Roland Mesnier, White House pastry chef for five presidents, dies at 78


WASHINGTON — Roland Mesnier, who created often magical desserts for five presidents and their guests as the White House’s executive pastry chef, has died at age 78.

His death was confirmed Saturday by the White House Historical Association, which said he died Friday after a short illness.

White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier shows off the 45-pound Easter egg and replica of Barney, the president’s dog, in March 2002.Ron Edmonds/AP, file

One of the longest-serving White House chiefs, Mesnier was hired in 1979 by First Lady Rosalynn Carter and retired during the George W. Bush administration.

Responding to questions from an online forum “Ask the White House” in 2004, he explained that when preparing desserts not only for the first family but also for parties, receptions and dinners, he was often called upon to prepare thousands of pastries. He said he planned the number of pastries based on who would be there.

“In the 25 years I’ve been here, I’ve noticed that Democrats generally eat more than Republicans,” Mesnier said. “I have also observed that while the guests are mostly women, they generally eat more pastries than the men.”

At Christmas time, he was known for the elaborate gingerbread houses he made to help decorate the White House. He said he also needed to make more baked goods than usual for the holiday season, as some tended to “disappear in wallets or pockets” and often ended up as Christmas tree decorations. Christmas in people’s homes.

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton chats with White House Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier and assistant Franette McCulloch as she shows off their gingerbread house creation made from 80 pounds of gingerbread in December 1997.Wilfredo Lee/AP, file

Mesnier grew up in Bonnay, a village in eastern France, in a family of nine children and began his career as an apprentice at age 14. The White House archives describe him leaving home with a cardboard suitcase and five francs to begin his apprenticeship in pastry. Maurivard in Besancon, France. He then worked in Paris and the German cities of Hanover and Hamburg before landing a job at the Savoy Hotel in London.

In 1967, he became pastry chef at a hotel in Bermuda and, while living on the island, met his future wife, a schoolteacher on vacation from West Virginia. A decade later, he was working at The Homestead resort in Virginia when he learned the White House was looking for a new pastry chef.

Asked in 2004 about working in the White House, he said, “You don’t think about free time, free time, etc. Because your time is in the White House. Whenever you need you, you have to be there.

“It could be Christmas Day, Easter, your birthday, your mom’s birthday, your kid’s birthday – you’re going to be at the White House if you need you,” he said.

“The White House always comes first.”

He is survived by his son, George Mesnier.


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