A Weekend of Meals Fit for the President at Laurel Circle
Residents enjoying White House favorites cooked by a chef who has served 3 presidents
On Presidents Day Weekend, the residents of Laurel Circle enjoyed menus created by Executive Chef Will Patterson featuring delicious dishes inspired by presidential favorites.
Friday’s Dinner included Griddle Cakes with Honey that would make George Washington smile, along with Harry Truman’s beloved Fried Chicken.
On Saturday night, diners at Bridgewater, NJ’s only life plan community sat down to Andrew Jackson’s Leather Britches (Green Beans with Bacon) and Andrew Johnson’s Hoppin’ John, a dish featuring Black-eyed Peas, Rice, Tomatoes, and Peppers that Patterson learned to cook while working in Raleigh, Johnson’s hometown. Also on the menu were Grover Cleveland’s Corned Beef and Cabbage, as well as Fried Pork with Vegetables — a dish that was a favorite of both George HW Bush and his successor, Bill Clinton.
Sunday Brunch featured JFK’s Lobster Ravioli (a clever twist on JFK’s Lobster Stew), Gerald Ford’s English Muffins with Pot Roast and Red Cabbage, and John Adam’s Boston Cream Pie for dessert.
For Chef Patterson, these Presidents Day Weekend menus have personal roots: he has had the privilege to cook for three different U.S. presidents and two first ladies.
Former President Bill Clinton and then-Senator Hilary Clinton enjoyed a meal chef Patterson helped create in East Hampton, NY. After dinner, the pair visited the kitchen. “President Clinton was very personable — like everyone’s favorite uncle.”
“I also had the honor of cooking a meal for President Gerald Ford while I was working in Raleigh, N.C., shortly before he passed,” Patterson says. “But the most exciting presidential visit was when President George Herbert Walker Bush came for dinner at the Hilton Raleigh North.”
The culinary team, including then Sous Chef Patterson, were not told ahead of time who they would be serving.
“I arrived at work and then the kitchen went on lockdown. No one was allowed to come in or leave and our phones were taken away for the evening. We knew something big was happening, but we weren’t sure what was going on until the Executive Chef announced that we’d be cooking Braised Beef Burgundy and Baked Alaska for former President Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush — whose son, George W Bush, was the current president at the time.
After a successfully prepared dinner, the Bushes dropped by the kitchen. “President and Mrs. Bush arrived to thank us for the meal, and then ended up staying for 45 minutes to chat,” says Patterson. “We talked about cooking. President Bush wanted to know how we browned the meringue on the Baked Alaska, so I showed him the small blow torch we use. He was incredibly down to earth.”
Patterson and the President ended up talking about the Chef’s Native American heritage. Young Will grew up on a reservation in North Carolina with his mother and great-grandmother, who lived to 112 years old! “We hunted and fished, and cooked all our meals outside,” he explains. “My great-grandfather built our home, and it didn’t have running water, so we had to make use of the land. I get my love of barbecue from that time, and my family gave me an appreciation for different flavors, cooking techniques, and where our ingredients come from.”
Patterson will never forget his conversation with the Bushes. “They were two of the nicest people I have ever met. It was a perfect example of why I went into the culinary arts to begin with — food truly brings us all together.”