interview white house chef

Cover for Dining at the White House by Chef John Moeller

Chef John Moeller worked as a chef in the White House for over ten years and has detailed his experiences (and menus!) in his new book Dining at the White House. Think its hard cooking for your vegan friends? Try cooking for world famous dignitaries and the President! What I’ve learned from reading his book is that being a White House chef takes a superhuman. So, I wanted an outside-in perspective and asked him about entertaining and hosting guests with dietary restrictions! So vegans and friends of vegans, here’s some excellent tips for throwing a great dinner party or cooking a great meal that everyone can enjoy!

Alex: After reading Dining at the White House, I’ve learned that not only are you an amazing chef, but you’re a superhero! It was amazing to read all the stories about last minute plan changes, accommodations, and trying to please the pickiest of eaters, especially within the presidential level! I know that one thing you emphasize is experience. Can you offer one tip for our readers on how to create an experience for dinner guests coming over for a dinner party or meal?

Chef Moeller: One tip is that ingredients are the most important part of the preparation and to be able to source as local possible first, before looking for other products out of the area. 

Alex: After reading about what you all had to do to cook for large dinner parties and events, I can’t even begin to imagine how stressful that must’ve been! What’s one tip you have for a dinner party host in order to beat the stress?

Chef Moeller: Do as much preparation the day before and the morning of your dinner so that you can have a less stress free cooking experience and also time to enjoy your guests instead of being in the kitchen the whole time.

Alex: I know that you have a lot of experience creating a few back-up dishes for those who might have dietary restrictions. What is one tip hosts cooking for multiple people, accommodating those with dietary restrictions, should keep in mind while cooking?

Chef Moeller: I always keep meat products away from my vegetables as much as I can so that I can put together a vegetarian dish if needed. And I usually thicken my sauces with corn starch or arrowroot because I find that gluten intolerance is very common right now.

Alex: I loved the section of Dining at the White House where you described teaching Chelsea Clinton how to cook a vegetarian meal.  What is one tip you have for someone with a dietary restriction (or any chef perhaps!) for teaching others how to cook in a certain style?

Chef Moeller: At times I would have world leaders from all parts of the globe dining at the White House. I would always wait until I would receive the dietary considerations of the visitor before writing a menu. If I had any questions about anything, I would do my research on the diets as I am writing the menu. The internet is great for this; I would check a few sites before I commit to a final draft. 

Alex: It seems like today (I could be wrong in thinking this!) many people are cooking less and eating out more or preparing store-bought frozen entrees, what is one tip you have for people who are just learning how to cook?

Chef Moeller: If you were not exposed to cooking techniques while growing up, the Food Network is a great way to get familiar with ingredients and cooking equipment. On YouTube you can find videos about anything that you might want to do and be able to watch someone before you attempt to do it on your own. Last year I did 10 dishes on the site Ehow. Watching videos can help take the fear out of preparation if you do not feel comfortable only reading instructions from a book. By using both you can work more efficiently. 

Alex: What is your favorite vegetable and why?

Chef Moeller: That is a hard one! A vegetable or fruit at its peak is always the best. I do love the nutty taste of artichokes. When I lived in Brittney France and I was surrounded with artichoke fields, we would play with them all the time to try different recipes.  

Alex: Is there anything else you’d like to mention about working at the White House, your experience writing this book, cooking for those with dietary restrictions, etc?

Chef Moeller:  Writing the book was just a great new experience, and to be able to bring your story into print form has been wonderful! Working at the White House was a private chef position and you are serving the same folks everyday along with celebrities from around the world. You need a wide background of cooking skills to meet the challenges of this type of daily cooking. Most of the time, I was working by myself and on any given Saturday afternoon suddenly you could get a call from the First Family wanting to change things up for dinner. You only have yourself to rely on. There were challenging times, but I really did like working under these types of circumstances because at the end of the day they can forget about some of the world problems and just enjoy a nice meal!  

You can buy the book here! Vegans please keep in mind the recipes in the book feature both meat and dairy products, but you can easily manipulate the veggie dishes using vegan butter or coconut milk as a heavy cream base! But in the end what I loved most about this book is seeing what its like to cook for world famous leaders and for being able to get a glimpse into what they ate! If those of you out there think it’d be hard to host a vegan guest, try hosting the President!

Happy Snobbing,

Alex

Non-vegans and vegans alike do you need some recipe inspiration for hosting your friends with dietary restrictions? Then click here to signup for my newsletter featuring vegan recipes and a mini-vegan cookbook! 

Full Disclosure: Although I received a complimentary copy of the book, I am not affiliated with the author or publisher of this book, nor did I feel obligated to write a review or positive review in exchange. I am just an exploring vegan excited to share all my vegan-y discoveries with whomever may want to read! Read more about my philosophy on product reviews here. Please note that if you buy a product through my links, I receive a small percentage from Amazon.

 

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