- While partnering with Southern Comfort, chef Andre Rush spoke about cooking at the White House.
- When preparing important dinners, he said he’d be mindful of dietary and cultural requirements.
- He told Insider that the first lady usually has the most say over the daily food choices.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Former White House chef Andre Rush has worked under four administrations – for Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump – and understands the politics and cultural significance of food.
While promoting his partnership with Southern Comfort for the brand’s new Trail ReMix, Rush told Insider about what goes into preparing dishes for presidents and honored international guests.
Rush said he ‘strategically planned’ his meals
“The dishes in the White House were very strategically planned and dictated,” Rush told Insider. “I joke around and say you could actually start wars and end wars with the dishes made at the White House.”
Rush said it’s important to pay attention to dietary requirements or religious and cultural differences to prepare inclusive and delicious dishes, especially for dinners with guests from around the world.
He had to walk a fine line when choosing and making meals
Rush told Insider that he would “get with the joining country or principals” beforehand to see what they prefer, adding it’s easy to insult someone by trying to “infuse your own flavor” into a traditional dish or skipping it altogether.
But preparing the menus could be tricky, especially if some diners didn’t honor the cultural or religious significance of the meal.
“It could be anything from the Ramadan to saying, ‘OK, everybody else here is having a non-pork meal,’ and somebody says, ‘Well, I want pork,’ and it could just mess up the entire semantics of what’s actually happening …” Rush said.
There isn’t a typical meal that’s always served at the White House
Since Rush worked under four different administrations, the occasions he cooked for and the meals he prepared varied. But the chef’s extensive culinary background and passion for food made this a fun, exciting part of the job.
“The dishes have been crazy, from every type of protein, vegan, gluten-free desserts, any type of the wildest to the simplest to the most exotic thing you could possibly think of, which I actually love,” Rush said.
And Rush told Insider that the first lady – the one who “actually hires and fires and can do anything she wants to do” – usually chooses the standard, day-to-day menu.
But sitting presidents still have food preferences, and some can be more vocal than others about what they will or won’t eat, which could also impact others.
“You do have an extreme history of presidents who just were, I use the word ‘very selfish,’ for their own palate,” Rush said. “If they didn’t like something, they didn’t want anybody else to like it.”