President Trump's combative style was on display even in the kitchen of his Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago, author Larry Leamer says

By Liz McNeil
January 10, 2019 02:18 PM
From left: Donald Trump, Barron Trump and Melania Trump at Mar-a-Lago in 2015
Gustavo Caballero/Getty

Want to understand President Donald Trump?

You’ll need to head south, nearly to the tip of Florida, to his family’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach. That’s where, according to author Laurence Leamer, you’ll find the key to Trump.

As Leamer details in his new book, Mar-a-Lago: Inside the Gates of Power at Donald Trump’s Presidential Palace, it’s at Mar-a-Lago where the president battled the long-entrenched local elite establishment as he turned the opulent estate into a country club for millionaires and billionaires.

“He [Trump] took these people on and he didn’t back down,” Leamer tells PEOPLE. “He left no prisoners. People either loved him or hated him. That’s what he wanted. He wanted to be talked about.”

According to Leamer, Trump’s combative style was on display even in the kitchen, where he once fired a chef because he did not like the chef’s signature (and widely loved) Caesar salad.

But not Trump, who preferred hamburgers, steak and a wedge of iceberg lettuce.


According to Leamer, several months after the chef was hired, Trump came into the kitchen one day “swearing like a truck driver.”

“He went into the kitchen and he just blew up,” Leamer says. “He screams and yells and says ‘You and your f-ing salad. [And then] he makes his own salad and tells him, ‘I’ll show you how to make the Caesar salad.’ ”

Trump proceeded to do just that, tossing together lettuce and croutons, “sprayed with salad dressing,” according to Leamer. He fired the chef the next day.

A few days later, Leamer writes, the chef was hired by Celine Dion and her husband, Rene René Angélil, and cooked for them for two years — including his signature Caesar, which they called “the Trump salad.”

The incident is just one of many surprising anecdotes found in Leamer’s book.

“Trump walked into this place and acted like nobody had ever acted before,” Leamer says. “Palm Beach is the most socially intimidating place in America. You walk on the island and have to be careful what you say. He just took these people on. It was unheard of.”