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White House chef fires up bakery

Nov. 2, 2004

By MINDY FERGUSON, reporter

After 25 years of service as the White House executive pastry chef, Roland Mesnier has retired. Only 55 miles from Waco, in the town of Corsicana, Mesnier's recipes continue to be served through the new Presidential Pastry line at the Collin Street Bakery.

Mesnier, 70, began his service in the White House kitchen in 1979, during the Carter administration. Ever since first lady Rosalynn Carter hired him, Mesnier has insisted all desserts served in the White House come from the White House kitchen only. Because of this, Mesnier once single-handedly made 1,500 cookies for an event. Another time he baked half a ton of fruitcake without assistance.

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Robyn Kenagy | Lariat staff
Former White House chef, Roland Mesnier, recently began creating custom recipes for he Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, located only 55 miles from Waco. The White House Banana Celebration Cake, left, is one of the pastries usually enjoyed by first families.
Mesnier didn't attend prestigious culinary schools to learn the skills to be a White House chef. In a White House press interview, he attributed his vast knowledge and talent to on-the-job training.

Mesnier began baking in a French pastry shop when he was 14. He has worked in various bakeries around the world since then, learning varied techniques and recipes. Mesnier says he landed his White House job because he was at the right place at the right time.

While at the White House, Mesnier worked under the administrations of former presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton and current president George W. Bush.

Once Mesnier announced his White House retirement, Collin Street Bakery executives jumped at the opportunity to bring his expertise to Texas.

"He's a real savvy chef," said Hayden Crawford, director of public relations at Collin Street Bakery. The bakery, home of the world-famous Corsicana fruitcake, is 108 years old and offers a wide variety of desserts from cookies to pies to their new presidential pastry line.

The Presidential Pastry line offers three delicious products: White House Banana Celebration Cake, White House Passion Fruit Pound Cake and White House Pumpkin Friendship Cake. Mesnier developed all three recipes, specially modified for the Collin Street Bakery.

"It's more of a recipe that the first families enjoyed upstairs in their rooms," Crawford said.

The pastries are available starting this week and also can be ordered online. The line is expected to continue indefinitely as Mesnier expands the product list. Mesnier is currently working with the bakery to add a dutch apple cake to the line.

"We have high hopes for [the Presidential Pastries line]," Crawford said.

After his retirement, Mesnier also released a new recipe book called Dessert University. The book is available at most bookstores, and the bakery sells it at a reduced price on their Web site. The Collin Street Bakery is traditionally famous for its fruitcake. According to Crawford, the bakery sells one million pounds of fruitcake per year. The Deluxe, their most popular cake is from a 108-year-old recipe and was the bakery's first product.

The Collin Street Bakery desserts are available at the bakery in Corsicana or online at collinstreetbakery.com.