By Jueseppi B.
Obamafoodorama, the publication of record when it comes to the White House and food and food policy, has an in-depth article on Yosses and a picture spread of some of the pastry wonders he’s whipped up these past years.
Obamafoodorama editor and founder Eddie Gehman Kohan writes, “Yosses is the first kitchen principle to depart during the Obamas’ tenure. The White House pastry shop is equal parts high-volume bakery–some 25,000 cookies were baked just for last year’s Christmas holiday season, Yosses said, with dough-making beginning in July–as well as ground zero for fine sugar art. It is an exhausting if exhilarating place to work.”
By EDDIE GEHMAN KOHAN, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE EDITOR
“Incredibly sad” but “grateful” First Lady praises Yosses’ “delectable” creations and salutes his work as an ambassador for the Let’s Move! campaign…
Washington, DC - President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be losing their top sweet-maker this June when Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses steps down from his post. Mrs. Obama is “incredibly sad” about the departure, she said in a statement saluting the man who has led the White House pastry shop for seven years, and who has been an activist member of her Let’s Move! team.
Classically trained in France and the US, Yosses was one of America’s most acclaimed pastry chefs when he was appointed in 2007 by former First Lady Laura Bush.
Yosses’ skills are so admired by the pie-obsessed President–who prefers pie as his dessert for every holiday, including his birthdays–that Mr. Obama nicknamed Yosses “the Crustmaster” shortly after moving into the White House. The presidential Thanksgiving annually ends with a pie fest, with last year’s menu featuring a whopping nine different kinds of pie, from pumpkin to huckleberry to chocolate cream.
But the talents of Yosses, 60, encompass a wide sweep beyond pie, and he has transformed his historic White House role thanks to working with Mrs. Obama on the Let’s Move! campaign. Yosses has been a major force in the First Lady’s South Lawn Kitchen Garden, leading the weekly crew of volunteer weeders, taking school children on tours through the crop rows, and serving as an “assistant” bee keeper for the presidential hive.
Yosses has also taught healthy cooking to children during garden-side events and school visits, and he has lectured regularly on molecular gastronomy–food science–at Harvard University and at events in the US and abroad since Mr. Obama took office.
“Though I am incredibly sad to see Bill Yosses go, I am also so grateful to him for his outstanding work, not just as the White House pastry chef producing the most delectable creations for everything from birthday celebrations to state visits, but also as a key partner helping us get the White House Kitchen Garden off the ground and building a healthier future for our next generation,” Mrs. Obama said in a statement.
Yosses is leaving the White House in part to pursue his interest in food science and teaching nutrition, he told The New York Times in an interview published on Tuesday, though he revealed no firm plans. He will be moving to New York, and envisions creating a project that will include “a group and foundation of like-minded creative people” for promoting healthy food as delicious food, Yosses said.
“It’s a bittersweet decision,” Yosses said, noting that it is also being driven by personal concerns.
A native of Ohio, Yosses is openly gay, and in April of 2011 married his longtime partner Charlie Jandusay Fabella, Jr., a special education teacher, shortly after same-sex marriage became legal in the District. They have never lived in the same city, Yosses said, citing this as another reason he is leaving the White House.
“For the 11 years my husband and I have known each other, we have lived in different cities,” Yosses said.
“I wish Bill and his husband Charlie all the best their future endeavors,” Mrs. Obama said.
Yosses is the first kitchen principle to depart during the Obamas’ tenure. The White House pastry shop is equal parts high-volume bakery–some 25,000 cookies were baked just for last year’s Christmas holiday season, Yosses said, with dough-making beginning in July–as well as ground zero for fine sugar art. It is an exhausting if exhilarating place to work.
Yosses will leave an indelible stamp: Thanks to Mrs. Obama’s influence, he has transformed the practices of the pastry shop after arriving on the heels of the quarter-century-plus reign of Roland Mesnier, who had a decidedly butter-laden European aesthetic.
In keeping with Mrs. Obama’s mandate, Yosses has focused on using seasonal ingredients and items grown in the Kitchen Garden in his pastry, and has worked to offer desserts that are “healthier” without becoming “spa-like,” he has said. He has swapped honey and agave as sweeteners instead of white sugar, and has experimented with various heirloom whole grain when he can. But he still uses traditional ingredients.
“I don’t want to demonize cream, butter, sugar and eggs,” Yosses told the Times, something he has said before.
Indeed, the crust for his White House Apple Pie recipe–just one of the President’s favorites–uses both butter and lard. Check the site sidebar for all of Yosses’ White House recipes.
Yosses has overseen the desserts for seven State Dinners for the Obamas, and his elaborate sweets menu for last month’s State Dinner honoring President François Hollande of France is representative of the First Lady’s aesthetic for the most important diplomatic social event any President hosts. Each State Dinner has spotlighted American food traditions, using ingredients from the Kitchen Garden and the outputs of smaller and family farmers.
Yosses’s main dessert, a Hawaiian Chocolate-Malted Ganache cake, combined bittersweet chocolate from Hawaii, tangerines grown in Florida, and was served à la mode with vanilla ice cream from Pennsylvania. It was accompanied by a spun-sugar bowl of Petits Fours that were presented to each table during the dessert course.
These paid homage to American carnival foods, as well as more high-cuisine treats, and includedcotton candy dusted with orange zest, Vermont maple fudge, little chocolates, coconut macaroons, and short bread cookies made with lavender grown in Mrs. Obama’s garden. There were also handmade spun sugar flowers–a red rose and a purple iris, the national flowers of America and France, nestled in each presentation bowl, which was itself made of edible sugar.
Yosses leaves behind another legacy: His incredible annual holiday Gingerbread White Houses were unlike any of the cookie mansions previously created during the years of the tradition, which began during the Nixon Administration. The centerpiece of the holiday festivities, Yosses’ five very elaborate, architecturally accurate and stunning constructions for the Obamas were all masterpieces of food art, with the first three covered in white chocolate and the final two made of unique doughs that Yosses created for the purpose.
Based on the actual plans from White House architect James Hoban, each took weeks to make, and variously included marzipan replicas of the First Dogs as well as Mrs. Obama’s garden.
The 2013 Gingerbread White House was the biggest yet, thanks to sitting atop a life-size replica of President Roosevelt’s White House fireplace, which featured gingerbread bricks and and more than 1,200 Springerle cookies as decorative elements. The flat, molded anise-flavored cookie is a holiday tradition among Pennsylvania German immigrants. The fireplace also had sugar cookie replicas of the real tiles commissioned by Roosevelt.
Last year, Yosses was honored by the James Beard Foundation as a 2013 inductee to the ‘Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America’ list, which salutes culinary professionals for exemplary careers. He is the author of two cookbooks.
One of the books made history during his presidential tenure: Yosses was the first White House chef to publish a non-White House cookbook while on staff when his critically acclaimed The Perfect Finish: Special Desserts for Every Occasion was issued in 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company. The extraordinary volume includes 50 of Yosses’ favorite recipes from his massive repertoire, as well as excellent tips on baking.
Yosses is also the co-author of Desserts for Dummies, published before he joined the White House. His recipes are also included in Mrs. Obama’s 2012 garden memoir American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America.
No replacement named, but Susie Morrison is in the running…
Yosses’ kitchen clogs will be tough to fill, and the White House has not yet named a replacement, according to an East Wing spokesman. But a White House source told Obama Foodorama thatAssistant Pastry Chef Susie Morrison is being considered for the post.
A 16-year veteran of the pastry shop, Morrison has been Yosses’ second-in-command, and is of course extraordinarily talented. Yosses has been “grooming” Morrison to take over, said the source.
Promoting from within White House ranks is not necessarily a guarantee, but if Morrison is named sugar master, it would make her the first female Executive Pastry Chef in White House history.
Executive Chef Cris Comerford was promoted to her post by Mrs. Bush after joining the White House staff in 1995 as a sous chef. Comerford is the first woman in history and the first minority to be named Top Toque.
Yosses’ Steamed Lemon Pudding, above, was served as the dessert for the State Dinner honoring Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom. It is just one example of his many desserts and the recipe is here. Check the site sidebar for all Yosses’ White House recipes.
Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama except for kitchen photo; that was published in “American Grown.”
2012 White House Easter Egg Roll: Play with Your Food with Bill Yosses and Susan Morrison
Published on Apr 9, 2012
White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses and Assistant Pastry Chef Susan Morrison show kids how to prepare an easy snack that’s also healthy and delicious at the 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll.
Food Physics: Bill Yosses at TEDxManhattan
Published on Mar 9, 2013
Bill Yosses spent his early career in France at pastry meccas such as Fauchon, La Maison du Chocolat, and LeNôtre. In New York, he continued at Bouley Restaurant. In 2005 he became pastry chef at The Dressing Room Restaurant, working with chef Michel Nischan and with the actor/philanthropist, Paul Newman. Bill helped develop “The Dinner Party Project” in New York City as a part of Spoons Across America’s programming in which chefs teach kids about healthy food choices and how to prepare a dinner party for their parents.
As Pastry Chef of the White House he has been closely involved with Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move initiative with the goal of reducing childhood health problems related to diet. Working in the White House garden has been his most important inspiration to date.
In a related project, he recently helped develop a program in the Physics Department of Harvard University in conjunction with Chop Chop Magazine called Camp Chop Chop in which healthy foods and innovative exercise are used to introduce scientific concepts to 4th and 5th graders.
Bill has published two books, Desserts for Dummies 1997, and The Perfect Finish, Special Desserts for Every Occasion, 2010.