Former First Families Mourn Death of Longtime White House Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier: 'Delightful Man'

Mesnier's White House tenure spanned five presidencies. The French-born chef was hired during Jimmy Carter's presidency and retired in 2004 under George W. Bush

White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier from Bonnay, France, poses in the State Dining Room of the White House 14 June, 2004, in Washington, DC. Mesnier, 60, announced he will retire from his post at the White House 30 July, 2004, after 25 years of service.
Roland Mesnier. Photo: TIM SLOAN/AFP via Getty

Former presidents and first ladies are mourning the loss of longtime White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier, who died on Friday at the age of 78.

The White House Historical Association announced Mesnier's death in a statement on its website, saying the chef died "August 26, 2022, following a short illness."

According to the association, Mesnier's career began at age 14, when he left home "with a cardboard suitcase and five francs" to work as an apprentice at the Patisserie Maurivard in Besançon, France.

By 1967, he had landed a role as pastry chef at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Virginia — but he would be lured away by then-first lady Rosalynn Carter in 1979.

Mesnier's White House tenure spanned five presidencies. The French-born chef was hired during Jimmy Carter's presidency and retired in 2004 under George W. Bush.

As White House pastry chef, Mesnier was best known for his fruit desserts, and his ornate gingerbread White Houses that came to life each holiday season.

Following the announcement of his passing, former presidents and first ladies alike took to social media to share their memories of Mesnier.

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library shared a photo of Mesnier with a young Amy and James Carter on Twitter, writing that the chef was "hired by Mrs. Carter for his talent with lighter desserts."

"Roland Mesnier was a master chef and a delightful man," former President Bill Clinton wrote. "His endless list of unique creations made every White House meal special, from State dinners to family birthdays to evening meals with desserts he knew Chelsea, Hillary and I loved. His life and work were blessings to many."

Former first lady Hillary Clinton shared her own fond memories of the chef, writing that Mesnier "loved making people smile with his beautiful creations, including his famous gingerbread houses at Christmas. He will be missed!"

The Clintons' daughter, Chelsea, also shared her condolences, along with a photo of she and Mesnier taken when she was first daughter.

"Deeply saddened by the passing of Roland Mesnier, the former White House pastry chef who taught me so much (including how to make a terrific pie crust) & brought joy to many people who lived, worked & visited the White House over many years," Chelsea wrote on Twitter. "Holding all who love him in my heart.

The Reagan Institute echoed the sentiment, saying Mesnier's "passion, commitment, and love for his work will always be remembered."

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Mesnier has spoken openly about the impact of his time in the White House, saying in one public appearance that he became a naturalized U.S. citizen with the encouragement of Ms. Carter, who recently turned 95.

"I left my home one morning as a French man, and returned the same evening as an American citizen," Mesnier said, during a 2016 talk at Samford University. "Only in America can you get such a gift."

Mesnier is survived by his son, George.

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