WASHINGTON – Many parents are familiar with the trick of sneaking vegetables and other healthful stuff into their kids’ food. Turns out White House chefs were doing something similar for notorious junk-food lover Bill Clinton when they were whipping up his grub.
According to Marti Mongiello, former executive chef at Camp David, he would “healthify” their traditionally buttery, calorie-laden French fare.
In a recent Web posting, he described the subterfuge involved in making the president’s meals: “I figured it best not to tell him about it. I still have never fully told him the truth,” Mongiello wrote. And he hinted at being “called on the carpet” by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
According to Mongiello, he was cooking for the Clintons at Camp David after the edict had come down to lighten up the menus. Word from the waiters serving the dinner was that the first lady was unhappy with the meal’s entree, a luscious fettuccine Alfredo.
“She wants to see you out there,” Mongiello recalls a waiter telling him. “Dude, you’re gonna get fired.”
Confident but still worried, he appeared in the dining room, where she asked him why he was serving such a high-fat dish when such things were now taboo. “She said, ‘Look, there’s cream, there’s cheese – these things are illegal.’ And I just explained how I made it.”
Which was with low-fat alternatives that were so convincing the Clintons had mistaken them for their caloric cousins. Instead of cream, he used pureed rice. A nut or rice-milk cheese stood in for the usual Parmesan.
“Her reaction was: ‘Wow, I can’t believe it. We thought those were a thing of the past.’ She wasn’t mad or anything, she was just really concerned about her husband’s health.”
So he wasn’t fired for trying to pull the wool over the first couple’s eyes – or at least their taste buds. He went on to cook plenty of lighter fare for the family, including a cheesecake that snuck in tofu.
The secretly slimmed-down cheesecake, he said, was a favorite. And it had fooled a president.
Of course, Bill Clinton, after suffering serious heart woes, is a vegan these days, so cheesecake is simply off the menu.