The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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White House chef shares secrets on Hilltop

White House chef shares secrets on Hilltop
Sidney Hollingsworth/The Daily Campus

(Sidney Hollingsworth/The Daily Campus)

Chef and restaurateur John R. Hanny III discussed his secrets he learned from working in the White House kitchen at Southern Methodist University on Tuesday evening.

Before the distinguished author of Secrets from the White House Kitchens spoke to nearly 50 guests in the Mack Ballroom, Kimberly Rutigliano, director of SMU’s Continuing and Professional Education, introduced him as “America’s own Camelot.”

“Since I was a little boy, I wanted to be [a chef],” Hanny said. “I fell in love with the political thing later on.”

The author began entertaining the audience by poking fun at his old age. He told the crowd that he had been around for a while: “My wife bought me hearing aids as a wedding gift…I brought her this beautiful horse, and she bought me hearing aids,” he said.

Hanny was never the executive chef in the White House, but he was a visiting chef. This meant that whenever he was called in, he would show up and “do [his] thing.”

It was shortly after receiving his master’s degree in the culinary arts that Hanny served as a food and wine consultant to the White House. Thereafter, he served as a visiting chef to the Kennedy through Obama White Houses.

“I was offered the opportunity by the Canadian food journal to interview President and Mrs. Kennedy in the White House to see how Mrs. Kennedy was bringing back the French protocols,” he said.

Hanny’s visit with President Kennedy and his family was the beginning of his journey with food, politics and friendships. In his book, he shares his experiences using anecdotes of state and family dinners he has attended and several presidents’ favorite recipes.

“It’s not a tell-all. It’s a funny book,” he said.

Hanny said that when he arrived in Dallas, he knew he had to go to the JFK Museum. He teared up as he talked about the former president, “I just want to pass on to the young people in this room, [Kennedy] was a man who was dedicated to his country.”

He went on to share stories of his friendship with Jackie Kennedy. He told the audience she was a classy woman. “I had a good time with [her] until the day she died,” he said. “She never really forgot the people who surrounded her.”

The chef also went on to talk about some of the presidents’ favorite recipe. He said that President Richard Nixon had an amazing appetite for sweets.

“I created a cookie, and he was so happy with them. Had them every day until the day he left office,” he said.

This cookie, an apricot-based dessert, was available for sampling at the event along with several other presidential favorites. After learning to cook and perfect over a thousand recipes, Hanny had to narrow them down to the 300 he wanted to publish.

“It was a long, hard time. It took me several years to write,” he said.

Hanny had to carefully choose his recipes, reduce them to a manageable size for the average at-home cook, cook them, and finally photograph them for his book.

Shaking her head in awe, audience member Linda Ludden was amazed that chefs could deal with the pressure cooking for dignitaries.

Hanny reminded the guests that everyone he cooks for is equal in his eyes, “What we have to remember, is these guys get up in the morning and get dressed the same way we do, but they are king for four years, and we have to remember that too.”

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