careful not to back into the stove when your lover lured by the delicious aroma comes into the kitchen!"

All kidding aside, Chef Mesnier believes that the processed pastries and cakes of today are not the same quality that were available in the past when things were made from scratch. The recipes in his books all use simple ingredients that are fresh and are also designed so that the cook can easily make substitutions depending on what fruits are in season or on hand. He uses real cream, real butter, fresh fruits and vegetables.

In his books he shares many recipes and also gives tips on how to make entertaining less stressful by preparing as many things as possible in advance and storing them in the freezer. The key is in knowing which items freeze well and which don't. For example, macaroons can be pre-baked and will freeze well but many other cookies don't. He makes the dough, shapes it, puts it on parchment paper and freezes it unbaked.

Chef Mesnier's Books

Roland Mesnier's books can be purchased online and in most book stores. They make fabulous gifts for anyone who loves to bake. The following is a brief description of each book:

Dessert University

A beautifully illustrated book that contains over 300 mouth watering recipes and lessons from Chef Mesnier. It is suitable for bakers of all levels and includes breakfast pastries, cookies and pies, fresh fruit desserts, frozen confections and cakes.

Basic to Beautiful Cakes

This is a step by step guide to creating delicious cakes that look as good as they taste. Chef Roland offers tips for investing in high-end ingredients and equipment that make a difference in the cook's ability to create masterpieces so that even amateur bakers can have spectacular results.

All the Presidents' Pastries: Twenty-five Years in the White House, a Memoir

This book is Roland Mesnier's memoir and tells the story of how this young French pastry chef came to embody the American dream. There are many insider tales of his time working at the White House which give the reader a vastly different perspective of what world events and also Washington celebrations looked like from the proximity of his White House pastry kitchen.

Poll About Chef Mesnier's Books

Were you aware of Chef Mesnier's books before reading this article?

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • Yes, and I already own one or more of his books.
  • No, but I plan to buy one or more for myself or as a gift.
See results without voting

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Comments 36 comments

mary615 profile image

mary615 5 years ago from Florida

Good Evening HBN, you were certainly priviledged to see and hear this most interesting man! The photos are mouth watering, that's for sure. Thanks for sharing this with us. Goodnight, Mary


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

Hi Gail, wow! Those chocolate cups with the raspberry inside look not only delicious but very sophisticated! I'll have to look it up.

You'll be happy to know that I did just try to look up that recipe and couldn't find it (guess it's too soon yet). BUT, when I googled "dover downs hotel Roland Mesnier" your hub came up number 1!!

I'll have to make a note to look for this again otherwise I know I'll forget. Voted up, interesting useful and awesome.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Mary,

Yes, it really was a thrill. Chef Mesnier has such a wonderful, warm personality and was so inspirational. So glad you enjoyed the hub.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Danette,

Wow can't believe this hub made it to the number one Google spot so quickly but that's really cool. Thanks for letting me know.

I ordered a copy of Dessert University on Amazon.com and when it comes I'll email you the recipe. I can't add the recipe itself to this hub because I'm afraid it would make the hub show up as having duplicate content!

Thanks for the vote up. It's greatly appreciated.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

Thanks Gail I'll watch for it. And by the way, if you have any books on cultivating gratitude you can recommend I'd appreciate it. Really want/need to work on that part of my life! Thanks


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

It must have been so amazing to see him and hear him talk

Those chocolate cups look delicious

I loved his answer to the question did he know who the president was, He has a wonderful sense of humour, I laughed at his tips.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

A very enjoyable hub and voted up


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

I am looking all over for one of those chocolate cups. Shh don't tell Rose or Earl, i stopped by.

Another beautiful hub. You are going to become a vacation planner, pointing out all that is beautiful and delicious in your area.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Danette,

I sent you an email regarding gratitude.

You did a great job on your Thanksgiving/Gratitude hub and the books listed there look good. I read a book called "Attitude of Gratitude" a few years ago but it had a different cover and I don't remember the name of the author so I'm not sure if the one on your hub is an updated version.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Rosemay,

Yes, it was a real treat listening to him talk. Thanks for the feedback that I was able to convey some of his lively comments and personality. Yes, those chocolate cups were truly yummy.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Mckbirdbks,

Ah you do make me smile- what a heavenly job that would be promoting the beauty and culinary delights of Southern Delaware!

Actually, Chef Mesnier would approve of the baking and cooking that goes on at the Emerald Wells Cafe- everything baked from scratch and well planned out! The feast at the Thanksgiving Speakeasy night smelled so good I could almost taste it from your description of what was going into the ovens!


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Wow Gail what a great hub and your obvious hard work has certainly paid off.

I vote up and here's to so many more to share.

Take care my friend and enjoy the rest of your day.

Eddy.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Eddy,

Thanks so much for the vote up and your lovely comment. Am off to read some of your hubs. Sharing is the best thing about Hub Pages!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 5 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Thanks for a really interesting hub.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Alekhouse,

Am so glad you enjoyed it. With your experiences running an Inn I'm sure you can appreciate the skills it takes to be a great pastry chef!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 5 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Sure can!


cardelean profile image

cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

Wow! What an awesome experience. I would have loved to be in your shoes that day, especially the tasting part! You did a phenomenal job sharing your experience with us, I feel like I know him very well now. I love that he shared the story about the orange with the audience.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Cardelean,

He's quite the character and has led an amazing life. Am thrilled that you enjoyed the hub. I didn't realize when Chef Mesnier shared the orange story that giving oranges is a very old relatively common custom until I read your hub yesterday. When you explained how oranges were considered a rare treat that many could not afford throughout the year it made me realize why he said he was so happy to get one every Christmas. We take so many things for granted in our own lives and too often fail to realize just how blessed we are.

Thanks for leaving such a lovely comment.


femmeflashpoint 5 years ago

Boomer!! Woot! Woot!!! A-Plus!!!

This was excellent!

I loved the video inclusion of the replica of Mt. Vernon. That was "sweet" - no pun intended.

But the history of Chef Mesnier was what I enjoyed the most. It made for a fascinating read. I love historical accounts that are inspiring.

A very impressive guy, and an excellent "Hubbing" of him. You did great!


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Femmeflashpoint,

Oh how I love to see your smiling face in the comment section of my hubs. I really appreciate the time you take to give specific feedback and am thrilled you enjoyed this hub. I loved the video too. The details on the Mt. Vernon gingerbread house were amazing!


Gale 5 years ago

HI Gail, I so enjoyed your beautifully written article on Chef Mesnier! As you know I was there and was amazed at how accurate and complete you were in your reporting of this fun event! Please let me know when you find other great local things to do and when you post again! I did enjoy both seeing him and your article!

Thanks,

Gale


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Gale,

How fun it was bumping into each other at the cooking demonstration! Glad you enjoyed the article and felt that I did an accurate "reporting" of this fun and tasty event. Will definitely keep you posted if I find other interesting local events. We are so blessed to live in Southern Delaware where there are many.

Hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

Gail


akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

Dang - I'm so jealous~ That would have been a neat thing to attend. Glad you got to see him and great photos!


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Audrey,

It was a fun event and I was delighted to see a co-worker from my old job there which was an added bonus.

Thanks for taking time to read and comment.


Kristine Manley profile image

Kristine Manley 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

What a great experience you had. He seems like a real gem of a man.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Kristine Manley,

The Chef was wonderful and so personable to everyone. I'm thrilled I had the opportunity to meet him and to be able to share this experience with others. Thanks so much for taking time to leave a comment. It's greatly appreciated.


quildon profile image

quildon 5 years ago from Florida

What a great opportunity that must have been to see this man up close and personal. You did a great job with this hub. I'm going to check out his books on Amazon. Voted up and useful.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Quildon,

I ordered the "Dessert University" one and am still waiting for it to arrive. I saw a copy at the event and it looked really beautiful and easy to use. Yes, it was wonderful hearing him speak.

Thanks for the vote up and for taking time to leave a comment. It's greatly appreciated.


quildon profile image

quildon 5 years ago from Florida

Thanks, Happyboomernurse. I just tweeted your hub. I only tweet articles that I like.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Why thank you, Quildon. I'm honored that you liked it enough to give it a tweet and appreciate your passing it on.


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

HBN,

I really, really enjoyed this article. I love meeting people like this that I would not otherwise have the chance. The detail and research you put in to this is great. I love it when a writer turns an "outing" into a spectacular article. I need to start carrying my camera with me when I go out. Great job!

Sharyn


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Sharyn,

Hub Pages is great, isn't it? Gives us an acceptable reason to carry a camera, shoot lots of photos and write lots of notes when we're out having a great day at an event that's already fun!

It's amazing how many free or modestly priced events are in most communities once you start looking for them. Good luck on finding some in your area.

Thanks so much for all your encouragement and support.

Gail


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

What a fun outing for you and thanks for telling us about this retired White House dessert chef and a bit about his life. Sounds like a fun way to spend part of a day! Up votes!


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Peggy,

Yes it was fun hearing Chef Mesnier talk about his life and also White House experiences.

Glad you enjoyed the hub and thanks for the vote up.


Mama Kim 8 profile image

Mama Kim 8 4 years ago

Very interesting hub! I will most certainly be looking into his books now ^_^ Thank you for introducing him! Voting a bunch and pinning!


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Mama Kim,

So thrilled you enjoyed it and thanks for the vote up and pinning. It's greatly appreciated.

The book also makes a great gift for anyone who loves cooking.


Mama Kim 8 profile image

Mama Kim 8 4 years ago

You're right! I'll add grab a couple for gifting ^_^ Thanks again!

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