How to Bake Like the White House Pastry Chef
On earning the seal of approval...
In 1995, I was working at the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, in McLean, Virginia, when I was called in to meet with the White House’s then executive pastry chef. He was looking for a contractor but refused to learn about candidates from their résumé. He put me to work for two days, so there I was, standing in a pastry shop I’d never set foot in, baking cakes and making chocolates for the annual Saint Patrick’s Day reception. And everyone liked what I made! Nineteen years later, I became the executive pastry chef—and I still pinch myself every day.
Placing the final touches on desserts for the Kids' State Dinner in 2015. Photo: Amanda Lucidon.
On her pastry punch list..
Most of my day-to-day focus is on desserts for White House events. I could be creating miniature pastries for a reception on the State Floor or serving sweets for a luncheon in the West Wing. Our top priority, though, is always the first family. And I’m not revealing any secrets here: They love pie! Some of our go-to varieties are apple, peach, lemon meringue, strawberry rhubarb, and salted caramel with chocolate cream.
On rolling in dough...
I spend all year thinking about the White House gingerbread house, but we don’t begin baking until November. Then, for about four days after Thanksgiving, we work tirelessly to build the house before moving it to the State Dining Room, where more than 60,000 guests will cycle through. And it has to look as perfect as it did on day one—which means it can’t melt, it can’t be affected by humidity, and it can’t be touched!
The first lady thanking Morrison. Photo: Amanda Lucidon
On this year’s gingerbread gem...
I wish I could tell you all about it, but it’s top secret. I’ll save that job for the first lady.
Click here for photos of the 2016 White House gingerbread house and the rest of the gorgeous Christmas decorations on #whitehousetour.
On treating herself...
There’s often a fresh pan of brownies in the pastry shop. By the time it’s placed on the counter, a corner piece will already be missing. It’s not even a question of who took a taste—everyone knows it’s me.