White House Chef: Cooking For The President with Martin Mongiello

Life as a White House chef is an adventure in itself. Former White House chef Martin Mongiello his life journey of how he became a White House Chef and what he’s doing now. Martin has worked at the Camp David Resort & Conference Center as a general manager and has cooked for all of the last five US presidents. He goes behind the scenes of what it’s like cooking for some of the most powerful men in the world, sharing what their favorite foods were and the most elaborate requests and things he had to make. He also touches on an upcoming one-hour show he filmed for President’s Day, the honor of being invited into a private Japanese home, and his current role as the CEO of the United States Presidential Culinary Museum.

TTL 563 | White House Chef

 

I’m glad you joined us because we have Marti Mongiello. Marti is a former White House Chef. He’s also worked at the Camp David Resort & Conference Center as a General Manager. He has cooked for all of the last five presidents and he’s got some insight as to what everybody is eating, what they like, and it’s fascinating to talk to him. I’m looking forward to this.

Listen to the podcast here:

White House Chef: Cooking For The President with Martin Mongiello

I am here with Marti Mongiello who is a CEO, a former White House Chef and Camp David Resort & Conference Center General Manager. He’s led trillions in assets on three continents. He’s a mediator, healer, you name it. This guy has done it. I’m so excited to have you here. Welcome, Marti.

Thank you so much.

You have a diverse background of things you’ve done. I’m sure a lot of people are very interested in your work in the presidential area. I want to get a little background of what led to you becoming a White House Chef and what you’re doing now. Can you give us your background?

I had actually gone into the Navy at the age of eighteen and was slogging away on board a sewer pipe, which we affectionately call a nuclear submarine. This was going quite well. I finally got out of there after a few years underwater and went to hotel school. I completed that and then went and ran a 1,500-room resort for the Navy down in Pensacola, Florida. I found myself around the nine-year mark in the Navy back on a nuclear submarine. That’s how it goes. I was a bit bored. My commanding officer, Pat Casey, mentioned to me he would like to nominate me for the White House military office. I was like, “That sounds cool. What do I do? Flip burgers?”

He said, “No. You’re carving ice. You’re making four-foot long, three-dimensional cakes. You’re doing garde manger and all these banquets and private dinners for the admiral’s homes. We actually have two restaurants underneath the Oval Office. Had you ever heard of that before?” I said, “Sure we do, captain. I’m sure there’s a bomb shelter or something under there.” He was like, “No. Don’t have an attitude and don’t get an attitude in the meeting. I’m trying to tell you the Navy does this. We have about 75 United States Navy chefs and no other service is allowed. We also run the Camp David Resort & Conference Center up on top of the mountain. We run the whole West Wing and the Oval Office and we fly with the president as tasters. We have the vice president’s house at the end of the embassy row and this is only a Navy chef’s function. I’d like to nominate you for this job to the secretary of the Navy.”

I was like, “I really have heard of the famous civilian chefs at the White House quite a bit, but I’ve never heard anything about what you’re talking about.” He was like, “It’s about time you did. Would you like me to do this?” I was like, “With all reckless abandon, please, sir. Do not wait.” About a couple of months later, I went to an interview with the White House. About a year-and-a-half after that, my security clearance was done and I was allowed to come to work because it’s a long clearance. I often tell people it’s not the General Michael Flynn clearance where we’ll let you in one week and you can start looking at top secret documents in the Oval. This is playing with people’s food and bringing a drink to the president at night because you have to be a bartender. When you’re done with the white chef’s coat at 7:00, you then become a bartender if you’re in the military. The White House chefs, who are the civilians, they go home, but the military is there around-the-clock and so you end up being a butler, a valet, a housekeeper, a bartender and you’re still a military aide at all times. That’s how I got there.

Did they psychometrically monitor you?

Yes. You’re tested and you have a CIA handler that you meet with and you need an out. I often tell people, you need a Jason Bourne out, somebody you can call, and we call them a handler. My handler was the dice man. He’s famous, but you need to be taught about bribing and what to do in the Lowe’s men’s room when somebody starts talking to you with a red flannel shirt on named Tank and says, “We know where you work. Look right here, I’ve got a bag with $80,000 in tens and this could be yours at stall number three every two weeks. What do you think?” You need to be trained like, “What do I do now?”

All the movies are going in my mind. I’m thinking Air Force One, NCIS on television.

That’s where they get all the ideas from.

I think Clinton was in office when they made Air Force One. I remember he liked it. I saw him on something. You’ve had five presidents you’ve dealt with. Which ones were they?

The past five presidents I’ve worked with either on veteran’s issues, wearing a suit up to the White House or cooking for them. Foreign presidents also from different countries, a king, queen, several princes, Prime Minister, Hashimoto of Japan. I was very lucky to live all over the Earth, lived in Asia for many years, cook for the United States and lived in Europe for many years.

Where did you sleep and live when you did this job?

I actually was the Executive Chef up at Camp David and then I was groomed after a year of doing that as the private chef with the presidency. I was groomed into becoming a Manager of the resort.

I’m curious, are you allowed to share their favorite foods?

Traveling the world with the president is one of the great experiences of a Navy chef. Click To Tweet

That’s what I do. I was in Chicago and that was a GOP Reagan-Lincoln dinner for 200 people. Naturally, we did all the famous Reagan and Lincoln dishes, but we also did a Trump recipe that night. Right in front of that, I had done two democratic conventions.

What does Trump like? What does Reagan like? What are their favorite foods? I’m curious if there’s a certain thing.

For Ronnie, we had as part of the dessert, there were little ramekins with the Jelly Bellies, but also he is a super fan of macaroon cookies that Nancy used to make. We did those that were fresh, handmade macaroons. They were so tender. We also had the Keebler Elf out there with the Vienna fingers. Those are a big Don favorite. There were at least a few people that were like, “Are these store bought cookies? They look like they’re Keebler’s.” I was like, “They actually are. That’s Don’s best friend, the Keebler Elf.” “If that’s what it is, then is this what he likes?” I was like, “He likes Lay’s potato chips, KFC, and obviously the Vienna fingers are at the top of his list, but no better than Bill Clinton. He and Don both love a Big Mac and still do.”

Do you call Donald Trump Don? What do you call him?

I call him Don, Donny and Don-Don, just not to his face. Honestly talking with his people, or Eric, his son, I’m a bit casual and I don’t mind being fired. All that, “You’re fired,” I don’t care.

What about Obama? What did he like to eat?

President Obama, CBS television had us come, my wife and I, for the second inauguration and that producer asked me, “What are you going to do? We want an Obama favorite. If it could be the top one, that’d be awesome.” I was like, “We got this, buddy. I’ll bring all the ingredients. Don’t worry. We’ll have everything set up.” He was like, “No. We have a food stylist at $140,000 per year. She does all that.” I was like, “There are not any food stylists getting our ingredients together for the Obamas.” He was like, “I’m sure it’s not that strenuous, son. We can get together, whatever it takes.” I was like, “Not this dish, you can.” He was like, “I’m pretty sure whatever dish it is, we’ve done everything here, including rattlesnake.” I was like, “How about you just let me bring in all the ingredients?” His favorite dish is the Chicago dog, so I was like, “Where are you going to get a poppy seed hotdog bun from? Have you ever seen that for sale?”

They don’t sell black poppy seed hotdog buns. The only place they sell them is in Chicago. I’m going to have to make this myself by hand and the emerald green relish and the full-length pickle. The tomato slivers that are on top of it and the sport peppers, I’m going to have to do all this, and then they have a very religious process for this thing. It’s made with an all-beef dog and it has to be steamed because if you barbecue it or grill it, it becomes a char dog. That’s a violation.” I was like, “I don’t want to get this wrong because the station will get slammed with thousands and thousands of comments on Facebook, so let me bring all the ingredients with my wife.” They use this Vienna brand celery salt across the top of it, which is also a very religious rite of passage. It has to be a Vienna brand company.

My daughter’s going to love reading all this.

I’m more than happy to provide the readers these recipes. I’ll just shoot them over to CBS.

The fact that you get to see what we don’t see behind the scenes is interesting to me. You mentioned having a couple of restaurants. Did you say it was below the Oval Office?

Below the Oval Office and I’ll give you a funny one. Everybody loves a biscuit now and then, but we also have a nuclear biscuit. That’s its code name. It’s called the biscuit. This is one of my funniest stories. The biscuit that was found underneath the couch. We’ve all experienced it when you’re vacuuming or doing spring cleaning and it’s like, “There’s where that roll went from last Thanksgiving.” Bill had lost a biscuit one day. It’s got all the codes on it and we issue a brand new biscuit every day for a nuclear launch. This is part of the challenge system and so a lot of people think the nuclear briefcase like they must open it up and there’s a button that he pushes in there and that fires the missiles. I was like, “No, it has no buttons in it whatsoever. He’s unable to launch anything. There’s not a little protective glass lid that he flips up like Dr. Evil and the buttons glowing underneath it. I know all these movies you’ve watched.”

The only thing in that briefcase is his folders with paper. A part of the system is this little credit card. We lost one time, it was found a couple of months later under a couch. Luckily, we change it every day and if somebody does lose it, it can be changed immediately and re-issue a new biscuit right away. It wasn’t like President Clinton did anything that was that crazy because we had President Carter, one time, the dry cleaner called us at the White House and said, “There’s this really crazy looking credit card in the president’s suit coat and I think somebody should come over here and get it right now. It looks very important. It’s unlike any credit card I’ve ever seen.” It was another biscuit that had strayed and went to the dry cleaner. Regrettably, President Reagan, the nurse was crying and she said there is an important looking credit card in his shoes. I have his shoes and his shirt here and the pants that were cut off of his body with the scissors then, but please take a look in the shoes.” It was one of our biscuits. I say these are the three most famous biscuits you’ve never heard of.

Why are they called biscuits?

We just call it the biscuit. It looks like a little rectangle. It has a food name.

TTL 563 | White House Chef
White House Chef: Bill Clinton and Donald Trump both love a Big Mac and still do.

 

The whole idea of all the unique things you’ve probably had to make interests me. You’d be carving ice carvings and making unbelievable cakes. Who had the most elaborate requests and what was the most unusual thing you had to make?

I would say Bill Clinton, he loved Big Macs. Running and jogging out in DC became a hazard one day. A friend of his, Paul Leopoulos, was telling me in Little Rock one day, I did a live show over there on stage. He said, “I’m the one that saved his life in DC. I pushed him out of the way into the grass. That car almost hit him. We would run often and 20, 30, 40 agents all around them running in the streets of DC. We would run into a Mickey D’s and we would get a Happy Meal.

Couldn’t he go in? You guys had to go in for him?

Bill would go in there.

He’d walk in and get a Happy Meal?

He’d been photographed. People were just glowing and smiling from ear to ear. Between him and Don, these guys broke the ice for fast food. Another big Bill favorite, tough to get and bring into the White House, was Krispy Kremes. He loves Krispy Kreme donut company.

Why would that be hard? Is it because they can inject them or something?

First of all, Hillary was like, “He doesn’t need to be eating all that stuff.” Finally, after a couple of months is when they told him you’re very close to having a cardiac attack and you could pass away this year. Less than one year in office, you get all your results in and your lab testing.” That’s when he went on to Dr. Dean Ornish’s entire program at Preventive Medicine Research Institute. Their book is out called UnDo It with him and his wife, Anne. He said, “I did great until I went back to New York and finished up at the White House. I went right back to eating all those Bubba Burgers, hollandaise, anglaise and béarnaise.

Imagine just having everybody, you can make anything you want all the time. It’d be hard not to eat all the time. I always wonder how much sleep presidents get because of all the events. Did they stay up late? Do they get up early? What’s their schedule like?

Honestly, they all tend to stay up late.

What do we consider late?

For me, that’s 2:00 to 3:00 in the morning and working seven days a week around-the-clock.

They get up when if they go to bed at 2:00?

They’ll get up, set their schedule and come in. It could be 8:00 or 9:00 and come in. If they have early meetings and stuff, then they will relent and go to bed at 1:00 and got to be in there at 8:00 because we have all this and that, so they’ll adjust the schedule. I was reading the complaints about the president. He just won’t go to sleep.

You’re talking about Trump. He said he doesn’t need much sleep.

A lot of people don’t eat particular stuff. This is where you make sure that you have a bunch of different options. Click To Tweet

In the Wall Street Journal, he just will not go to sleep. He calls people and gets them up and they’re irritated and angry. He won’t go to sleep. I’m like, “This is a Type A personality. This is how all of these presi are.”

You say they’re all a certain way, but did you have a favorite? Is there somebody who really clicked well with or can you not answer that?

No. I can answer it. I always have felt that Big Bubba was fantastic. I know he did things, they’ve all done things that people hate, detest, they want to vomit and they revulsed. They’re all disgusting. Somebody hates every one of them, but Bill is a personable guy. He would come into the kitchen and systemically terrorize you, maybe sit in there for an hour watching TV with you and a nice person, and so was Hillary. I read those books by Richard Kessler. I’m like, “Who is this person?” Richard Kessler was never even allowed in the home. I worked in their bathroom, their bedroom, the living room, the dining room, the kitchen all day long. I listened to everything they ever said about everybody, every attack, every bombing run, every issue.

I was a butler, a housekeeper. I was the chef, I was a valet, and I was a bartender at night. I was in the house all day long for years. If anybody had heard something like Hillary using F, MF at the top of her lungs, throwing vases against walls and was a horrible caustic, filthy mouth, I would have been the one to hear that. The guy who has the 30-year retired military certificate. I was never treated like that. I did not listen to that. He’s writing books about Trump, in fact. This guy’s cranking out books. Maybe he sells $4 million of them at Barnes & Noble, and he pockets another $500,000 for himself.

I think people want to hear dirt on people, it sells, and it’s unfortunate when it’s not true. What you’re talking about it’s so interesting in terms of what your day was like, in terms of how you did bartend at night or whatever during the day. I started asking you about those restaurants underneath the Oval Office. I’m curious. Do they look like restaurants? Is it just a dining room? What does it look like? Can you picture that?

We call it the Navy Mess. The White House dissected in three dimensional. It’s an animated film on our website the PresidentialServiceCenter.org. It’s the coolest animated White House I’ve ever seen. It’s all 3D. There’s a regular restaurant and very difficult to get into. Sometimes it’s booked out for a few months at a time. We also have a very aggressive take-out window where we have as many as 600 takeout lunches per day.

That’s interesting about the restaurant. You’re saying that anybody can eat at this restaurant if they have a reservation?

Not the public. It’s just for the president’s staff. You could imagine the chief of staff is going to get all over that and start to restrict. We don’t want somebody who is here as an intern book fourteen lunches every day and has their family, friends, uncle, aunt, a former teacher. They don’t allow that. You can be pretty assured that when I say it’s booked out for 90 days, it’s for very serious senior people. It’s not the intern who’s here for the summer.

The undersecretaries and that type of people would be able to eat there then?

Yes and the cabinet. I’m not saying if you work in the old executive office building and it’s not impossible for you to call down and book something and, “I’ve got my parents coming in two months.” As far as sucking up every day and having an endless stream, like a circus of your personal friends in high school chums.

The reason I asked you, I have worked with the Board of Advisors with DocuSign, and Keith Krach was the Chairman and CEO, and now he’s Undersecretary and was nominated. I was just thinking of what his life must be like. It’d be interesting to go to the White House. I’ve done the tour or the regular thing, but do they have bowling alleys and all this stuff they talk about?

We do have a bowling alley. We have a movie theater, of course the pool and a basketball court and pretty much anything anybody can think of.

Do you get the movies before anybody else does though?

Yes, they’ll send them directly.

What things do they have that we don’t even think about? A lot of people might not have thought of the bowling alley or a movie theater? Is there anything unusual? I never thought about the restaurant, for example. They’re pretty much stuck in the White House. It’s hard to do too much without a major undertaking.

TTL 563 | White House Chef
White House Chef: This is how all of these presidents are, a Type A personality.

 

Sometimes you’re surrounded. I know President Obama really enjoyed his beer. His favorite is a Goose 312, the beer that he often bets people. It’s because he was pent up in there making beer and doing that with one of our chefs, Sam Kass, and that was fun actually to make beer again in the White House. Some people did find that scandalous, but they do fun little things. President Eisenhower used to cook up on the roof. He would go up there and barbecue with our chef and also engage in painting and artwork. They get a chance to do a lot of fun things, I would say. It’s not unlike a president to sneak out as well.

I think they don’t have those back tunnels where they sneak out as they show on TV.

The underground tunnels over to the treasury building. I know they’ve been caught here and there taking the wifey out to dinner now and then, and everybody’s freaked out and shocked.

You see all that stuff. It is interesting to think of who you would’ve met. I’m curious if you ever met Princess Diana.

No, I didn’t, but one of our board members, Paul, served Diana every day of the week for several years at Buckingham Palace. It was the highlight of his life and talks about it to this day very fondly.

When you have flown on Air Force One, what cooking situation do they have on there?

I never flew on Air Force One myself. I was not a traveler. That is one thing. As a chef, you can be what we call a traveler and you can go all around the world with the president and of course you’re in the Navy still, you’re just wearing a suit, whatever they like. For the Bushes, they often had a secret, especially W, a secret barbecue bag that they called it to do stuff with and bring their own ingredients. Many times with traveling, regrettably because of security risks and things that pop up, we call it the PB&J and water in the back of the limo, which sucks, but there are things that occur and it’s like, “We’re actually not going to be able to go to that restaurant, sir. We’re not going to be able to do it. Now’s going to be a PB&J with a bottle of water.” It happens more often than people realize where we do have a problem, they’ll mention something like, “It’d be great if we could go over to Midway Barbecue in Charlotte.” It’s like, “It would be great, sir. Let us get it set up and get things arranged.”

That’s got to be tough. I just think it’s really interesting to think of all the people from different cultures that you have to feed. Do you get a lot of special requests? If they’re coming from Japan or some other culture where they don’t want what you’re cooking for dinner, for example?

Absolutely.

Is that a problem?

Most off the wall request ever, the White House Chef Walter Scheib told me because I would go down to the White House and help make state dinners. He told me, “I need you to go out front right now. Take your white chef’s hat off, go out front and pick up some meals. I’ve got a car pulling up and it’s Meals on Wheels.” I was like, “Come on. Stop with the games.” He was like, “No, I’m serious. Marti. There’s a rabbi with some blessed meals that are sealed and you need to go out.” I was like, “How far out do you want me to go? There are thousands of people out there because they know tonight’s the state dinner.” He was like, “Go all the way out to the street.” I was like, “Through the crowd?” “Go. He’s going to pull up in a Mazda Miata on the street and take two other chefs with you.” I was like, “I’m going to need to, because honestly,” you could hear everyone’s like, “Here come the chefs,” the crowd started to move like 4,000 people over to the gate. The Secret Service opens up the gate. I was like, “Here we go.” “Look. They ordered out. They ordered takeout meals.” People are taking photographs. You have to bring all that in.

How do you know the food though is okay?

You don’t break that seal. It has the signature of the rabbi on there. You may have Muslims.

You trust the people that they bought it from?

You may have Muslims at that meal that night. There’s no room for making comments after the dinner on Facebook or Twitter. You won’t believe the clowns we had at the meal. It’s like, “You’re done.”

The first family actually pays for their food out of their own pocket. Click To Tweet

What if you’re a president, you’re a picky eater and you have to go to all these other countries? Do you have to eat there? Do the presidents have to eat the unusual foods there or is it pretty much you go in?

Honestly, they’re pretty good with it. They don’t spring anything insane on you. I had an admiral, Joe Crawl Jr. He told me, “There are only two things I don’t want you ever to serve while we’re here in Japan.” I said, “Sir, what’s that? Anything to make you happy.” He said, “I really don’t care for Jell-O. I don’t want that. That’s probably easy. You weren’t probably going to serve that. The other thing is those octopus tentacles. I’m afraid of one of those suction cups getting stuck to my tongue.” “Not a problem. We’re not going to do that ever anyway.” Even at the White House, we generally serve a lot of lambs. It’s very safe in religions. It’s not beef and it’s not chicken. You’ll see lamb a lot of times on our menu.

I always wondered what would be the safest thing and I wouldn’t have thought right to lamb. I would have thought more vegetable-based or something for people. I’m not a big fan of vegetables. It’s better for me.

That’s also part of the problem is you do have people who are bent. I don’t want to come in here and have a vegetarian thing, but honestly, one of my servers came in one night and said, “There’s this huge guy out front, almost seven-foot-tall named Tony.” I was like, “Almost seven-foot-tall?” “It’s Tony or Anthony. I don’t know who he is but he just flew in.” I was like, “Let me go look through the one-way mirror. Stay right here.” “This is really important, chef.” I was like, “Wait.” I go look and it’s Tony Robbins. “Don’t you know the Awaken the Giant Within? It’s Tony Robbins. What’s going on?” He was like, “He made the craziest comment to me and I’m scared.” I was like, “Tell me what he said.” “He said he’s a vegetarian and he doesn’t want to have fake food for his meal and let me make sure I get this right. He does not consider a salad to be a dinner entree. What do you have? He wants to know what you have. I swear.”

I was like, “Here. Write this down. Put this down. I’ve got Polish pierogi that are stuffed with soy-based cheddar cheese. I can sauté those for him if he wants the mock butter with onions. I’ve got that ready to go. I’ve got a beautiful vegetarian lasagna with crookneck squash and zucchini. This one I made with the rice cheese, in case he mentions he detests soy and will not ingest soy. I have a rice-based cheese. I also have here, if he wants to have some pasta, and we want to do the grated cheese on that. I’ve also got an almond-based cheese. Make sure you write this down.” A lot of people do not eat rice products. They will not eat soy. This is where you make sure that you have a bunch of different options.

What’s interesting though is I make lasagna. I don’t make vegetable lasagna, but I know it’s not the quick thing that you could whip up.

I did because Chelsea had been becoming a vegetarian very slowly and she would often land with the helicopter. The first thing I would hear across the radio was, “She’s here and she’s got that girlfriend with her again named Becky.” Becky was a full-on vegetarian. This is how Chelsea started to change herself and go more towards vegetarianism. You’re all over that. You jump up and down and start supporting that and getting all types of things ready. God forbid that they come across the network and say that young lady Becky is with her again. I had been getting ready and I had all this stuff ready anytime that Becky would show up plus for Chelsea’s changing needs and desires. When Tony Robbins showed up, I was primed. He went out there, he came back in and he was like, “He said he’s really impressed with you. He wants to come back to the kitchen and see you later.”

I’ve seen him speak here in Arizona at the Genius Network. He’s a big guy. He’s really good. I like Tony Robbins. I think that as you talk about all this, it reminds me of an episode I saw years ago Oprah had done where she looked in people’s refrigerators. I don’t know if you ever saw that episode, but she had Dom DeLuise, Julia Child and famous people. I love that episode because Julia Child’s refrigerator was so boring. There was nothing interesting in it and Dom DeLuise had all these pre-cooked potatoes. Do you remember that?

I don’t remember those episodes, but I remember her doing that.

It’s interesting to see what people keep in their refrigerator, to have pre-done lasagna, pre-done food. Do you guys end up throwing out a lot of different food?

Not really because don’t forget the first family pays for the food out of their own pocket. When you start getting huge bills, the largest bill I ever saw Hill do was $25,000 on a Monday morning. She signed that check. That was for several weeks of food with a lot of families in.

What are they doing for $25,000?

That’s part of the problem. Everybody wants to come to hang at the White House and they don’t want to stay the night. “I’ll come over and we’ll stay a week.” They’re eating and everything. President Johnson started handing his bills out to his kids. I know Amy Carter has mentioned, “Daddy was really strict and got angry one day because I was bringing all my friends over from Sidwell Friends School.” He has twenty kids a day and it’s pizza parties. “I’m actually paying for this food, Amy, out of my pocket. You’ve got to stop coming over here. They said there were 28 children.” “I thought it was free, daddy.” “No, it’s not.” A lot of people have no idea that the family pays for their food. They’ve never heard that.

I never thought about that either. When you talk about people staying at the White House, how many rooms do they have for guests and things like that?

It changes with each family. We have the third floor and there are a lot of rooms up there. We’ve had many family stays and move in for a few years. We’ve had other families say, “We want to maximize,” like the Harrisons. They maximized every room you could possibly come up with and made it a bedroom and both sides of the family lived there in between Grover Cleveland’s two terms. Every side of their family stayed for a long time. It wasn’t a two-week visit.

TTL 563 | White House Chef
White House Chef: Even at the White House, we generally serve a lot of lambs. It’s very safe in religions.

 

Do any of them keep extra? Does Melania always stay there or does she go back and forth between New York? How does that work?

Generally, yes. She always stays at the White House. She does travel and goes up to New York and Mar-a-Lago, of course. You mentioned Julia Child, I would like just to say you can imagine working away with you as a first lady or the first man because we are going to have the first man here. It’s coming during our lifetime. As the first lady of the first man, you’re trying to roll out your version of culture, the social circle and how you want to serve. I can honestly tell you we thought we were doing a pretty good job until they surprise announced on October 21st of 1999 that one of the guests out front is Julia Child. People were like, “Why didn’t anyone tell us?” It’s a surprise. She’s here for the Sara Lee Frontrunner awards and she’s out there having the soup. “Are you out of your mind? Are you kidding me? She has the leek soup?”

Did you all watch her while she ate it?

You’re too busy. Here we go with the chicken with pesto and the potato and goat cheese puree, and then you get a letter. You get a letter about your meal from Julia Child. Let me read this, November 9th. Sometimes that stuff happens.

What did she say?

She said that she had been there before and she was not pleased since LBJ, how the White House had gone down a flight of steps. Things have progressively gone downhill administration after administration, but after the dinner, “I was very impressed, Hillary, with what you have done, the entire staff and everyone in the residents working all the chefs.” That letter I have a copy of. It’s like Julia Child actually said we’re awesome. One of her relatives contacted me for his new book and he’s the gentleman who did everything for Julie & Julia. He wrote that whole book that eventually became a movie. When he called me, it was hilarious. I was like, “Anything I can do to help you with your new books, please, honestly, anything at all. Tell me a few stories.” She was like, “Can you imagine what it was like to go to Thanksgiving at my grandmom’s house, Julia Child?”

I can’t imagine the experiences. You’re too young to have been there when the Kennedys were there. The first lady would pick different china and different things each time they’re in, don’t they change everything when they’re in?

Yes, some of them do, some of them don’t. They have no interest in china whatsoever. Like HW, he said, “I’ll just pass. I don’t need a whole new set of china.”

How different were the two Bushes as presidents to work with?

They’re pretty much the same. They do have their own little peccadilloes. Obviously, HW, when he mentioned he was never going to eat broccoli because his mom used to make it and he never liked it. That set off a firestorm. They have the same favorite dish. It’s called the Mexican mound. It had better be out at every Bush gathering or the chef is in so much trouble.

What’s in it?

This is like if you’ve ever had the taco layer dip, like the seven, eight or a nine-layer taco layer dip. What the Bushes do is they deconstruct it. They take each of the layers, put them out in bowls and you can actually make your own layer mound with what you like. Laura has her own guacamole made with the lime and W has his made with lemon and they each have their own hot sauces. It gets pretty interesting.

You had mentioned you filmed a one-hour show for President’s Day and I’m curious what that was all about.

That is going to air. Dante Thompson, the President of WGGS Television, the Carolina Christian Broadcasting, he mentioned to me, “Who will let somebody talk for an hour? You could go on Jimmy Kimmel and you’ll be on for four minutes.” I’ll say, “You’re right, Dante.” He essentially wanted to do this. When they first contacted me, it was from one of the Democratic Party conventions they saw me and said, “We want to film you up because you’re extemporaneous and you could talk a mile a minute and hilarious. We’ve been coming to a lot of these conventions for 40 years. I never laughed as much. We want to get you on film.” I was like, “What are you going to do?” They’re like, “We want to come to The Presidential Culinary Museum and we would like to film there.” I was like, “Should we serve the cottage cheese with ketchup all over the top?” They were like, “What?” I was like “That’s one of the famous dishes Nixon had every day in the Oval. Should you try that while you’re there?” “If we could not do that, it would be fine, please.” I was like, “I’m just kidding, but it is one of his favorite dishes and they did bring it into the Oval every day.”

Is there anything that you don’t like to eat? Can you pretty much eat anything? Has any president asked for something and you’re like, “That’s really gross?”

It is the highest honor a person can ever receive to be invited inside of a private Japanese home. Click To Tweet

Living in Japan for a few years as I did, I never could bring myself. I ate natto, all kinds of sushi, sashimi, the Blowfish, all that stuff, shabu-shabu, teriyaki, teppanyaki, wagyu, everything you could think of. Towards the end, I was invited to come into a Japanese home, which took a couple of years. It is the highest honor a person can ever receive to be invited inside of a private Japanese home. When that happens, you know that you are now past the Iron Curtain.

What did they give you too?

Whatever they bring out, I ate everything. Culturally, I always got along with people, always have all over the earth. We had a wonderful dinner that night. They had steak, which was very expensive in Japan. They had wagyu. Another time with those same friends, they took me out for a goodbye dinner and they were hilarious. They were like, “Marti-san, we just want you to try one more thing to see if you could do it because you have been so successful here, a gold medal for life that you have from Japan and everything you do all over television here on NHK Tokyo. We want you to try one more thing.” I was like, “You all waited for this for the end year?” “It is very contentious.” I was like, “What is it?” “It is the slivered raw chicken.” I was like, “No, I’m not eating.” “They’re sliced up slivered thin.” “No, I’m not doing it. I’m not eating raw chicken. I cannot do it.” They don’t get sick. They ate in front of me. I was like, “I’ve watched you for years.” They bring out the lobster and put a spike through its head at the table. I was like, “Was it necessary to do that?” “You would know it’s fresh. This is how we show you it is fresh, Marti.” “That’s cool. It’s fresh.” “Now we’ll bring you over to the aquarium. You pick the fish you want to eat.”

That’s what they do in Venice. They named the lobster.

That beautiful fish aquarium, I don’t want to kill Dory.

Mine was named Mario, my lobster, and I felt so bad and then it was priced in grams and we didn’t calculate that very well. It was like $300 or something for a little lobster in Venice. I learned my lesson on that one. I think it must be fun to have this as what you’ve done. You’ve got an interesting background. I saw you listed some of your Keirsey Myers-Briggs different results. You’re an ENFJ. That’s interesting. I’m an ESTJ.

It’s about 4% of us are ENFJs out there.

What made you take that? Do they do in the military that they ask you to take those tests?

It was part of the military changing with PQL and TQM and Dr. Deming’s 14 Points of Excellent Management. When they come through the military and say, “Does anybody want to run down to the White House? Steve Kubby is going to do a private class.” I was like, “Am I off for the day?” You’ve got to wear your Navy uniform. There’s going to be hundreds of people at the White House, all from the White House military office. There are a bunch of people walking around Camp David and I’m not going down to see some stupid guru try to tell me how to lead better and manage better. I was like, “Later. You have no idea.” This was a huge, watershed moment that the military went through.

This was about like, “We’re not here to be in the Navy to go out and get drunk anymore in foreign ports, a girl on each arm and McHale’s Navy. We’re getting rid of all that. We’re drilling people out, running them out and getting rid of that.” Everything switched over even to Ken Blanchard. We’re going to start leading people with The One Minute Manager and Jeffrey Fox, and of course Covey, Deming. It’s very heavy. A lot of the dinosaurs, Diane, they were freaked out. They were like, “This is stupid. All this touchy-feely. I’ve got to motivate some little punk. I’ll put my fist through this punk.” It’s like, “You are done. We want you to leave the military. We don’t need you any longer.”

It’s interesting to see the people you were able to be exposed to because those are some amazing names and they’ve changed business leadership. Covey’s 7 Habits is one of the classics. It’s hard to beat that. Your job must be one of the most interesting jobs. What do you do now that you’re not doing that?

I’m the CEO of the United States Presidential Culinary Museum. I also do CMO functions, Chief Marketing Officer. At the same time, several years ago, our board of trustees wanted to develop the United States Presidential Service Center. That is moving forward with the potential of going into $101 million building in Arlington, Virginia. We’re working with CB Richard Ellis on that and Meridian Group who owns the building with Goldman Sachs and trying to expand and grow to about 200 rooms and have about a 22,000 square foot cooking school and gift shop now with kitchen wares. We just graduated our 5,070th student from our cooking school. The museum would grow up, it would get much larger but professionalized. It would look like the Smithsonian with glass cases and interpretive displays. These are all the dreams and aspirations of the trustees. Our alumni are about 50,000 members of people who wear that presidential service badge. We all have a badge with a serial number registered at the White House.

I am supposed to get to DC because I was going to do a book signing. Sister Jenna has been here and she’s got that Meditation Museum there. I haven’t been there. I might have to come out and check out the Met Museum. I didn’t realize there even was one. That just sounds so interesting.

The White House historical association with Stuart McLaren is doing a great job as well.

TTL 563 | White House Chef
The One Minute Manager

I’ve only been to DC one second. I did the Presidential White House usual tour. I loved it. I had a great time. I accidentally gave my husband’s year of birth one year off, I don’t know why, when I put him down, so the Secret Service pulled him off to the side. He couldn’t get in with me for a while. I didn’t know that would happen. If I knew I would’ve definitely done it on purpose because it was funny. No, I didn’t do it on purpose.

They’re doing a little miniature background investigation on you.

It was so nice to talk to you. I think so many people are interested in knowing all this behind the scenes. It was just very exciting. I know there’s a bronze statue of you in the Charlotte Walk of Fame at Liberty Walk?

Not a statue but we are on bronze on the Walk of Fame and Liberty Wall, both my wife and I, Marti and Stormy Mongiello. The Inn of the Patriots is in bronze with it. That was all supporting African American history and showcasing their contributions to the revolutionary war is how we ended up being put in bronze.

You’ve definitely had a fascinating career and I appreciate you coming on the show and sharing all that with us. I think if anybody’s interested in finding out more either about your museum or you, what’s the best way for them to learn more about you?

My keynote speeches that I do worldwide are all at www.InsideThePresidentsCabinet.com. From there they can shoot all around, they’ll see the museum. We have about 14,000 pages in total on our website. Some people have said, just in the museum, “I was in there eight days looking at your content, watching films, videos.” The whole Jackie exhibit online is about three hours of online content.

I think that’s amazing and a lot of people definitely would love to have you speak because you’re very entertaining. Thank you, Marti.

I’d like to come back again in a couple of months and just talk about what I’m doing with Time’s Up, the Jackie exhibit, the #MeToo Movement and how a lot of those things that she had tackled, addressed and what she went through in regard to those.

That would be fascinating we can talk.

That’d be cool if we can flip it, show the exhibit and some of our items as very eye-opening women’s rights and the long road for women throughout time and history on Earth. We’re still not there yet.

That’ll be our next conversation. Thank you so much for being here, Marti. This was really interesting.

I want to thank Marti for being my guest. It was so exciting to hear all that. It’s so fun. You always want to get a backstage look at how things really work. He was great at sharing all that. We get many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can go to DrDianeHamiltonRadio.com and catch up on them. You can find us on iTunes, iHeart, just about anywhere. If you go to DrDianeHamilton.com you can find all the information there, including Cracking the Curiosity Code, the book, and the Curiosity Code Index. You can go to CuriosityCode.com for that information. I hope you enjoyed this episode and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Martin Mongiello

TTL 563 | White House ChefMartin Mongiello is a CMO & CEO, a former White House Chef, and a Camp David Resort & Conference Center General Manager. He has led trillions in assets on three continents. He is a mediator, healer, and innovator winning AAA Diamond & Booking.com World Awards for 2017 and 2018 of 9.8 out of 10. He increases profits via AGILE and lean coaching to #1 awards with trust, shared purpose, and generosity. He is one of a few in the history of L.R.U. to receive a 100 in ethics, from Dr. Thomas Toglia. He connects the 2% on earth, five Presidents and royals, because of his reputation and established trust. Check out some of the top recipes enjoyed by some of these famous people at: https://www.theinnofthepatriots.com/en-us/tv-shows/try-the-chefs-free-recipes

 

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