You have a deep interest in White House culinary history, which is heavily influenced by French cooking. How much of that history do you incorporate into your own recipes? I was trained in France, and I do use a lot of classical French techniques — all pastry chefs do. But we also love American desserts, and that's what people expect; they're coming to the White House. So, what we like to say is that the way we cook is like American jazz: we take a classic style, and then we innovate with it. What we do with cooking is what jazz is to classical music, with a European foundation.
Do you have any guilty-pleasure reality cooking shows? Top Chef? Cupcake Wars? You know, I don't! But I like the fact that they are out there. Anything that gets people interested in food and cooking, I'm all for it. What I would love is if that interest would get translated into food knowledge — to really understanding what we are eating, what it does to our bodies, what the sources are. These days, what people really are interested in is who's growing the food and how they are growing it. So, I think it's entertaining, but on a very superficial level. I hope it brings people to understand more about food like we do here, where we are talking about food as a science.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Harvard's Science & Cooking series serves up talks from culinary wizards at 7 pm each Monday through the fall term. Here's a taste of the talent; check out the full schedule at seas.harvard.edu/cooking.
October 15 » Next up is another DC chef: Think Food Group's José Andrés, who's often credited with bringing small plates to the States.
November 5 » Boston's own Joanne Chang, founder of Flour Bakery, returns to her alma mater for her first Science & Cooking appearance.
November 26 » David Chang pauses from running his Momofuku empire to trek up from NYC.
December 3 » Molecular maestro Ferran Adrià ends the season with a bang at Science & Cooking's sole ticketed event; secure your seat at the Harvard Box Office beginning November 27.
BY THE NUMBERS
1992 | Year of Family Circle magazine's first first-lady bakeoff, won by Hillary Clinton
4, 844 | Number of votes Michelle Obama received in this month's showdown, in which her white and dark chocolate-chip cookies triumphed over Ann Romney's M&M's cookies