Thursday, October 22, 2009

Roland Mesnier - White House Pastry Chef

Many years ago, (perhaps 12?), I was lucky enough to be invited into the White House to spend a day with the pastry chef at that time, Roland Mesnier. It was a remarkable day, for so many reasons. His kitchen was so much tinier than I had expected and yet the level of work was so much more than I had ever dreamed. He was famous for never making the same dessert twice during his 25 years in service to our First Families. The day I was there he was prepping for a State Dinner and the frozen strawberry bombe, in the shape of a strawberry, was to be accompanied by a lemon compote that I will never forget.

Cases and cases of lemons were carefully peeled and sectioned. Each lemon section was painstakingly cleaned of any membrane and these were poached in a sugar syrup. The result was a sweet yet tart compote, so incredibly refined and unexpected. At the time I was writing a cover feature of him for Chocolatier magazine (which has now morphed into Dessert Professional). If you can get a hold of a copy, it is very interesting reading, which some great pictures.

Years later he participated in a public television holiday pledge special that I was taping. That day we made a buche de Noel together. The smell of chocolate on the set was intoxicating. His version was fairly modern with outsized chocolate deer and pine trees set about the display platter. The pledge special is still in rotation, so try to catch it. It should begin airing soon.

Just this week he was in my neck of the woods, appearing at UMASS, where he gave a talk about his professional life, which began at age 14. The morning of that birthday he came downstairs to find a cardboard suitcase packed for him. His family was poor, there were many children, and that was his time to make it on his own - and he never looked back.

I brought him a copy of my new book (above) and in the pic below we are discussing the finer points of making parisian style macarons. (PS: he Does like to age his egg whites, preferably for 10 days for best results). Anyone who has made these knows they can be picayune, and this was one of his best tips. There are two recipes in my new book for this type of cookie. One is a Pistachio and one is a Raspberry Rose. Sort of red and green for Christmas (OK I'm stretching a bit here, but they always impress).
Below is a pictures of my daughter's macarons, here in Espresso Creme Fraiche and Pistachio. You can see more of her work on her site, Shellco. If you are in the NY-Metro area, give them a call for a holiday order. Tell her I sent you:)

1 comment:

Groomer Angie said...

oh Dede, how exciting! I have really got to order that book!