Wednesday, June 11, 2014

THE PRESIDENT'S KITCHEN CABINET

I am very excited to be a co-producer for The President's Kitchen Cabinet, an up and coming TV documentary. The final production promises to be an insightful and groundbreaking film that will peer into the personal and professional lives of African-American cooks who have served in the White House. I am collaborating with Adrian Miller- food writer, politico, attorney and author of Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time.


Adrian shares that, "After watching The President's Kitchen Cabinet, you'll discover that these cooks were not only culinary artists, but they also served our presidents as personal confidantes, informal policy advisors, civil rights advocates and family friends." He has compiled stories for the film which include "The Poisoned Pea Plot of 1776" - an account of the cook  who saved President Washington's life, the grill chef who cooked on the White House roof with President Eisenhower, the enslaved cook who managed to learn classical French cooking and the female cook who inspired President Lyndon to lobby for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

 
As you can imagine, a worthwhile production like The President's Kitchen Cabinet not only demands a tremendous amount of research and interviewing, but it also requires support - both moral and monetary. A Kickstarter campaign has been started to help introduce the film to television networks and producers. If you feel compelled to be part of The President's Kitchen Cabinet support team, I would be extremely grateful. Every person who backs this project counts. Every donation, no matter what the amount - speaks volumes. Please feel free to share the exciting news about The President's Kitchen Cabinet. Here is the link.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

2014 NATIONAL PROSTART INVITATIONAL

It was exciting to hear the shouts, cheers and generous applause that erupted in this year's ProStart Invitational Awards Ceremony. Students, parents and coaches alike were overjoyed for the 300 plus students who had worked so hard throughout the school year to finally compete at the national competition in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Prostart champions hail from 46 states, territories and Department of Defense bases. This year's first place teams included Simon Sanchez High School from Yigo, Guam (culinary) and Rockwall High School from Rockwall, Texas (management). The top five winning teams for both culinary and management took home their share of $3.75 million dollars in scholarships

Part of the culinary criteria for each four member team was to provide a starter, an entree and dessert within 60 minutes while being limited to two portable butane burners. There were several categories that were assigned to each judge which included knife skills, sanitation, menu checking, product check-in and tasting. I was granted the duty of entree tasting. So, over the course of two days my three judge panel group had the pleasure of tasting 46 entrees. You can imagine, pacing myself is something that I've learned to do well.

I enjoyed seeing the faces of anticipation and nervousness coming from the ranks of these talented students. The majority of the competitors prepared excellent food in both flavor and appearance. Many thanks go out to the folks at NRAEF who have designed a top notch culinary and management program that help over 1700 schools. And kudos to each one of the Prostart Invitational champions.

Friday, March 14, 2014

DAIRY FOUNDATION PIE EATING CONTEST

Today is National Pi Day, a day in which math lovers everywhere are celebrating the symbol of Pi π (not to be confused with National Pie Day that takes place in January). Pi π is the Greek symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant - the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter which is approximately 3.14159.  Online shoppers can easily locate some sites that are offering deals or shipping for $3.14.  The Professional Dairy Producers Foundation had a little play with "Pi" this week when they hosted a Pie Eating Contest to raise educational money for dairy farmers and producers around the nation. I was fortunate to be a contestant. 

From the desk of Shelly Mayer, Director of the Professional Dairy Producer Foundation:
Former White House Chef Eats Pie, Strauss Winner for 2nd Straight Year in Dairy Foundation's Pie Eating Contest

Pie Eating Contest finals capped Day One of the Professional Dairy Producers Business Conference in Madison, Wis.  Pictured are Mike Hutjens, professor emeritus, University of Illinois; Winner Dean Strauss of Sheboygan Falls; Former White House Chef Walter Scheib, keynote speaker; and Keith Engel, GEA Farm Technologies.
MADISON, Wis. --Former White House Chef Walter Scheib was a dark horse entry in the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation Pie Eating Finals held Wednesday night during the Professional Dairy Producers Business Conference in Madison, WI.  Scheib, along with two other runners-up, could not devour as much pie as defending champion Dean Strauss, dairy producer from Sheboygan Falls, WI.  With his win, Strauss defended the title he earned one year ago. 

The 2014 Pie Eating Contest doubled the amount of money raised in last year's contest, with $22,572 going toward educational programming by the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation. The new record was reached thanks to spirited campaigning among the finalists, and Scheib's late entry cooked up generous sponsors who propelled him into the finals.

Joining Scheib and Strauss in the Pie Eating Finals were two other contestants: Keith Engel, GEA Farm Technologies, and Mike Hutjens, professor emeritus, University of Illinois.  Contestants who fell just short of the finals were Marty Hallock, dairy producer from Mondovi, Carl Babler of Atten Babler Commodities; Mark Clarke, executive director of the Alliant Energy Center; and Jim Dickrell, editor and associate publisher of Dairy Today magazine.  The Finalists earned their positions by garnering votes prior to the Finals.

Each vote was a $1 donation to the Foundation, made by dairy farmers and dairy industry professionals who supported their favorite candidates.  Scheib, who earlier in the evening gave the keynote address to Business Conference attendees, made the Finals thanks to a spontaneous sponsorship on stage by John Roach and Associates, Breeze Dairy Group, First Capitol Ag, matched by Charlie Arno, president of CMA Consulting.

"The Pie Eating Contest is a fun way to end a great day at the Professional Dairy Producers business Conference," says Deb Reinhart, Development Manager for the Foundation. "We thank the dairy community and these fun-loving, dedicated contestants who raised money to support youth and dairy community education projects."  
 Film footage can be found here.



Monday, February 10, 2014

THE STATE DINNER CHALLENGE

President Obama and Francois Hollande  (en.wikipedia.org)

Meeting cuisine expectations for a state dinner is a daunting task in and of itself.  Add to the mix an unexpected revelation in the life of the guest of honor and protocol challenges get a lot more complicated. 

Here is an article by New York Time's journalist Peter Baker.  He details the challenges of tomorrow night's state dinner in a piece called, 
 French Breakup Makes a Dinner Hard to Do.

WASHINGTON - When President Obama invited President François Hollande of France for a state dinner, the White House drew up a list of 300 guests to honor the visiting leader and his partner, Valérie Trierweiler.  Engraved invitations, with the presidential seal in gold, at the top, were printed and set to be mailed.

But there was an unexpected development.  Mr. Hollande's relationship with Ms. Trierweiler blew up in the midst of revelations of an affair with a French actress he had secretly been visiting by motor scooter.  Suddenly, Ms. Trierweiler was no longer France's unofficial first lady and no longer coming to the White House for Tuesday's dinner.  The thick ivory invitations with the words "The President and Mrs. Obama request the pleasure of" each guest's company had to be destroyed and new ones printed without Ms. Trierweiler's name.

L'affaire Hollande has proved to be a dangerous liaison for the tradition-bound White House.  Although it is not unprecedented, not many foreign leaders arrive at the executive mansion stag for the most formal and coveted gala in Washington, and even fewer split from their partners just weeks before the festivities.

For a few days, at least, the White House social office was left to wonder whether the other woman - identified by the weekly tabloid Closer as a 41 year old French actress - would come in place of Ms. Trierweiler.  (She will not.)

All of which posed challenges for a White House staff already nervous about holding the first state dinner in nearly two years, and for haute cuisine-conscious French guests no less.  There will be no traditional coffee or tea for the spouse with Michelle Obama, and the American first lady will have no one to escort to a local school as she has done with previous counterparts.

The turn of events in the private life of Mr. Hollande, 59, posed a number of questions for the White House as well:  Who should be placed next to the prsident in the seat Ms. Trierweiler would have occupied?  Would any of the entertainment be inappropriate?  Should there be dancing if the romantically complicated guest of honor has no one to dance with?

"That may be a bit of protocol debacle there," said Walter Scheib, the White House chef to Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.  "It'll be curious to see if he asks the first lady for a dance.  That would be on the front of all the tabloids - Frenchman sweeps first lady off feet!"

To continue this article please go directly to the NY times site here



Saturday, December 7, 2013

REMEMBERING NELSON MANDELA

It is a time for deep mourning as South Africa makes its preparations for statesman and anti-apartheid revolutionary, Nelson Mandela. I was saddened to hear of his passing this last week. I fondly remember Mandela as being a unique and transcendent man.

On a cool autumn evening in October of 1994, I had the privilege of preparing and serving Mr. Mandela his first state dinner. It was a very exciting time for me and the entire staff as we served dinner in the East Room.

Rest in peace, Mr. Mandela.

The following is actual footage of Nelson's Mandela's visit in 1994.

 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

GORE GOES VEGAN, JUST LIKE FORMER BOSS





(CNN) - Bill Clinton and Al Gore were on the 1992 Democratic ticket. But 21 years later, you might say the Clinton/Gore theme song has gone from Fleetwood Mac's Don't Stop Thinking about Tomorrow to don't stop thinking about tofurkey.

They have gone from Southern fried to southern fennel, from serving up political red meat to serving up no meat, no fish and no dairy.

According to Forbes magazine, Al Gore has joined his running mate, becoming a vegan a couple of months ago.

"It's like playing the piano and deciding one day, ‘Well, I'm only going to use the white keys now. I'm not going to use the black and the white keys.' It does take a little bit of time to actually get used to it," White House Chef Walter Scheib said. He served as chef for 11 years, cooking up meals for President Clinton back when he and his VP had broader dietary ranges.

"President Clinton was a little bit more diverse in his dining," he said. "That's sort of a euphemism saying he ate pretty much everything, his diet probably not the best."

Clinton described his updated diet to Dr. Sanjay Gupta in 2011.

"I like the stuff I eat, the vegetables, the fruits, the beans, the stuff I eat now I like," he said.
But the vegan lifestyle isn't as new to the Clinton/Gore ticket as you might think. 

"Chelsea Clinton became a vegan or very close to a vegan," Scheib said. "She'll tell you that she didn't, but I was actually there with her, and she was actually a vegan by the time she reached her senior year of high school. And she came down and worked in our kitchen at the White House the summer of her senior year for a couple of weeks."

It is a far cry from the fast food and short shorts that were such an indelible presence on her father's campaign in 1992.

In this week of gleeful national gluttony, it is important to note that U.S. high-level leadership has, for the most part, adopted high-level nutrition.

"They say diplomacy is a matter of carrots and sticks, and since Mrs. Obama got to the White House, so is dinner," Jimmy Kimmel said.

"Food at the White House didn't delineate along political lines," Scheib said. "It delineated very much along gender lines."

Sure, he might sneak into 5 Guys for a burger every once in a while, but it does seem President Obama is mostly toeing the line.

George W. Bush, with all his working out, always seemed fit. The only food that gave him trouble? The pretzel that he choked on.

The menu in the White House has always been a bit fickle. George H. W. Bush hated broccoli. Ronald Reagan loved his jelly beans. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer.

"We try to keep them on the straight and narrow on terms of a healthy diet, but he is the president and he eats what he chooses to eat," Scheib said.

Copyright 2013 CNN. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

THE CENTER FOR FOOD INTEGRITY

Almost scarier than things that go boo during Halloween is the article I just finished reading about the deconstruction of chicken nuggets.  "Mechanically separated chicken" and "Associated supportive tissue" are phrases that can easily give rise to a bit of consumer fear.  Thankfully, however, there are a few non-profit groups that are helping to navigate some of the rising concerns in the marketplace. 

The Center for Food Integrity was designed to build trust and confidence between consumers and food companies.  Recently, I was asked to participate in the CFI 2013 Food Integrity Summit where presenters gave solutions for transparency in the food system and tackling global hunger. During the conference, CFI unveiled its 2013 Consumer Trust in the Food System Research.  The research highlights 7 key attributes needed to develop and maintain consumer trust.  For instance, listed under the Motivation tab is:  When making decisions, the company takes public interest into consideration rather than only considering profit. And, under Credibility:  The company is willing to take responsibility when it makes a mistake.
During the month of November, CFI will be presenting 3 webinars:


November 1 - Breaking Through Consumer Skepticism (1-2 pm CDT).
November 8 - Millennials and Food Information - What They Want and Where They Get It (1-2 pm CDT).
November 15 - Consumers on the Animal Ag - The Trends and Tipping Points (1-2 pm CDT).
The webinars are free of charge, but require registration.  You can do that through the links found here.  

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