The Henry Haller Collection
In summer 2018, the White House Historical Association was contacted by members of the Haller family. Their father, Henry, had worked as the White House Executive Chef for five administrations over the course of twenty-one years. During that time, Chef Haller and his family accumulated all sorts of materials — photographs, menus, recipes, letters from presidents and first ladies, programs, place cards, invitations, and even newspaper clippings. This remarkable collection offers fascinating insight to White House culinary history, told through the life and career of Henry Haller. View the full collection.
Born in Switzerland in 1923, Henry Haller was trained in Davos and worked in several five-star hotels until an opportunity permitted him to immigrate to Canada where he worked at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montreal. On July 4, 1952, he arrived in New York City—the culinary capital of the United States at that time. One of his first jobs was at the West Shore Hotel on Martha’s Vineyard Island, where he met his wife Carole during the summer of 1953. They were married in November 1954, and moved to Nyack, New York, for Henry’s next job at a country club. He worked there for four years, but it was during this time when Carole began collecting newspaper articles, photographs, and anything else that Henry brought home from work. As Haller’s career took off, the collection and the family grew quickly.
The Haller family then moved to New York City, where Henry worked in several fine hotels such as the Hotel Hampshire House in Central Park and the Sheraton East Hotel on Park Avenue. At the Sheraton, he cooked for the affluent, celebrities, athletes, and politicians—including President Lyndon B. Johnson. In fact, this was how the Johnsons knew of Haller’s talents, and when the White House needed a new chef, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson called Henry and asked him to come down to Washington for an interview. He was offered the job and he accepted it.
Haller began working at the White House on February 1, 1966, serving five administrations until his retirement in 1987. During that span, the residents hosted over 250 State Dinners and thousands of meals for themselves and their guests. Of special significance were two large events for 1,300 guests each on the White House Lawn; a POW dinner for returning Vietnam veterans in 1973; and the dinner celebrating the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in 1979. In addition to these major events, he also contributed to personal ones—planning and executing the dinners and cakes for three White House wedding receptions.
The Henry Haller Collection features a rich variety of sources, imagery, and documentation related to the White House, first families, food history, and the diplomacy of hospitality. The White House Historical Association is extremely grateful for Chef Haller’s contributions to the White House and the willingness of the Haller family to share this unique collection with others through our Digital Library. Its contents illuminate the many accomplishments of a distinguished White House Executive Chef, but its preservation represents a family’s love and its digitization a year-long effort to ensure that this remarkable man’s story is more readily available to all.