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Sep 21, 2022 Washington, D.C.

Henry Haller joined the White House as executive chef in 1966 and he stayed on to cook for five administrations over two decades—becoming the longest-serving presidential chef in history. In 1987, Random House published THE WHITE HOUSE FAMILY COOKBOOK, Haller’s extraordinary behind-the-scenes look at daily life in the White House through the lens of how five first families dined privately and how they approached formal hospitality publicly.

On September 21, 2022, the White House Historical Association will publish a special Association edition of the book, updated with images from Chef Haller’s own archive—included are menus, photographs and ephemera now in the Henry Haller collection of the Association's Digital Library. Alex Prud’homme, Culinary Historian, grandnephew of Julia Child, and author of the forthcoming, At the President's Table: A Culinary History of the White House, opens the book with a forward that sets the Haller era in the context of White House History.

THE WHITE HOUSE FAMILY COOKBOOK is divided into five sections each dedicated to the presidents Chef Haller served—Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan—and features more than 250 recipes. Included are wedding cakes for three White House brides, a collection of holiday favorites, Jimmy Carter's fried catfish, Ronald Reagan's macaroni and cheese, Lyndon Johnson's Texas barbecued ribs, the first ladies' healthy soups and salads, and more.

In his foreword, Prud’homme writes, “A slim, resourceful, man, Haller was rigorously detail-oriented behind the stove but easy going when it came to the First Family’s tastes.” He goes on to explain, “Haller’s unflappability was one of his winning traits. When the king of Saudi Arabia appeared with a royal food taster, and five briefcases stuffed with his own food, Haller shrugged. When LBJ invited a gaggle of congressmen or diplomats over to eat, without warning, Haller enjoyed the challenge of creating a meal from whatever he could find in his larder. When Richard Nixon wanted a dollop of cottage cheese for lunch every day, that’s what he got.”

In his more than twenty years at the White House, Henry Haller prepared a variety of food for the first families he served, noting the differing geographical, cultural, and familial influences that helped inspire the menus for each of the family’s dining tables. He wrote, “American cuisine serves as a revealing representation of the vast variety in individual tastes and backgrounds of the past and present populace. Nowhere has this rich heritage been more clearly in evidence than at the White House—at America’s First Dining Table.”

Henry Haller passed away at age 97 in November 2020, but his legacy lives on through the pages of this new edition. Keenly aware of the significance of his experience, Chef Haller carefully saved newspaper clippings, photographs, letters, and State Dinner menus and programs, documenting his White House years thus creating an extensive archive that the Haller family generously shared with the White House Historical Association for this new edition.

THE WHITE HOUSE FAMILY COOKBOOK is a historic treasury of American cooking and a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of America’s most important kitchen sprinkled with Chef Haller’s entertaining anecdotes throughout.

About the Authors

Henry Haller served as the executive chef of the White House for more than twenty years. Summoned to the White House by Lady Bird Johnson, Chef Haller supervised the kitchen operation there for five administrations. Trained in his home country of Switzerland, Chef Haller had moved to Quebec, then New York, working his way up through a series of exclusive hotels until chosen to direct the most important kitchen in America. He also devoted the time required to raise a family of four in Potomac, Maryland, with his Brooklyn-born wife, Carole. An active member of multiple culinary societies including the Vatel Club, La Société Culinaire Amicale, Les Amis d’Escoffier, and the American Culinary Federation, Haller was named “Outstanding Chef of the Year” in 1985 by the Culinary Institute of America. In 1986, he was awarded the Antonin Carâme Award by the American Culinary Federation, and in 1987 the federation selected him as “Outstanding Chef in America.” He was an honorary member of Les Circles des Chefs de Cuisine of Zurich and Berne and the Order of the Golden Toque. A founding member of Les Chefs des Chefs d’Etat (the Chefs of Heads of State), he served as president in 1987. After retiring from the White House, Chef Haller remained active in his role as a spokesperson for culinary excellence. In 1997, he starred in the PBS series The Presidential Palate. That same year, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University and was inducted into the American Academy of Chefs Culinary Hall of Fame. On September 12, 2018, Chef Haller returned to the White House, where he was awarded the Tell Award from the Swiss ambassador to the United States in recognition of his “pioneering contribution as an outstanding Swiss culinary ambassador in the United States while serving as the White House executive chef for more than two decades.” Henry Haller passed away at age 97 in November 2020.

Virginia Aronson is the executive director of Food and Nutrition Resources Foundation, a nonprofit that supports organizations and communities working to feed the hungry, educate about good nutrition, protect farm animals and food workers, and improve our agricultural system. The author of numerous books since 1987, she still regards The White House Family Cookbook as her favorite project.

Alex Prud’homme is a freelance writer and the grandnephew of Paul Child. He co-authored Julia Child’s Memoir, My Life in France. His forthcoming narrative history presidential food The First Kitchen: A Culinary History of the White House, traces the central role food has played in American political history, beginning with George Washington. The First Kitchen was inspired by Julia’s televised visits to State Dinners in 1967 (with President Johnson), and 1976 (with President Ford during the bicentennial). It will be published by Knopf.

P.D.F. Resources

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About the White House Historical Association

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. She sought to inspire Americans, especially children, to explore and engage with American history and its presidents. In 1961, the nonprofit, nonpartisan White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion’s legacy for generations to come. Supported entirely by private resources, the Association’s mission is to assist in the preservation of the state and public rooms, fund acquisitions for the White House permanent collection, and educate the public on the history of the White House. Since its founding, the Association has given more than $50 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission.

To learn more about the White House Historical Association, please visit WhiteHouseHistory.org.

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