On The Avenue

Dreaming of a White (House) Christmas in New York

by Kelly Laffey Photographed by Chris Lee
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

If it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the White House, you could thank former Executive Chef Roland Mesnier. Mesiner served as the White House Executive Pastry Chef throughout five presidencies, creating, among other sugary confections, the annual White House gingerbread house.

On Monday, December 11, the White House Historical Association hosted a holiday reception honoring Roland Mesnier. The event was hosted by Lauren Bush Lauren, Nicole Sexton and Sharon Bush.

“We called her the Cookie Monster,” said Mesnier of Bush Lauren, who is a White House Historical Association board member. “It was very personal [for me] in wanting to support this organization,” she said. Bush was ages 4-8 while her grandfather George H. W. Bush was in the White House. “[The White House] was such a magical place to run wild as a kid,” she continued.

Founded in 1961 by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, the White House Historical Association is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to celebrating and preserving the White House, in addition to furthering education about the President’s home.

“At 32 years old [Kennedy] was young and wise; and she had the foresight and the wisdom to know that what she and President Kennedy needed then, presidents and first ladies would need over the course of time,” said White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin. Among the organization’s goals is to preserve the historic art and furniture in the White House, as well as producing an educational White House guide book.

“It’s a wonderful association,” said Mesnier. “It’s why, after all my years at the White House, I had no problem joining.” Mesiner was the executive pastry chef under Presidents Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush. When he left, he decided to write The White House in Gingerbread: Memories and Recipes, with all of the proceeds going to the WHHA.

“My favorite moments were when we did things with the families,” he said, “like birthdays and anniversaries.” His favorite family recipe came courtesy of the Carters—a cheese wheel made with cheese so pungent, not even the flies would touch it.

“He would make cookies for the gingerbread house so that the children wouldn’t break the whole thing,” said Sharon Bush about Mesnier. Between Bush 41 and Bush 43, Sharon Bush raised her kids in the White House for a total of 20 years. “My children grew up in the White House. Every time we went, I respected that we may never go again—but we were blessed for 20 years,” she said of her affection for the presidential home.

The reception also introduced the newest White House Christmas ornament, an annual tradition since 1981. Each subsequent ornament honors a presidential inauguration, in chronological order. This year’s ornament celebrates President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s historic first inauguration on March 4, 1933. The event introduced Ben Sutton, Jr. as the newest White House Historical Association board member. Sutton also serves on the board of the Regan Foundation.

Also in attendance was Dr. Mahra Ahmad Lutfi, who was in New York for the week in preparation for the Miss Texas competition in January. “I’d like to open the first FDA-approved stem cell center in the U.S.,” she said of her platform, should she go on to win Miss USA.


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