From the White House to Your House

Anyone cooking for Thanksgiving? Starting in 1961, Chef René Verdon was preparing meals for President John Kennedy’s family and their guests at the White House. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy became famous for her gracious entertaining and her restoration of “the people’s house.”

On February 14th, 1962, the First Lady gave an exclusive White House tour to CBS’s Charles Collingwood. If you need inspiration for setting your Thanksgiving table, take a look at what now might be called a “tablescape” in the State Dining room.

When Lyndon Johnson became president in 1963, he brought in a “food coordinator” from Texas to cut costs in the White House kitchen. Chef Verdon refused to use frozen vegetables or to prepare a cold garbanzo bean puree, a recipe he said was “terrible even when hot.” He also is quoted in the New York Times as saying, “I think people coming to the White House are not expecting hamburgers, chili con queso or spareribs.”

Chef Verdon resigned his White House post at the end of 1965 and moved to San Francisco to open Le Trianon, with California-French cuisine. Mrs. Kennedy wrote a telegram of congratulations saying, “We envy San Francisco for having you there.” Le Trianon was one of San Francisco’s top fine dining destinations at 242 O’Farrell Street until 1987 when it closed. Chef Verdon continued to live in the City until his death in 2011 at age 86.

If you want to enhance your Thanksgiving menu with a White House recipe from Chef Verdon, try “René Verdon’s Pommes De Terre Chantilly” – it is simple! All you need is:
3 cups mashed potatoes; salt & pepper; 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped; and 1/3 cup grated cheese.

See the instructions at:

Happy Turkey Day!