The List May 2005

White House Chefs

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Before he quit, in February, Walter Scheib III had been White House chef for a decade. Hired by Hillary Clinton to replace longtime chef Pierre Chambrin, Scheib left as he had arrived —amid controversy. Rumors swirled that he and Laura Bush had clashed over style. Drama is nothing new in the White House kitchen, which has gotten awfully hot over the years. Here is a sampling of chefs who have stirred the White House pot.

1. Franette McCulloch. In 2000, claiming that executive pastry chef Roland Mesnier punished her with menial tasks for refusing sex, this assistant pastry chef sued Mesnier and his boss, President Bill Clinton, for $1 million apiece. The suit was later dropped.

2. Sean Haddon. An assistant chef, Haddon claimed that his interracial marriage led to discrimination and denied him a promotion to sous chef in 1992. After he filed a formal complaint (which he lost), rumors circulated that he had threatened to poison the First Family. A Secret Service polygraph test exonerated him of wrongdoing.

3. Pierre Chambrin. Fired by the Clintons in 1994 for refusing to drop his fat-laden French menu for a healthier American one, Chambrin later claimed to have been let go because he was overweight and spoke with a thick French accent.

4. Henry Haller. Recruited by the Johnsons from New York's Sheraton East in 1966, this Swiss-trained chef served five presidents over twenty-one years. His most famous meal may have been President Nixon's last: one poached egg with corned-beef hash followed immediately by one letter of resignation.

5. Rene Verdon. Hired by the Kennedys to infuse White House dining with French elegance, Verdon, the first official White House chef, resigned in 1965 when President Johnson demanded that he cook Texas-ranch style.

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