One of nine children, Roland Mesnier grew up in the tiny village of Bonnay, France, population 140. He began his career in the kitchen at age 14 as an apprentice. From there, he worked in many different kitchens throughout Europe and eventually found himself in Bermuda, where he met his wife Martha. After nine years in Bermuda, Chef Mesnier made his way to the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia.
In 1979, First Lady Rosalynn Carter hired Chef Mesnier and he became the sole pastry chef, which allowed him to mold and shape the pastry kitchen into his own. “This is when I realized why I became a pastry chef in the first place. Because I totally enjoy, even today after 48 years in the kitchen, to create anything from a simple cookie to a pie to a wedding cake to a beautiful showpiece which you have seen on television for Christmas,” Mesnier said.
As executive pastry chef at the White House for 25 years, Roland Mesnier was responsible for creating thousands of elegant, delicious and dazzling desserts for presidents and their families, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He insisted all desserts made in the White House would come only from the White House, causing him to work endless hours. Mesnier recalls making 1500 cookies without any assistance and another time creating a half ton of fruitcake by himself. He prepared hundreds of desserts for State Dinners over the years—never once making the same dessert twice.
Chef Mesnier has a quick wit and when asked if he himself could be a pastry, what would that pastry be, Mesnier responded, “I would like to be a big, fat doughnut.”
An accomplished culinary instructor as well as a master chef, Mesnier now shares his expertise with home chefs in his first book, Dessert University. The book is a dazzling array of desserts served for presidents, first families, kings, queens and heads of state from around the world, all of which are surprisingly easy and light.
Mesnier developed the first professional pastry program in the Washington, D.C., area, at L’Académie de Cuisine, in Bethesda, Maryland. He is also the honorary president of the World Cup of Pastry, and every year L’Académie de Cuisine awards a scholarship in his name.