Former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier poses with desserts he made for his neighbors in Fairfax, Virginia, on December 6, 2004. (Olivier Douliery/ABACA/AP)

Former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier poses with desserts he made for his neighbors in Fairfax, Virginia, on December 6, 2004. (Olivier Douliery/ABACA/AP)

U.S. First Lady Laura Bush and pastry chef Roland Mesnier show off the 2003 gingerbread White House. The house was made from 80 pounds of gingerbread and 45 pounds of chocolate. (Reuters/Jason Reed)

U.S. First Lady Laura Bush and pastry chef Roland Mesnier show off the 2003 gingerbread White House. The house was made from 80 pounds of gingerbread and 45 pounds of chocolate. (Reuters/Jason Reed)

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks with White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier and his assistant, Franette McCulloch, in front of their gingerbread house creation on December 3, 1997. (AP/Wilfredo Lee)

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks with White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier and his assistant, Franette McCulloch, in front of their gingerbread house creation on December 3, 1997. (AP/Wilfredo Lee)

Roland Mesnier served as the judge for the Shenandoah Valley Cake Festival in 2017 in Winchester, Virginia. He chose this cake to win first place. (Jeff Taylor /The Winchester Star via AP)

Roland Mesnier served as the judge for the Shenandoah Valley Cake Festival in 2017 in Winchester, Virginia. He chose this cake to win first place. (Jeff Taylor /The Winchester Star via AP)

Roland Mesnier looks at a cranberry bog display in New York in 2006. Mesnier said he was always trying to find recipes that use cranberries. (AP/Kathy Willens)

Roland Mesnier looks at a cranberry bog display in New York in 2006. Mesnier said he was always trying to find recipes that use cranberries. (AP/Kathy Willens)

Goodbye to a Pastry Chef

Posted: November 1, 2022

Roland Mesnier was the White House executive pastry chef. He created incredible desserts for five presidents and their guests. Mr. Mesnier died in August. He was 78.

First Lady Rosalynn Carter hired Mr. Mesnier in 1979. He retired when George W. Bush was president. Very few White House chefs have served longer than that!

Mr. Mesnier often had to prepare thousands of pastries at once.

“I’ve noticed that Democrats usually eat more than Republicans,” Mr. Mesnier said. “I’ve also observed that if the guests are mostly ladies, they will usually eat more pastries than men.”

Mr. Mesnier grew up in France with eight brothers and sisters. He began his career as an apprentice at age 14. (An apprentice learns a craft by watching an expert at work. For some jobs, this makes way more sense than going to school!) Mr. Mesnier left home with a cardboard suitcase and five francs (French money) to begin his training. He later worked in Paris and cities in Germany. Eventually, he landed a job at the fancy Savoy hotel in London.

How did he get to the White House? In 1967, he became a pastry chef at a hotel in Bermuda. He met his future wife there. She was from West Virginia. A decade later, he was working as a chef in Virginia. He heard that the White House was looking for a new pastry chef. (Check a map. Virginia is very close to Washington, D.C.)

Mr. Mesnier said a White House pastry chef doesn’t get a lot of spare time.

“It could be Christmas Day, Easter, your birthday, your mother’s birthday, your child’s birthday—you are going to be at the White House if you are needed,” he said. “The White House always comes first.”

Why? We can do “all for the glory of God”—big tasks and small! That even includes serving others with dessert.