Chef John Moeller is a member of an elite corps of chefs, those who have served in the White House preparing très soigné cuisine for Presidents, First Families, and their guests, including visiting Heads of State. Chef to three First Families, including President George H.W. Bush, President William Jefferson Clinton, and President George W. Bush, Chef Moeller joined the White House kitchen in 1992 as sous chef to Pierre Chambrin and later Walter Scheib, eventually acting as White House Chef in 2005. Over the course of his career in the White House, he focused on creating unique and one-of-a-kind dishes that relied on fresh and flavorful ingredients.
Chef Moeller grew up in the heart of Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. What started in high school as a passion for cooking led to his decision to pursue a culinary degree from Johnson and Wales College in Providence, Rhode Island. He graduated cum laude in 1981.After working in several restaurants in the New England area, in 1984, John took a trip to France that became a two and a half year journey of discovery, working his way across the region and studying the fundamentals of French cuisine under some of the finest French chefs,
During his tenure, he helped create and prepare meals for the First Families, for world leaders like Tony Blair and Nelson Mandela, for famous guests like Julia Child and Sophia Loren, and for holiday parties and trips to Camp David.
Throughout his career, John has developed his signature style of cuisine, based on innovative menus that take advantage of fresh seasonal produce and creating first class presentation of the finished dish.
“One of my greatest satisfactions as a chef is presenting a first class meal and seeing the enjoyment that it brings to the diners and the goodwill and friendship that it promotes.” —John Moeller
WHAT WHITE HOUSE INSIDERS SAY:
“I found the book authentic, engaging, and enjoyable. Many of the chefs
(and there have not been that many) who have worked in the White House
Executive Residence kitchens have written cookbooks with references to their
interactions with the First Families. John’s is among the best! Many have claimed to work for First Families and to have prepared both their personal meals and the official dinners and events of the presidency, but only a few actually own that claim. Some who worked in the military facilities like the Navy Mess in the West Wing or the Presidential Retreat at Camp David claim to be presidential chefs or cooks but that is different and distinct from the men and women who truly worked on a daily basis to provide the best American food to the president, his family and their guests.”
— Gary Walters, White House Chief Usher, 1986–2007
“Dining at the White House is the personal tale of a budding young American chef, tutored in classic French cuisine, whose boundless creative energy and hard work propel him into our beloved White House — one of the world’s most elegant and storied executive residences. John Moeller’s experiences in serving three presidents reveal the great diversity of events and styles as the White House kitchen stretches itself to present the evolving new American fusion cuisine, which is based on the use of only the freshest, superior ingredients.
The book’s final treat is the selection of appealing and manageable recipes served to both American and international dignitaries — and now even we novices can try them!”
— Catherine S. Fenton, Former Special Assistant to the President,
and White House Social Secretary
“In Dining at the White House, John Moeller strikes a wonderful balance. From the very first nervous moment during a luncheon when he is bidden in to meet his first First Lady, Barbara Bush, through the Clintons’ millennium celebrations, to his last day when his family joins him in a meeting with President George W. Bush at “the office,” Moeller gives us the factual history yet offers it in a personal narrative that is refreshingly simple and direct. The book is well balanced between text and descriptions and the images of mouthwatering meals and recipes served at the White House that punctuate it.”
— Carl Sferrazza Anthony, author of First Ladies (2 vols.) and
America’s First Families, and Historian of the National First Ladies Library
“Chef Moeller has very accurately captured the essence of working in the White
House. He vividly creates a true sense of the history of the time through his personal anecdotes while also sharing the cuisine and dining experiences from the inside perspective of the kitchen. I will forever look back fondly at the time I was privileged to share my kitchen with him.”
— Pierre Chambrin, White House Executive Chef, 1992–1994 “A must-read book for any serious foodie, full of adventure and an inside look into
the White House from a chef ’s viewpoint.”
— Gerry Quinn, Executive Chef & owner, Quinn’s South Beach
The Twenty-Third G8 Summit
at The Fort Restaurant Denver, Colorado
In 1997, the United States hosted the historic Twenty-Third G8 Summit in Denver, Colorado. Russia gained membership that year, thus turning the “Group of Seven” (G7) into a “Group of Eight” (G8), and it was Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s first time to participate as a member. As heads of state from eight of the largest economies in the free world gathered with their spouses, we were essentially called upon to reprise our Miami performance. Unlike the summit in Miami, however, the G8 Summit didn’t have a central hotel location. The meetings took place in the renovated Denver Central Library building, and we were provided a centralized kitchen to do prep work at another site.
We worked in “catering mode,” doing our main prep in that kitchen, and then transported our product to various venues scattered around the Denver area. We served several events at The Fort, a fine restaurant southwest of Denver near Red Rocks Park, a forty-minute drive from the city. This is a beautifully situated restaurant in the hills facing eastward toward Denver proper. The view from the property — especially the large dining-room windows — affords an exquisite panorama of the foothills, which stretch out as far as the eye can see.
This was also the site of our climactic final dinner on the last night. The weather allowed us to serve it — a western cookout served buffet style — on the terrace. We each worked various stations featuring a variety of grilled meats. At one point, President Clinton came by my station to get some meat.
“Hey, John,” he greeted me. “I hear we have elk here.”
I was preparing some double-cut Colorado lamb chops on my grill, and I pointed to another station. “No, Mr. President, we don’t have elk — but we do have bison on that grill over there.”
Shortly after that, the party was in full swing. Powerful world leaders casually moved around the terrace, talking and enjoying the buffet. About half an hour after I had to disappoint the President about elk, President Jacques Chirac of France approached my station. As with most of the participants, President Chirac had an interpreter with him. Out of habit, the French president spoke directly to his interpreter: “Je veux un bien cuit.” (“I’d like one well done.”) I replied to M. Chirac, “Vous voulez un bien cuit?” (“You’d like one well done?”)
“Oui, oui!” he replied. (“Yes, yes!”)
We continued to speak in French, and I offered, “Well, sir, these chops are double-cut, so how about if I split one in half?” (In English we call it a “butterfly cut” — but not in French.) “It will cook a bit faster that way.”
“Ah, perfect!” he said, and we continued chatting for a few moments. Walter noticed me conversing with President Chirac, and, not knowing exactly how good my French was, he grew a little nervous. The longer we talked, the more Walter worried that we might be having difficulty communicating, so he sent Patrice, a young French-born chef, over to help us out. Patrice appears in the photo of President Chirac and me, waiting to flip his lamb chop.
Patrice discovered, of course, that there was no problem: that we were just passing the time with a little conversation while waiting for the meat to be well done. During the conversation, President Chirac looked at me and asked, “So, what part of France are you from?”
“Well, sir, I’m not French. I’m an American. I come from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.”
“Oh, okay,” he said. Then he added, “Your French is pretty good.”
I had prided myself on my French pronunciation in the past, and people had occasionally been fooled by my authentic accent. I was especially comfortable speaking French when discussing food and cooking — my professional “home territory” — but this was the President of France! If he had started talking world politics or current events, I might have goofed up and revealed myself, but fortunately, we stayed in my conversational milieu, and he didn’t guess that I was a French-speaking American.
What a privilege to have a casual chat with a world leader while grilling a lamb chop for him! I looked around and saw England’s Prime Minister, Tony Blair, with his wife Cherie. Across the way, Boris Yeltsin was enjoying the buffet along with other fascinating public figures. It was awe inspiring, and I was a bit overwhelmed. I wanted to pinch myself.
“You’ve no doubt seen the delectable meals served at the White House featured in a documentary or perhaps in movies. Our mouths have watered, but we will most likely never get to sample the offerings. Now, however, we have the next best thing: a book that delves into the mystical and mouthwatering world of White House meals, written by John Moeller, a chef who had the honor of cooking for three First Families and preparing amazing dishes for dignitaries from around the world. The book is a treasure-trove of behind-the-scenes stories, not just of cooking but also of all things related to what it’s like to live in the White House. This is a great source for enthusiasts of ‘everything White House’ as well as for fans of cooking.What sums it up best is a quote from Moeller, who explains that the staff was serving a ‘real family in a real home,’ but also that ‘it was like working in a country club with a busy banquet facility.’
"A delectable treat for those who want to learn what it’s really like inside the White House, as well as for those who want a taste of some of the delicious meals served to presidents.”
— Feathered Quill Book Reviews
Ragoût of Lobster in Riesling Sauce
Serves 6 • Preparation Time: 45 minutes • Cook Time: 60 minutes
Chef ’s Note: Never return water to a hard boil when cooking lobster, only to
a light simmer; otherwise the lobster will become tough.
2 gallons water
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup rough-cut carrots
1 cup rough-cut celery
1 cup rough-cut onions
2 sprigs thyme
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
Juice of 1 lemon
6 (1-pound) lobsters
Bring water and salt to boil in large stockpot. Add
carrots, celery, onions, thyme, peppercorns, bay
leaves, and lemon juice. Return to boil, and decrease
heat to simmer for 30 minutes.
Cooking 2 lobsters at a time, plunge lobsters into
boiling stock, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove and place on sheet pan.
Remove meat from tail, claws, and knuckles. Place meat on plate, cover, and
set aside to keep warm.
Serves 6 • Preparation Time: 10 minutes • Cook Time: 15 minutes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 sprig thyme
8 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup Riesling wine
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Melt butter in medium saucepot over medium heat. Add shallots, and sweat
for 4 to 5 minutes. Add thyme and peppercorns, and cook for 2 minutes. Mix
in flour, and add wine and cream. Bring to boil, decrease heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until thickened.
Strain sauce into another saucepot, and stir in lemon juice and salt. Keep
warm, until ready to serve.
Luncheon menu created by Chef Moeller for President Vladimer Putin, November, 2001
White House Holiday Dinner, December 2004
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