Thursday, February 17, 2005

Tacky is as Tacky Does

In today's lesson on press spin (or maybe truth in reporting), we have the case of recently fired White House chef Walter Scheib. Brought in by then first lady Hilary Clinton, CIA-trained Scheib was hired to make White House cooking a little more upscale while still managing light and fresh foods for the family dinners (Bill's diet not-withstanding).

Sheib recently announced he's moving on but press reports soon came out that he'd been asked to leave (read "fired") by First Lady Laura Bush amid increasing tensions between the kitchen and Mrs. Bush's office. His first complaint was when Mrs. Bush asked for him to scale back the French cooking and focus on American dishes. He's made no secret of what he thinks of the President's "low brow" tastes, so this latest debacle was apparently the last straw. (Plus, I'm guessing his chile rellenos must not be that great, because no Texan would fire a chef who made great Mexican food.)

Scheib's assignment was to create inauguration menus from uniquely American products (and products, as it happens, from many donors to Bush's campaign.) Everyone's gotten caught up in the brand names, but honestly, turkey, canned pineapple, Krispy Kreme's, and Coke? It's not high brow cooking but it's not the end of the world. Apparently for Chef Scheib it was.

Is only using brands from donors tacky? A little. I expected a bit more from Laura, but it would have been a clever idea if the execution of the dishes had been better. (I mean, he didn't know what to do with Coke?! I can think of three or four cool ideas right off the top of my head and I'm not even a chef!) Where was his creativity? Chef Scheib's complaint on the wine? Hey, he's obviously never attended any Congressional receptions from your average senator or representative in DC. Before DC, I didn't know they had wine from Oklahoma. It's political business but can still be great cooking. And in my book, his worst transgression was making tacky comments about his boss' lack of pretention. Poor form, Chef.

For your lesson on the press, I love how the blog that carries this story paints an evenhanded picture, while the corresponding AP coverage is, well, I think a little bitter. Scheib didn't come off much better in the NY Times last week either. Hey, Chef, it could have been worse -- Kerry could have been elected and you would have had to deal with all that ketchup!

Back to my real question. How is it that he doesn't know how to cook with Coke? Has he been living in a box? He's right next door to Virginia! Every Southerner in the world knows you use it with ham!

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