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What Will He Eat?

By Heather Smith · January 28th, 2009 · Cravings

Post-inauguration, inundated by videos of my favorite president dancing with his wife and smitten as a 16-year-old pouring over Bride magazine, I try to write this month’s column with only one thing on my mind: Not what will he do, but what will he eat? (Insert shrieking of teenage girl here.)

God knows that every president has brought his eating quirks into the White House. W. did not like fancy sandwiches, according to his chef Walter Scheib, requesting a simple grilled cheese with Kraft singles and white bread, a peanut butter and honey sandwich, a BLT or a hamburger everyday for lunch for eight years. He also requested that every White House lunch be served with Lay’s potato chips, French’s mustard and toasted white bread. (His average lunch lasted about 12 minutes.)

The Clintons also had their issues. Hillary waited 15 months to hire a White House chef, refusing to hold a state dinner until she found the right one. She also brought in a more politically correct cuisine, ditching Eurocentric French for contemporary American with an emphasis on cultural diversity and a low-carb menu co-created by Dr. Dean Ornish.

But when Hillary was out of town, Bill would ask chef Scheib to prepare high-fat dishes like porterhouse steak with béarnaise sauce and onion rings.

Wonder if she ever found out? (These anecdotes, along with other entertaining stories, are included in Scheib’s White House Chef: Eleven Years, Two Presidents, One Kitchen. Scheib was chef for both the Bushes and the Clintons.)

Unlike Bush and Clinton, it appears that Obama is not only a bit of a health freak but a foodie as well. At least that’s the rumor.

We all know he’s familiar with arugula and the price of it, and Chicago chefs at the Obamas’ favorite restaurants say they're adventurous eaters. Rick Bayless, chef at their favorite Mexican restaurant, Topolobampo, was quoted in The Daily Telegraph as saying that the couple “never turn a nose up at anything we suggest to them.” That’s not to say they’re perfect; Obama offended one Chicago chef by putting hot sauce all over the gumbo she made to fatten him up on the campaign trail. But apparently the new president puts hot sauce on many dishes; after all, he’s a man.

And even though we saw him downing those Philly cheese steaks and greasy pizza slices on camera during the campaign, more often than not he only took a bite, then sent them away. Friends and family say he’s committed to a low-carb diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. After all, he watches his figure.

Last year, when US Weekly asked him if he wore boxers or briefs, he said, “I don’t answer those humiliating questions. But whichever one it is, I look good in ’em.”

Of course, the man might down whole chickens and pizzas in one sitting behind closed doors. We just don’t know. And he definitely has his vices — Nicorette gum and/or the occasional cigarette. But he doesn’t seem to be a whiner.

Unlike the presidents before him — W. banned greens and “wet fish” (whatever that means) from the White House — Obama hates asparagus, but he says he’ll “eat it if there’s nothing else available.” Which is refreshing, in that there’s finally a man in the White House mature enough to eat his vegetables.

CONTACT HEATHER SMITH: hsmith@citybeat.com



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