Roland Mesnier, Mark Ramsdell & Chuck Fischer: 2016 National Book Festival

>> From the Library of
Congress in Washington DC. >> Bonnie Benwick: So, Chuck Fischer
is here in the lovely design tie, which I thought he designed
himself but he says not. He's a New York designer and
painter with about 10 previous books to his credit, many
of them pop-up books. You can find his work in the Cooper
Hewitt national design museum. He's designed China and
crystal patterns for Lenox. And what I really like about your
2015 White House pop-up book is that it's got individual hanging
chandeliers when opened up, it's really fascinating to me. Mark Ramsdell, here at my far
right, has been a pastry chef and instructor for
more than 30 years and he was an assistant pastry chef at the White House during
the Clinton and Bush years. He was a student of Chef
Mesnier's he meet him in 1980 at L'Academie de Cuisine, which is
our premier professional culinary academy here in the DC area. And he later became head of that school's pastry
chef program himself. So, he's been collaborating
basically, he says carrying Chef Mesnier's
things around for many, many years. He lives in Bethesda
and he recently, I think they both collaborated
on, if Facebook is right, the 70th wedding anniversary cake
for Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. >> Roland Mesnier: Correct. >> Bonnie Benwick:
Pretty impressive. So, save your questions about that. And then of course, Chef Mesnier
himself has been, I think, in 2004 you participated in the
festival when it was out on the mall and talked about your
"Dessert University" book, which at that time, I guess, you had
put together while you were working in the White House
in his spare time. Let's see, he's won 18 gold
medals, 4 silver and 3 bronze for his pastry creations in
competitions around the world. He's a member of the
Académie Culinaire De France and the French Legion of Honor,
which she earned in 2005. He's inducted– He was inducted
that same year into the chocolate and pastry hall of fame, like great. I didn't even know
there was such a thing and it makes me happy
to know there is. He was awarded the
doctorate of culinary arts from their prestigious Johnson and
Wales University in South Carolina. And this would be your seventh book? >> Roland Mesnier: Yes. >> Bonnie Benwick: So,
it kind of does it all. What's really fun is just
to listen to him speak. So, I'm going to make sure that
he has a chance to do that. And now, I'm turning it
over to Chuck Fischer. >> Chuck Fisher: Thank you. Thanks Bonnie. It's great to be here at the
National Book Festival by the way, especially to share the
stage with Chef Mesnier and Ramsdell, Chef Ramsdell. And I'm going to talk a little bit– of course, I'm going to
talk about our new book. All right is this going to be on? The PowerPoint? Yeah, there we go, "The Gingerbread
White House Pop-Up Book". And– But before we get to that,
I'm going to talk a little bit about pop-up books in general. And so, my– I've done
three pop-up books with the White House as a theme. This is my first book
published by Rizzoli in 2004. And as Bonnie mentioned, this is
the book that was published in 2014, actually by Applewood press
and this is what I designed and created as a doll house. So, when you turn the book around
and you'll see in the video, that it's open like a doll
house for the state rooms and everything is historically
correct and the chandeliers,
they are hanging. And all the paintings are
there that are in the rooms and everything was vetted by
the curator at the White House. So, that is a really
fun, fun project. And there are punch out pieces
as there are in the new book. So, I thought maybe this is a video that the Smithsonian libraries
commissioned and this is about how pop-up books are made. This was for the exhibit
"Fold, Pull, Pop and Turn" at the
museum of American history. There we go. An author and artist and
I design pop-up books. It's my pleasure to take part in the Smithsonian institution
libraries exhibition, paper engineering, Fold, Pull, Pop and Turn at the national
museum of American history. Pop-up books cover many subjects. Earliest known examples of books with movable date to
the 14th century. Just as with those books, modern
pop-up books are assembled by hand. From concept to printing,
it takes about 18 months to create a new pop-up book. To show you how pop-up
book is created, I'll take you through the
process of creating one of the pop-ups in my book "Angels". This book was inspired by
my fascination with angels and their images in
art and literature. I start by conducting research
at museums and libraries such as the Cooper Hewitt National
Design Museum in New York City. Based on my research, I create
an outline which includes ideas for pop-ups, an overall visual style for the book and a
draft of the text. Once the outline is complete, I present it to my
editor for approval. I hire a writer to
assist me with the text. The next step is to sketch
ideas for the pop-ups. This pop-up is based on the
story Archangel Gabriel. I collaborate with the paper– >> Roland Mesnier: Malfunction. >> Bonnie Benwick: We
love PowerPoint, don't we? [ Laughter ] Well. Should we try to wait? OK. >> Chuck Fischer: Wait a second. >> Bonnie Benwick: While waiting. >> Chuck Fischer: OK. If not, I can just talk it through. Let's just do that. Can I have my bag? I actually have some
visuals in my– Oops sorry. Thank you. Oh, here we go maybe
it'll play again. I'm Chuck Fischer, an author and
artist and I design pop-up books. It's my pleasure to take part in the Smithsonian institution
libraries exhibition, paper engineering, Fold, Pull, Pop and Turn at the national
museum of American history. Pop-up books cover many subjects. Earliest known examples of books with movable parts date
to the 14th century. Just as with those books, modern
pop-up books are assembled by hand. From concept to printing,
it takes about 18 months to create a new pop-up book. To show you how pop-up
book is created, I'll take you through the
process of creating one of the pop-ups in my book "Angel". OK. Let's just get– Let's
just do a little show and tell. So, where'd the video stop? Was it– So, I come
up with the concepts. I'm an artist and an author. So, I come up with two sketches of each spread that's
going to be on the pop-up. And then, I send these
to a paper engineer who I collaborate very close
with a number of books. I've collaborated with
a few paper engineers but primarily Bruce Foster,
who was just going to be on the video talking about
his side of the process. But anyway. So, Bruce takes my sketches
and I sketch them to look like they are three dimensional,
the way I'd like to see them pop-up. Then he figures out the engineering
and he does it all of by hand, of course, cutting paper. And then, he presents
to me a white dummy. And this is a pop-up of the
White House, the new one– For the gingerbread White House. And this is after the
little pieces– the patterns that he sends to me
been refined and so that we know that the mechanics are
working, the engineering. The thing about pop-up
books, they have to open and close, open and close. Where like Origami, it's just like you can create
something and leave it up. So, it has to be very sturdy. It has to, you know, just be able
to do that, to open and close and then this is a packet and inside
the packet we have the book that's written by Chef Mesnier
and Chef Ramsdell and we have punch out pieces. And so, once I receive this– and every piece that makes up
that pop-up has to be illustrated. And so, that's my next step. And I even happen to bring
some of my original paintings. I think, you can come back
and look at them later. But, so this is what I do. I paint two scales, sometimes
a little larger than scale and that's one side
of the White House as it is the gingerbread house. And I didn't bring all the
pieces that make up the pop-up but there's the portico flat and you
can imagine– when you see the book, how it folds and it creates the
three dimensional White House. And one of the things
that we've done with this book is we included
a lot of presidential pets. And so, I illustrated many of
the different presidential pets. Of course, the American
flag and a snowman and here are some more
pet illustrations. But anyway, when you see the
book and you read the text that talks a lot about their
interactions with the first families and their pets and it was fun to
really feature them in the book. And of course, they make
the pets and the decorations on the real gingerbread
White Houses out of marzipan and many other things
which they'll talk about. And I get to paint them. So, anyway, it's very inspirational. I learned a lot about the
gingerbread White House from their book. It's just fantastic. Beautiful illustration, a
coffee table book which they'll, of course, be talking about. Now, is the PowerPoint like–
will it go on beyond videos? Because I have some images that
are– I think will be fun to show. Well, this is about the White House
Historical Association, this slide. They're the publishers of the book. And it's just such a wonderful
organization and, you know, it's through the sale of books like
ours and of course, the Christmas– the official White House
Christmas Ornament that– and of course, private donations. They go to so many
worthy causes, you know, having to do with the beautification
and as it says, the appreciation and enjoyment of the
executive mansion. So, I've been– had
a long association with the White House
Historical Association. Actually, since my first
White House pop-up book and I created an exclusive
line of gift products on the White House neighborhood. And I've also designed
for the holiday cards. So, holidays well, I love
Christmas, I love the holidays. And three of my pop-up
books are holiday theme. This is "Christmas Around the World"
and then my best seller "Christmas in New York" and my last Christmas
book before this one is Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". So, you can– I love,
love the holidays. So, I was just thrilled
when I got a call from the White House
Historical Association about– with the idea of creating a holiday
theme book about gingerbread, the White House and
the– and a pop-up. So, you can imagine,
I said yes right away. And that's when then– we're
going to be– he came– well, I mean, I already knew Chef
Mesnier, we've done book signings in the past and Chef Ramsdell, and
I was– and I knew their books. But the book that they
wrote with their memories and all the recipes was just so–
that's where I just got inspired in how to create the art for
the gingerbread White House. This is a slide of some– I also create interactive
book apps of holidays. I'm not– That was a video so I'm
not going to even try that one. So, this is the cover
of our new book, the "Gingerbread White
House, a Pop-up Book". And it just came together in
a very short amount of time. Like I said in the video, it
usually takes 18 months for a book from conception to publication. But anyway, this year I heard from
the association and we decided that we would do everything
possible to make it happen for this Christmas season. And we're thrilled that it's come
together and we have the book. And this is– that's
actually a Christmas– paper Christmas ornament
that's in the book. And anyone who's interested, I
have also created a little black and white line drawing of that
ornament so that take home and color and if you'd like to
pick one up, I have it, when we're signing books later. And of course, here's the book that
they're going to be talking about. And this is– On the
right is the cover of the book within our pop-up book. And that's where they
share their memories and those are my illustrations of
these two very handsome gentlemen. And it's been a fun collaboration. Here's– Oh yeah, these
are the punch out. It also comes with punch
out pieces like paper dolls, there's the presidential
limousine the Christmas ornaments, some of the pets, Chef Mesnier and
you know, other little objects. So, you can interact
with the actual pop-up. And there, you can see
all the pieces on display. And, you know, the goal was just to
create holiday magic and joy and– for the entire family and so
that you could bring, you know, the beauty and the
excitement that happens at the White House every year
on a more sort of human scale. And maybe this book will become
your own holiday centerpiece. So, thank you. Yes. I'd love to show the book. So, this is the book and this
is the pop-up gingerbread house. And again, you'll see
when you look close, there's a lot of pets
surrounding the house and there's the presidential
seal and gingerbread and little santa with
the American flag. And then within here is the
booklet with the history and with the anecdotes
and with their portraits. And also, two pages
of punch out sheets. Oh there. Here we go. And they have a little stand so that
you can set them up and just play and learn about the
history of Christmas and gingerbread houses
at the White House. Thanks. [ Applause ] Oh yeah. [ Applause ] >> Roland Mesnier: Good job. >> Chuck Fischer: Thank you. >> Bonnie Benwick:
Thank you Mark– Chuck. I'm going to be doing that all
day, just to tell you right now, but I really can tell them apart. So, I feel like whoever is
sitting sort of in this line of side is going to be listening
to me more than seeing me. So, I don't usually stand
up for things like this but maybe I guess I better. I have long been fascinated
with pop-up books as I said. But really, that process of making
it come together with collaborators because it was just more than the
design of course, it's the story that you had to tell about
working in the White House, about cooking there, about creating
these incredible masterpieces year after year based on
input from who's living at 1600 Pennsylvania
Avenue at that time. So, how do you– Let's start
off, Chef Mesnier, with you. The differences in sort of
winnowing down this very, very complete with recipes and
how-to's down to pop-up book size. I mean, where do you start? >> Roland Mesnier: Well, it all–
This is all with your mind if, you know, your mind is
very powerful as you know. >> Bonnie Benwick: Yours is. >> Roland Mesnier: And
before you create anything, it better appeared in your head. That's the first thing. And you leave it before
you put it on paper. And the transition from making
those huge gingerbread houses to the pop-up book, first of
all, come to mind children. You're doing it for the children. So, right away your mind
goes back, for me it's easy because I'm getting old, to go
back when I was five years old, I do that everyday anyway. You understand that
that's really how it is. You have to play the part and feel
like one of those kids that comes to Washington for the first time and I've heard sometimes the family
talking about the White House and sometimes the pets and all that. And maybe that day,
they will be lucky, one of the pet may be strolling
through the field of the White House and everything and
that's how you take it. And my favorite part of the
book and in the booklet is when I give a tour to the children. It's fun. I really was giving
a tour to the children. And I can dream up a lot of thing,
you know, sometimes a little crazy or sometimes a little down to earth
but you have to put it together and that's how you really do
go from those huge building to presenting something for
little kids in much smaller scale by simply changing yourself to
a grown up to a little kids. That's simple as that. >> Chuck Fischer: That's true. >> Bonnie Benwick: And chef, you've
worked with him such a long time, what's the sort of key to collaborating on
an effort like this? >> Mark Ramsdell: Well,
can I talk just about gingerbread houses in general? >> Bonnie Benwick: Absolutely. >> Mark Ramsdell: OK. In both cases, the first book that
we did, we wanted to do a book about large gingerbread
house construction. You've seen the ones at the White
House, you might have seen the ones that we did at Mt. Vernon. They all weighed 300 to 500 pounds. Very, very large and we wanted
to bring it then to the book such that you could
actually do it yourself. So the first book we used
the vehicle of the history of the White House
gingerbread houses, is that. And then in the second
one, as chef said, through the eyes of children, right. But the thing that I wanted
to say is that in both books, we made sure because we think
it so important and so much fun to provide enough material
for how one would go about preparing the
gingerbread house. We have a couple of basic
things that we live by. It doesn't matter how large
it is or how small it is, the principles are the same and the first principle is every
single thing must be edible. No TV– wood, PVC pipes,
no chicken wire, no glue. Everything has to be edible. So, the book includes a very
good recipe for gingerbread. And if we're working with a
500 pound White House model or if I'm working with children
in school, it's always the same. The concept we're–
we make gingerbread. We're basically making the wood. We could talk for a long time but I'll just give you a
couple little simple things. We start with sheets of gingerbread
just like sheets of wood. But gingerbread has
a lot of sugar on it. So, if you make your
gingerbread nice and flat and dry, even if it's dry and hard
on a day like today, humid, the sugar is hygroscopic, it's going
to start to absorb the moisture and sooner or later, the gingerbread
is going to become soft again. So, we take all of our gingerbread
sheets and we put a thin layer of tampered chocolate on the back. Tampering is not a mystery
anymore, it's in the books. And that stiffens the gingerbread such that it could be raining
outside and it has, several times, open the door, it's raining. People come in and
splashing their feet around. And we also use tampered chocolate
to glue the building together. All of the books you see use
royal icing or white icing but white icing dries out
and becomes very brittle and then everything falls apart. The other part of the book,
and then I'll stop talking, is that as pastry chefs, we
have sort of tools available to us, Chuck mentioned it. We have marzipan and we have
royal icing and we have chocolate and we have rolled fondant
and so forth and so on. So, that's where the concept
either at chef's size, the whole White House,
or with a child. You simply say, let your mind
go and then when your mind goes, take a look at Chuck's
pop-up books, my god. Then, you take a look at your
marzipan and your chocolate and your royal and
you say, "What fits? What can I make out of what things?" You make your production
plan and three months later, you're putting it together. All edible. >> Bonnie Benwick: All right. So, I'm leaping way, way
ahead here, but I bet somebody in this room wants
to know what happens to those great gingerbread
houses that you made every year. Where do they go? Did people in the kitchen
get to break them down and eat them for family meal? >> Mark Ramsdell: The mice. >> Bonnie Benwick: Mice? [ Laughter ] >> Mark Ramsdell: Where
do they go chef? >> Roland Mesnier: Well, I
decided– when I started to do– let's back talk a bit, you know,
the White House and gingerbread, when you got started,
you got started at the White House to a German chef. Many years ago, he did the classical
A-frame house like it was done in Germany for many years, it was
a small house, collectively small. But they were nevertheless they
were very attractive, very nice. But when I started to do that,
I want it to go much larger. I wanted to change many, many thing. And that was the first question
the first year when I took it over. They said, "What you're going to
do with that after Christmas?" Well, when I came to the house
and then I did just that on top of the roof and I saw how much
dust we had collected, I said, "No one is going to eat that
house over my dead body." >> Bonnie Benwick: So– >> Roland Mesnier: It will
go right down the trash. >> Bonnie Benwick:
It's up for how long? It sounds like– >> Roland Mesnier: One month. >> Bonnie Benwick: — a month. >> Roland Mesnier: One month. >> Bonnie Benwick: Yeah. >> Roland Mesnier: And remember,
you have thousand and thousand of people going to those dining
room, you know, some sneeze, some do who knows what,
what they do, you know. You know by the way, did you
know the newest story now in California they invented
a whistle for the cow when they past wind,
you can listen to that. I'm not kidding you. This is your government at work. So, I came up with a bright
idea maybe we do the same thing at the White House when
everybody goes through the line, we'll just give them a little
whistle, you know, psst, psst, psst. And then, we'll know who passes gas into the dining room,
that's a side story. But it's true, what I
told you is the fact. Check it out. Governor Brown signed
the bill by the way, OK. It's not a joke. But that's where we
are now and, you know, there's no other problem,
I guess, to tackle. We tackle the wind that the cow
are passing in the field, OK. Very good, very good. Now, the thing that– I will
come back to reality now. The gingerbread book has a lot of
new technique in it that you need to check out like we came up
with a gingerbread veneer. Like let's say, if you have to do
like a tower something that curve, it's very difficult to bake
without cracking or anything a piece of gingerbread that will
be just perfect looking like a tower or rounded area. So I– >> Bonnie Benwick: You're
talking about this book, chef? >> Roland Mesnier: Yes. >> Bonnie Benwick: Yeah. >> Roland Mesnier: I really was– This is the year I did
the huge castle during the Clinton administration. There were several tower and
I really said, you know what, those towers how are we
going to make them really, really looking like a tower? Very nice and round and
I tide several technique and I couldn't do it at all. So then I realize, I said, you know,
"If I get a piece of gingerbread– " kindly find me the
goddamn tower will you? >> Bonnie Benwick: OK. >> Roland Mesnier: Thank you. So, I don't have much patience. Patience doesn't come
in big supply for me. The– So, I realize that if I would
bake the gingerbread particularly fully but not drying it and then after with a bandsaw cutting some
very thin pieces then you can bend them anyway you want and let them
dry and then paint your chocolate in the back and there you have. Again, you haven't cheated,
it's still good food all over, it's still nice and
it look beautifully. Oh, thank you very much. >> Bonnie Benwick: Your welcome. >> Roland Mesnier:
Thank for your help. No. That's not a tower. That's the Washington
Monument you're giving me. [ Laughter ] So, just to say, so
that really came up. And then, remember, the White
House those balcony, you know, the half round of the balcony. That was another thing
that was fairly difficult to make it look just perfect. And that veneer really,
was the answer to that by using the gingerbread while it's
still plywood, was cut to a band– you need a bandsaw for that. You need a bandsaw. And– Sorry, I can't
get up because I'm tied up to the seat here, you know. Thank you. Thank you. So, there you go. This was the castle that we did
at the White House this year. And you can see several
towers, round towers. And that's how we made those towers
by using the gingerbread veneers. OK. So, there it is in this book. And there are other thing in
the book that was really a first that we applied this year
for that gingerbread book. >> Bonnie Benwick: And when
you two were working together, did somebody do all the royal
icing and somebody does the baking? Or how do you sort of break up the– >> Roland Mesnier: Whoever has time. Somebody need a job,
some has the time. OK, that is the next step,
that's what we're going to do. And whatever we don't care
who has time for what, right? We don't– >> Mark Ramsdell: That is when it's
crunch time, there was a hint– >> Bonnie Benwick:
Crunch time, I like that. Crunch time, good. >> Mark Ramsdell: And
the right place and– >> Roland Mesnier: You
know, he's just– we've– >> Bonnie Benwick: Are you making
them in your own home kitchens when you have to do them for events? >> Mark Ramsdell: We usually will
go to a larger over to be able to– because 300 pounds of gingerbread
is many full size sheets of gingerbread. The thing I wanted to say chef,
about ideas and so, but instead of– we said that there's no word
or whatever or whatever. Go to the inside of the houses,
the structural elements are just like in this building
but they're gingerbread. So, for example, if we need
an I-beam for strength, we make it out of gingerbread. And just like plywood is strong by
gluing thin layers of wood together, we do it with gingerbread. And that's how we do it. >> Roland Mesnier: Yes. >> Bonnie Benwick: And Chuck,
are you working from photos? Have you gotten to see this– does it help for you to
see anything in person? And for their likenesses too, do
they sit for you for the book? >> Chuck Fischer: Well,
they didn't sit for me but I had some wonderful
photographs. And of course I know them. So– >> Bonnie Benwick: They look– >> Chuck Fischer: And the last time
we were together, we actually– we had a picture taken
and that was very helpful. And so, that's how I
came up with their– painting their portraits
for the cover of the book. >> Bonnie Benwick: And you're
working in sort of what size? >> Chuck Fischer: I'm working
sort of same scale as the book. Very, very fine work. Very, you know, thin, special
paintbrushes, and my medium is– I mix acrylic with
latex paint actually. And that gets– I can– that
way, I can get an opaque look or I can also have it very
washed in water color. There's of course a lot of strong
color in this because it is, you know, it's decorated with
candies and it is a holiday. So, you know, I got to work with– as oppose to some of my more
traditional architectural paintings and some other work,
this was really fun because it was really
bright and strong. And like both chefs said, it's
just looking at all the photographs of gingerbread houses, they've
created other gingerbread houses and then just being very familiar
with Christmas candies and so, you know, I just used
my imagination. And I didn't copy one of
their houses, you know, we created a new one
just for the book. Yeah. With elements, yeah, coming
from all of their past designs. >> Bonnie Benwick: Mark, did you
have something you wanted to add? >> Mark Ramsdell: You know, the
thing that just crosses my mind is that I suspect that most of you have
done something with gingerbread, but it's the concept that Chuck has
talked about chef has talked about. If you haven't done a
gingerbread house with a child, do it, and don't control it. I do a lot of gingerbread houses
with schools, first graders, second graders, kindergartners. They have fully functioning
minds and I go in ahead of time because we know we're going
to make a gingerbread house but I don't tell them what it is. And I simply say, "What
are we going to do?" Huddle. Talk, talk, talk, talk,
talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. So, out of the blue, two years
ago, it's going to be a castle. Now, I don't know what Disney
movie they were watching, I don't know what book they
were reading, but, you know, when they said castle,
you know what I said. "What's a castle look like?" Up to the board, pens, you
know, whatever, whatever. And then, gives you chance to
take it back, see if it'll come out in gingerbread, see if
it'll come out in marzipan. Back to them, help them put it
together, they have great ownership in it and they really
love what they produced. >> Bonnie Benwick: So,
I guess you're not a fan of those kits that
are everywhere now? I mean, even for Halloween,
it's gotten really big, the whole gingerbread house
thing to put them together. >> Mark Ramsdell: You know, I
mean, they don't come decorate it, you got to figure out what
you're going to do with them. So, it's a start. >> Bonnie Benwick: And– >> Roland Mesnier: Those
kits are great by the way. >> Mark Ramsdell: Yeah. >> Roland Mesnier: I use
it as a house for my cat. [ Laughter ] >> Bonnie Benwick: So,
cats eat gingerbread? >> Roland Mesnier: They do. They do. There's a picture of Socks
here on the book eating the real– the big gingerbread house. >> Bonnie Benwick: I remember Socks. >> Roland Mesnier: Yes. He's in the book, there's
a picture there. Yes. >> Bonnie Benwick: In addition
to the recipe for gingerbread, you can make a couple big
sheets and they really worked it down to a very simple equation. There's a couple of holiday
cut-out cookies and those snowballs, you know, they're called lots of different things
in different cuisines. I love them. They've got nuts and nut flour
in them and they're covered in, you know, powdered sugar. That those are also
recipes that you can find in this booklet within
the pop-up book. And they'll be singing
them at 2:30 in line 2. I forgot to mention that earlier,
so knock that out of the way. >> Chuck Fischer: Hey, Bonnie. I forgot to mention. >> Bonnie Benwick: Yeah. >> Chuck Fischer: With– In the
book, we also have a scratch and sniff gingerbread pad. >> Bonnie Benwick: That's great. Scratch and sniff. >> Chuck Fischer: So,
very excited about that. So, you get, you know, you can really immerse
yourself, all your senses. >> Bonnie Benwick: Yeah. Much better than those perfume
samples they're used to, so. >> Chuck Fischer: Yes. >> Bonnie Benwick:
I think pretty soon, we're going to open
it up to questions. So, if you want to
line up, don't be shy. In the mean time, in terms of people
getting started doing their own at home, you've got the
masters, the experts right here. So, what would be like the key
thing you would tell people to do it at home? >> Roland Mesnier: Well, start
with a small project, first of all. >> Bonnie Benwick: Should they sort of do a small one before they
work up to the holiday thing? >> Roland Mesnier: Yeah. Definitely. Small project and don't
be too ambitious, OK. I know people, they see a picture,
oh, that would be beautiful. Let's do it. No, slow down there, you know. >> Mark Ramsdell: You don't
have to do a whole house. >> Roland Mesnier: Yeah. >> Mark Ramsdell: You
can do a facade. >> Roland Mesnier: Yeah. >> Mark Ramsdell: You can
do a shadow box, you know. >> Roland Mesnier: Start with that
and then you can grow every year. It's fun to– every Christmas
time to improve your design from the year before
and brining new thing, new twist into the
house and all that. That's very exciting. I mean, bringing the children into
that process is really fantastic. It's the best thing you can
do with the family, you know. >> Bonnie Benwick: I would
imagine you guys have both judged gingerbread competition,
what's the sort of craziest thing you've
seen made out of gingerbread? >> Roland Mesnier:
Well, those competition, a lot of the time include
too many fake stuff in it. And for me to be a judge of
that, it's very difficult because that's not
the way I do thing. I don't care what it is I do. I like to have real food. Use real food, you know. And when somebody bring in
something made out of gingerbread with pearl hanging out and stuff. I say, "No, wait a minute. Get those pearl out of here. OK. We don't want that. We don't want– ." If you're going to make
pearl, make them out of sugar. That's it. >> Bonnie Benwick: OK. >> Roland Mesnier: It
may be very complicated, that sound very difficult. But actually, we are food people. You want to make out a pearl, then
get into that kind of business, which is another line of work here. >> Bonnie Benwick: OK. >> Hi. I don't– I guess it's on. A question for either chef,
when you're baking gingerbread for the gingerbread
house or anything, do you ever have flops and–
or even making pastries for– when you're doing pastries for the White House dinners you
have flops and what happens? >> Mark Ramsdell: You
always have flops. You always have flops. I taught for several years,
chef taught for several years. In the avocational side of a
pastry, it was very interesting, people were drawn to taking classes because of the implied
precision of pastry. Pastry recipes are very detailed
in terms of a quarter of teaspoon of this and seven minutes of
that and so forth and so on. That's not the way the world works. Chickens don't lay
the same size eggs, and I don't care who's
oven you have, it bakes differently, you know. So, you just have to sort of– with
us, you just sort of have to figure out how your oven is baking that day or just make adjustments
and work with it. Yes. >> Roland Mesnier:
Well, I never had flops. >> Mark Ramsdell: Of course not. >> Roland Mesnier: I've
been trying for 50 years and it's a curse ladies
and gentlemen. I just can't. >> Mark Ramsdell: No, but
he's renamed a lot of things. >> Roland Mesnier:
It's just a curse. >> Mark Ramsdell: That
wasn't soufflé, it's– >> Roland Mesnier: But you know, my
philosophy on that is very simple. And you should try it, it works. Don't try it with children
when they're all around you but it does work. When you want to bake a cake or
something, I know you're going to be nervous, very nervous. You– What you do, you get yourself
the best bottle of wine you have in the house and you open
it and you have a glass. And then you do your baking. And then, if all else fail,
you finish the bottle. After a bottle of wine,
everything looks good. Even your spouse start to look good. So, do it, it works. Trust me, it works. >> Mark Ramsdell: And
you get a bourbon. >> Bonnie Benwick: Go ahead. >> When you're working for a
young first family, the Obamas or the Clintons maybe,
do you create an edible or a decorative smaller gingerbread
house for the private quarters? And second question, do any of the
children, the Obama girls, Chelsea, ever worked with you in the kitchen or observe you making the
gingerbread house or anybody in the first family help
you, Michelle maybe? >> Roland Mesnier: Yes. Well, yeah, may occasion,
that's how it's done. Depending on the age
of the children. I remember for Amy Carter,
we always did a second house that she would have in her bedroom
just for herself and all that. She loved that. But then, some of the
children, when I was there, who were past their age,
so, we didn't do it. OK. Children from the
family, like Chelsea, you mentioned Chelsea Clinton, she
was just in her age getting ready to go to college, you know,
university and everything and she did come to the
pastry shop to learn how to bake and make some dessert. She brought even a
couple friend with her. And she was a lot of fun. As a matter of fact, I was really
amazed to see how much she knew because there were some finished
product on the table and stuff, and she called them all by
name and knew what they were and knew what they were made of. And I said, "Wow," you know, I was
very impressed for a young girl that age that she would
know that much. And a lot of them, at french
term, like frangipane and brioche and how many young people really
know that in this country, you know, unless you've been really affiliated
with some baking or doing something. >> So maybe Hilary
was baking cookies? [ Laughter ] Maybe. >> Roland Mesnier:
Maybe, I will never tell. >> OK. Thank you. >> Roland Mesnier: But the– We always wanted also
Chelsea to do the dessert for the family that night. It will be a pie or
something fairly simple and something she can use
while she will be in college. And that night, she could
will out whatever she did and tell her parents and whoever was
there at the time, grandma, grandpa and then say, "Listen, I did that
for your dinner tonight," you know, and she was very proud of that. >> That's really nice. Thank you. >> Bonnie Benwick: OK. >> Chef Mesnier, I
loved your memoir. And my question is, what
did the Carters have as their 70th anniversary cake? >> Roland Mesnier: The– Yeah. That was– Chef Mark
was part of that too. The reason I wanted to
get involved with that– first of all, they
called me for that. And I was very excited but I
said, you know, "I need to see if Mark is going to be part of it," because those project can be
very consuming and, you know. And I'm not– I've been in the
kitchen for 60 something years. So, you get the rest of
the story and I'm kind of getting tired a little
bit sooner than I use to. So, I need all the help I can get. And then, so, we decided on making
a carrot cake because that was one of their famous cake and Mark
has a fabulous recipe for that with a nice– a very good icing. What was the icing Mark? Remember? That was the
cream cheese and butter– light butter cream,
Italian butter cream. And then we– The decoration of the cake was a miniature
white chocolate– White House chocolate house because there'd be another
White House of course. And then, all the other decoration around the cake was
the flower from– >> Mark Ramsdell: Magnolia. >> Roland Mesnier: Magnolia made
of gum paste, magnolia flower which [inaudible] and all that. And then, a nice little plaque, happy 70th anniversary
President and Mrs. Carter. And a very, very– We're
very touched that we came to their function for that. That was in Annapolis. And they– I was amazed to see,
also, how fantastic they were. I mean– >> Mark Ramsdell: 90 years
old, first on the dance floor. >> Roland Mesnier: First
on the dance floor. And you know, 10 good minutes. I said, "You know,
that's an inspiration, there's no doubt," you know. So, it was a beautiful event, very,
very nice and we were very glad and proud to be part of it. >> Bonnie Benwick: That's great. >> Mark Ramsdell: Very nice people. >> Bonnie Benwick: Anybody else? I know we're coming up against the
end here, but, you know, it's funny. Speaking of the dessert thing
and the White House, chef, I had to ask you, from the previous
book, you had said something like, in Washington you had never
encountered so many people who would pass up a slice of
chocolate cake or crème brulee. They were interested in
low fat, low whatever, you know, has that changed? >> Roland Mesnier: You
know, this is the– the calorie thing in dessert
is a soul subject sometimes. And it's a subject that people– you know, I have a hard time
telling people that, yes, there are some low calorie dessert
that are still done with butter and cream and all that stuff. People have a problem
understanding that. And I'm going to explain that
and if someone don't understand, they can go get my book "Dessert
University", it tells you all about the low calorie
dessert in this book. You can eat dessert everyday. I mean, look, remember Mrs. Regan? Remember when she came
to the White House? How slim she was? When she went back home,
she was just as slim. Mrs. Regan was one of the first
lady that never skip dessert. OK. Never, ever, ever. >> Bonnie Benwick: Let's
hear it for dessert. >> Roland Mesnier: But, but, there was a certain style
of dessert I gave her. I understand very quickly
what she wanted. She wanted dessert to be very
tiny first of all, a couple spoon. She wanted them extremely pretty. Mrs. Regan hated what
she called gray food. If you gave her a plate
where everything looked gray and dark, get that out of here. She wanted happy dessert. But whatever was on the
plate better be food. And don't use fresh
flower please, not for her. OK. Fresh flower, she would
say, belong in the vase in the middle of the table. And she was right. She was right. If the pastry chef cannot
make his own decoration, then he has no business
being a pasty chef. That's my– That's what
I'm saying here, OK. Do you understand where
I'm coming from here? Everything– And I can show you at
home, I have thousands of picture that never been published. Thousands of picture of luncheon for
Mrs. Regan, luncheon for Mrs. Bush, this and that for ladies and so on. And you can see what I served
them to the length I want to trade decoration for them, but
all made out whatever pastry, OK. So, she wanted that,
that was her dessert. Couple little spoon, very
tasty, very colorful. And if he didn't like it– you
heard about it, let me tell you. Because Mrs. Regan was a little bit
like me, she spoke her own mind. So, we went along very well
by the way because of that. But yes, you can have
low calorie dessert. Dessert that are good for you. Now, what most people have a
problem understanding is not what's in the recipe that count,
it's how you work with it. I will give you a simple example. You all know about vanilla sauce
or custard sauce, you know, that sauce that you get
with dessert sometimes. Now, that sauce, first of all, when
you get it should be nice and thick. Not because you put cornstarch
in it, not because you put butter in it, not because you
put heavy cream in it, because of the technique
that you use to do it. I can make you a vanilla sauce
using [inaudible] and milk and that sauce will
look like it was made with whipped cream,
with heavy cream. This is the technique I use. That's what most people do
not understand still today. Everybody think that it has to
be this and that, cornstarch. No, no, no, no, no, no. This thing don't exist. I don't use stuff like that. And you can look through the
book, you get all the explanation. And this is a good subject to
talk about because everybody wants to loose weight but still
want to enjoy a great dessert. And there's no reason
why you cannot do that. >> Bonnie Benwick: Chef Mark, you
had something you want to add? >> Mark Ramsdell: No, I– No,
I was fascinated with his– [ Laughter ] >> Bonnie Benwick: You're
a good foil, I would say. All right. We've got to warp it up. Thank you very much Chuck Fischer,
Chefs Mesnier and Ramsdell. [ Applause ] And thank you very much audience. Thanks for coming. Enjoy the rest of the day. Be sure and get the book. It's really kind of–
it's amazing to see. >> This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at

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