Monday, July 13, 2015

Remembering WALTER SCHEIB, The American Chef

Walter Stanley Scheib III (May 3, 1954 – c. June 13, 2015) - father, husband, mentor, and friend. 

 
Music: Gabriel's Oboe by composer Ennio Morricone, performed by Chris Botti.
Photographs by Kiyomi.

Monday, July 6, 2015

REMEMBERING DAD - Part Two

Walter Scheib and his youngest son, James Prince
Walter Scheib and James Prince
Growing up with dad, there were a ton of great memories and fun traditions that my wife and I look forward to passing on to our kids someday.  Such as making blueberry pancakes together on Saturdays, going fishing and kayaking, backyard football, watching sports, and countless weekends of him shuttling me to hockey games.  I also hope to pass on his sense of humor, ability to engage people and how he could always light up a room.  Additionally, his toughness and drive are two major characteristics that I hope to have in my life and instill in my family.

Just one of the many times I saw dad embody these traits, was when he was on Iron Chef.  The secret ingredient was dungeness crab, and as he was carrying them over to his station, one of the crabs badly cut his fingers.  There was so much blood that the show's producer told him if it didn't stop quickly, they would have to stop the cameras and cancel the show.  Having prepared for weeks, traveled with his team and my mom to NYC, and eager to build his brand, he saw the deep fryer and put his hand quickly in the boiling oil.  The cuts were sealed and he continued on to win against Cat Cora, 55-49.  Only two other Iron Chefs received a higher score in that 24-episode season.


As I graduated from college, got a job, and got married over the past year, it was a pretty busy time, but my dad and I still would always keep in good contact with each other, talking a couple times a week on the phone and getting together whenever he was in town.  He even treated my beautiful wife and I to an all-expenses paid honeymoon in Cancun after we got married last Fall.  We last saw each other when he was in DC shortly before his birthday in early May.  We went out to dinner, I wished him a happy birthday, and he made a toast telling me just how proud he was of my new job and for the life I've made myself with my wife.

New Mexico Sky After Dad's Passing
If you take a moment to look at this photo of the sky, you'll see a cloud formation that resembles a cross.  We saw that in the moments after the search team told us the news that they had found my dad's body.  I take it as a sign that he was called home, to his Heavenly Father, on Father's Day.  Dad, I know you're up there, watching over us.  Thank you for everything, thanks for being my dad, and I love you.

~James

Saturday, July 4, 2015

REMEMBERING DAD - Part One

Through the countless culinary events my dad hosted while running the American Chef over the past ten years, many people got to see how great he was at his craft.  However, many people did not see the personal side of my father.

Back in the late 90s, my dad started to become a big hockey fan because my brother and I started playing the sport at a young age.  I remember that he tried to ice skate with us once, but he quickly found that ice is pretty slippery and falling on it can really hurt!  Since his skating attempts did not go so well, he decided to help our hockey teams in other ways.  When my brother and I were in high school, his idea of relaxing between Christmas and New Years was to run Gonzaga High School's annual Purple Puck hockey tournament, which required 12 hour days for almost a week.  Previously, he had also managed several of my travel hockey teams while working a demanding schedule at the White House.


Walter Scheib and his oldest son Walter
When I was in high school or college he would give me lots of practical life and work advice.  I remember when I was wavering about what I wanted to do once I grew up, he would always say that I should try to identify what I love to do in life and then work my hardest to be the best I possibly could at what I chose to do.  I could've easily brushed this advice off as cliche, but I always respected this coming from him because he had lived this advice himself.  After floundering at University of Maryland for a short time, he left college to pursue his true passion in the culinary arts.  He went on to finish second in his graduating class at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY (he once told me that he missed by fractions of a grade point), and then he went on to reach the upper echelons of his field—including  eleven years as the Executive Chef at the White House.  Recently, in early June, his advice to me came full circle at my grad school graduation from University of Denver when an advisor remarked to my dad about how self-motivated and hard-working I was throughout my grad school experience.  As I saw the proud reaction from my dad, I remember thinking that it was easy to stay motivated because I was doing what I loved to do.  I now realize how valuable my dad's advice was, so I sincerely thank him for this.

I want to conclude with another small anecdote:  sometimes while driving around with my dad when I was younger, a Red Hot Chili Peppers song called Can't Stop would come on the radio occasionally, and despite not really liking the band, my dad would always try to get me pumped up for the the last line of the song, which is "this life is more than just a read through".  I found it a little silly at the time, but now I realize that's how Dad lived his life—always giving everything he had and taking no shortcuts.  So, on behalf of my dad, I would encourage everyone to remember that you only have one life to live and not to forget that this life is more that just a read through.  Find what you love to do, and dedicate yourself to being the very best you can be at it.  

God bless Dad and thank you for reading this.   ~Walter Scheib

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

COOKING WITH ELIZABETH

Making Peach-Blackberry Cobbler



Elizabeth Case is a bright and cheerful 7 year old who lives in the Sacramento Valley. Through a mutual friend, I found out that Elizabeth and I both share a love for cooking and eating good food.  So, during a recent trip to the Bay Area, I set out to meet Elizabeth and her family at the new Benioff Children’s hospital in San Francisco.

The Sunday afternoon that we met, we set out to bake something special for Elizabeth’s family. The good people at the Ronald MacDonald House gave us free rein of their brand new kitchen. We took full advantage of their hospitality and made a sweet batch of peach-blackberry cobbler. Elizabeth picked up quickly as we moved through the recipe.  She makes a great sous chef; she is attentive, knows how to follow directions and laughs at my silly jokes.


This cooking session at the Ronald MacDonald House was a little respite for Elizabeth.  For the past several months she has been spending a lot of time at the hospital seeking treatment for an inoperable brain tumor. Being able to cook something together was a nice distraction from her normal routine.

Elizabeth bakes Chocolate Chunk Cookies
I so enjoyed Elizabeth’s sense of gratitude and uplifting spirit. As a thank you, I sent her an embroidered chef jacket so she could be the top chef anytime she wanted.  Today, I received a photo of Elizabeth making chocolate chunk coconut cookies.  She made the cookies for one of her doctors.  She did let me know that she wanted to send me some, but knew that I was traveling on the road.  


Looking forward to tasting them next time, Elizabeth.



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

HERITAGE FOODS INTERVIEW - The Most Famous Anonymous Person

I enjoyed this interview with Brian Reno who represents Heritage Foods. We discussed why the position of White House executive chef requires you to be the most famous anonymous person in the world.


Voice Recorder >>
You may also listen to the 11 minute interview here

Confessions of a Former White House Chef - Part Two by Hillary Pollack

Munchies, a website and digital video channel featured the following article written by Hillary Pollack.  Confessions of a Former White House Chef

MUNCHIES: You're often asked about the diets of Presidents, but what are your favorite types of foods?
Walter Scheib: It's like saying, "What's your favorite song?"  Well, everyone has a thousand favorite songs.  It depends on what mood you're in, what's going on.  I like full-flavored, spicy foods, and I like foods that have a certain degree of flavor complexity without being overworked.  I love Thai and Ethiopian, but I also love a really great cheeseburger.  It's not really about what it is, but how it's executed.  Probably the greatest flavor you can have is to go into your backyard in August and pick a tomato off the vine that's bursting with August sunshine, take a bite out of it, sprinkle some salt and pepper in the bite mark, and keep eating it like an apple. 

I don't like people who are faking it.  In my estimate, and this will be a little bit controversial I suspect, the whole concept of this fad—and I use the word "fad advisedly—of molecular gastronomy, it could not go away fast enough.  This is the emperor's new clothes of cuisine.  It's some guy who decided, I'm going to make food with chemicals. I don't care for that.  I also don't care for foods that are gringo-ized, Americanized to the masses until it's no longer authentic.  I like things that taste as close as they would as if you were in the country that they were being made in originally. 

Who were you most honored to have cooked for?
When you're working for the President and the First Lady, it's hard to get starstruck.  You're working directly, on a first-name basis, with the two most powerful people on Earth.  You've seen that Bill Clinton is a tremendously charismatic human being, and Bush also was, in his own way.  So when you're around these folks, they're kind of the alpha males.  And their wives were as charismatic, as powerful, and just as bright as they are.  Obviously, the people coming through the White House are like a "who's who" of the world.  World leaders, business people, musicians, athletes.  People who had been of service to the country in small ways, people who were released hostages.

Some of the most moving cases were the families of the people who went down in the planes on 9/11.  And young children who were terminally ill would come, who were aware of their situation but were still so full of life and so affirming to everyone, to see how brave they could be.  I got to see a lot of truly amazing things. 


What was your approach to cooking for such varied world leaders who were from places with completely different cuisines?
American cuisine has representation from literally every culture on Earth, so this is what we'd do for State Dinners.  Usually the menu would be four courses—three savory and then a dessert.  We'd always try, the first course, to do some take on the ethnic overtone from that guest's country—a cooking technique, flavor combination, or ingredient.  Not in an authentic way, but an Americanized interpretation of that cuisine.  This allowed the First Lady to then say something like, "Your people are part of our people, our people are part of your people.  Your culture is part of our culture."  It was a good icebreaker and was a way to get the evening off on the right foot. 

Were people generally on good behavior at these events or would they sometimes get wild?
Well...we won't talk about that.  That's sort of family business.  If they care to talk about that, that's their prerogative.  But it's the White House.  You don't act a fool at the White House if you can avoid it. 


You may read the rest of the article here. 


Monday, February 9, 2015

Confessions of a Former White House Chef - Part One by Hilary Pollack

Munchies, a website and digital video channel featured the following article written by Hillary Pollack.  Here's part one of two articles titled:  Confessions of a Former White House Chef

MUNCHIES: It’s been ten years since you worked in the White House, but you've kept very busy since. What do you miss about working there, and what are you glad to be done with?
Walter Scheib: When you work at the White House, you’re working at what we used to call “White House flex time,” which means you get to choose any 85 hours you want to work each week, and the rest of your free time is yours. [laughs] I don’t miss that component, but what I do miss is being in the White House. I miss getting to service the First Family in that way and to the country, you get that honor and that privilege of getting to know the President and his family— not as the cartoon characters you see on the nightly news, but as the nuanced and very real and interesting people. Secondly, the camaraderie of the team—of all 90 employees in the residence—really are a distinct and unique group of individuals, not only in their particular expertise and the talents that they have, but more importantly, their understanding of the heart of service of working for this family. You basically become anonymous—you check your ego and your politics at the door and you’re only there to give the First Family an island of sanity in a very crazy world. It takes a unique temperament to be able to do that for an extended period of time.

Do you miss it, or are you relieved that your life is less stressful now?
Well, last year I did 85 events and was on the road for 300 days a year, as there is a tremendous interest in hearing humorous and humanizing stories about the two First Families. It really is a word-of-mouth business; the more you do, the more you do. I thought that after a year or two the novelty would wear off, but it’s been proven that each year it actually gets more busy than the previous. Of course, with Secretary/Senator Mrs. Clinton running for president and being, at the very least, a favored candidate to be in the big race, that of course will increase interest that much more.

It’s known that she’s a huge fan of yours, and personally chose you for the role of chef while she was the First Lady. Do you think you could be called back into service if she succeeds?
Well, I mean, of course if the President asks you to be of service to the country, you’d be hard-pressed to say no. If she wants me, she knows my phone number and I’ll be of service. I don’t care if it was a Republican or Democrat, if I knew them or didn't know them—if the President asked me to serve, I would do it.

It would probably be a lot different now since Bill is basically a vegan.
Well, that's the urban myth.  I don't know that that's true.  If you're trying to keep a fairly austere regimen—and veganism is that in my estimate—it's very difficult to do.  I think you have to present that you're doing it full-time and taking it seriously so that you don't get presented with things by chefs that you would be tempted by.  I know a number of chefs that have served the former President over the years.  While he trends towards veganism and vegetarianism, it isn't totally exclusive.  We'll just put it that way. 


You may read the rest of the article here