Clintons choose Greenbrier's chef for White House

March 31, 1994|By Rob Kasper | Rob Kasper,Sun Staff Writer

He is not well-known but he has a light touch with American food.

That, in a nutshell, is the reaction of the food world to the news that Walter S. Scheib III, executive chef at The Greenbrier, a resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., will be the new White House chef.

Yesterday a spokesman for first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton said the White House job had been offered to Mr. Scheib but added the appointment probably would not become official for about a week, after routine security checks are completed. Outgoing chef Pierre Chambrin, White House chef since 1990, has agreed to stay in the kitchen until the new chef arrives.

As news of Mr. Scheib's impending appointment spilled out of the White House kitchen this week, the primary reaction was surprise.

"If you asked 10 people in the food business 'Who is Walter Scheib?' most of them wouldn't know," said John Mariani, author and restaurant critic for Esquire magazine.

While common, this reaction irked Tim Ryan, vice president of theCulinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and a colleague of Mr. Scheib at the school.

"First of all, when it comes to food in America, being executive chef at The Greenbrier is no small potatoes," said Mr. Ryan.

As executive chef at the West Virginia resort, Mr. Scheib supervises three dining rooms and a large banquet service, Mr. Ryan said. "The Greenbrier is one of America's greatest properties."

Besides, said Mr. Ryan, "People may say Walter is a nobody. But now that he is going to be White House chef, he's a somebody."

Scheib, who is 39, went to high school in Bethesda. He graduated with honors from the culinary institute and was voted by his class as chef most likely to succeed. He has served as executive chef at Washington's Mayflower, Madison and Capital Hilton hotels and at the Boca Raton Resort and Club in Florida.

Mr. Scheib is also interested in nutrition.

Of the eight entrees on last night's dinner menu at The Greenbrier, three were low-fat offerings.

Mr. Ryan described Mr. Scheib's food at The Greenbrier as "American but with a slight Southern touch," adding, "that seems to be what the Clintons like."

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