Roland Mesnier, who died at the age of 78, spent 25 years as executive pastry chef at the White House, preparing desserts for five US presidents and their families, from Jimmy Carter to George W Bush; his dishes often marked major international events – such as doves in lemon sorbet, each with a sugar olive branch in their beaks, for the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993.
State dinners for world leaders have received similar attention: puffed-sugar giraffes for Kenya; sugar flower necklaces for the Philippines; white chocolate tigers for India; and miniature chocolate replicas of Big Ben for the Queen. He claimed never to have rehearsed a state dinner dessert.
Bourguignon Mesnier told how the kitchen staff feared for their jobs after Nancy Reagan arrived in 1981. “Forget the compliments, if she didn’t complain, it was a compliment,” he recalled. When the first lady asked him to create 16 spun candy baskets with spun candy tulips for a Dutch royal visit, he protested that there were only two days left until the event. “But you also have two nights,” she replied.
Barbara Bush, wife of George HW Bush, was a ‘crier’ who insisted on dry, overcooked fish, while Bill Clinton’s brother-in-law Hugh Rodham could gobble down half a dozen pork chops in one go. single session. Yet Mesnier had a soft spot for Chelsea, the Clintons’ daughter, who served fresh, hot donuts on silver platters after her first White House sleepover.