What It's Like To Cook at the White House
The women from Hip Chick Farms cooked for 300 White House staffers.
We already knew Hip Chick Farms was doing big things, which is why we named co-founders chef Jen Johnson and Serafina Palandech two of The Most Innovative Women in Food & Drink in 2015. Now we’re not the only ones recognizing their impressive work creating artisan, sustainable and ethically-sourced poultry products. Since we last chatted with them, their products have gone from being in 300 to 3,000 grocery stores nationwide and eager investors have poured $2.5 million into the company. Hip Chick's mission, however, has remained the same: to bring high-quality foods to busy families. And this is why the White House invited them to serve lunch to 300 staff members. We spoke to Palandech for the full scoop.
On the invitation
We had the opportunity to guest-chef at the White House, which came as a result from Jen being at the Getty’s (Chef Jen worked as the personal chef in Ann and Gordon Getty’s kitchen). She’s worked there for a very long time and had the opportunity to meet the folks from the White House at the Getty home. The people at the White House are really interested in learning and building their organic initiative.
On the hospitality
It’s super cool in the White House, of course. I don’t know what I expected, but everyone was so kind and thoughtful and generous. We actually got to meet Cris Comerford, the private chef for the Obamas, who has been there for over 21 years. She was lovely. We got to tour the Oval Office. I just got shivers. I was so moved by the whole thing. We are very big fans of our current president and just to be there in his office was incredibly moving. His steward took us around and showed us Michelle Obama’s garden, too, which was beautiful.
On the security
It’s very, very, very high-security. We were wanded, frisked and dogged like three times before we even got inside the gate. We weren’t allowed to know who the guests were. We met some folks, like the press secretary, but there is a very high level of security there. It was all White House staff. They did allow our daughter, who is six, to attend. The woman who runs the food service there took our daughter, my sister and her two children into the dining room to have lunch there with them, which was so exciting for the kids. It was very thoughtful.
On the menu
We sent over the menu and the ingredients list ahead of time. There was a whole process for getting approval for everything. They did make some changes and they knew the folks would really like the salmon burger. We requested the ingredients from the White House and everything was organic, aside from the salmon, because we requested wild salmon.
On the biggest surprise
All the chefs who work at the White House are Navy. I guess the Navy has its own culinary department, which I knew nothing about.
Organic Warm Fall Tomato Soup
Early Girl Tomatoes, Basil and Savory Croutons
Trio of Mediterranean Salads and Pita Chips
Hummus, Baba Ganoush, Carrot Salad and Pita Chips
Organic Grilled Chicken Kabobs with Couscous
Chicken Breast, Onion, Charmoula, Cous Cous, and Pistachios
Organic Beef Meatballs in Lettuce Cup with Greek Rice
Meatballs with Currants and Spices in Tzatziki and Dill Rice
Salmon Burger with Red Pepper Aioli
Salmon Burger on Brioche Bun with Red Pepper Aioli and Arugula Served with Orzo Salad
Apple & Quince Crostata
Huckleberry Sauce & Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Special Treats to take away
Mignardies: Fleur de Sel Caramels, Hazelnuts Feuilletine & Pomegranate Pate de Fruit