Roland Mesnier, pastry chef for five presidents, dies at 78
Roland Mesnier, who created magical desserts for five presidents and their guests as White House Executive Pastry Chef, dies at 78.
His death was confirmed Saturday by the White House Historical Society, which said he died Friday after a brief illness.
One of the longest-serving White House chefs, Messneer was hired by First Lady Rosalyn Carter in 1979 and retired during the George W. Bush administration.
Answering questions on the online “Ask the White House” forum in 2004, he explained that not only desserts for the First Family, but for parties, receptions and dinners, he was often asked to prepare thousands of pastries. He said he would plan the number of pastries based on attendance.
“In the 25 years I’ve been here, I’ve noticed that Democrats generally eat more than Republicans,” Messner said. “I also observed that if the guests are mostly women, they usually eat more pastries than men.”
During Christmas, he became known for his elaborate gingerbread houses to help decorate the White House. He also needs to make more pastries than usual for holiday parties, as some tend to “disappear in a purse or pocket” and often become Christmas tree decorations in people’s homes, he said.
Mesnier grew up in Bonnay, a village in eastern France, with nine children, and began his apprenticeship at the age of 14. White House files show he left home with a cardboard box and 5 francs to start an apprenticeship at the Patisserie in Morival, Besançon, France. He later worked in Paris as well as in Hannover and Hamburg in Germany before finding a job at the Savoy Hotel in London.
In 1967, he became a pastry chef at a hotel in Bermuda, and while living on the island met his future wife, a vacation teacher from West Virginia. Ten years later, he was working at the Homestead Resort in Virginia when he heard the White House was looking for a new pastry chef.
When asked about working in the White House in 2004, he said: “You don’t think about free time, spare time, etc. Because your time is in the White House. You have to be there any time you need it.”
“It could be Christmas, Easter, your birthday, your mother’s birthday, your child’s birthday — you’re going to the White House if you need to,” he said.
“The White House will always come first.”
He is survived by his son, George Messner.