Without a doubt one of the largest attractions each holiday season at the White House is the annual gingerbread house. Of course there had been gingerbread houses at the White House before the term of First Lady Patricia Nixon, but it was Pat Nixon along with Pastry Chef Hans Raffert (who later became Executive White House Chef) who made these tantalizing treats an annual White House tradition. Chef Raffert’s Gingerbread Houses were a precious A-framed house that in later years began to add some special touches to reflect the current first family (i.e. jelly beans for President Reagan’s- his favorite candy, or including things such as the First Pet). They became so popular that during White House tours it actually became necessary to post a marine guard beside them to stop the quick hand (or teeth) of a child from grabbing a piece.
It was First Lady Barbara Bush however that ensured the tradition continued. Following the retirement of Chef Raffert she was able to convince Executive White House Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier to make this most loved tradition. (He was reluctant at first as he was such a good friend of Chef Raffert’s and he knew it was one of his favorite projects). And made them he did- they were no longer the traditional A-framed house, but instead for his first Gingerbread house to be displayed in the State Dining Room was an actual snow village (and it even included a miniature version of First Lady Barbara Bush herself). They continued to grow each year in both size and in spectacular detail. It was during the term of First Lady Laura Bush that each year she requested that the gingerbread house actually represent the White House building or a structure in it’s architecture (something that still continues today).
Following the retirement of Chef Mesnier, current White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses continues to make the gingerbread house, a white chocolate house (covering the Gingerbread house entirely in white chocolate) making them the heaviest to date. For the next several days we are going to visit some of these fabulous treats of the past!