Before the big glitzy gala Thursday night at the White House, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will get wined and dined by a French-Canadian celebrity chef.
“Cooking for the Prime Minister of Canada, it’s the first time doing something like that,” Mendelsohn said as he prepared the final menu for the event with about 200 guests.
The 35-year-old has been in DC since 2008, he’s been asked to design dinners for dignitaries before, his gourmet diner style restaurant in the district is a favourite of the President and First Lady, who both have burgers named after them on the menu. But Mendelsohn says this opportunity holds a special place for him.
“I never get to really shout out my Canadian creds, so finally I get to, for that day, I’ll be the Canadian chef.”
His menu will prove it if there was any question.
“I’ve never really gotten to do a Canadian dinner and so I’ll use a hint of maple, and maybe it’s an obvious one for most, but the way I’m going to use it, it won’t be so obvious.”
One of the dishes, for example, will be a maple salmon candy salad.
Every item on the menu went through several levels before being approved. With the state dinner a few hours after the lunch, Mendelsohn was instructed the dishes can’t overlap, and the White House chef gets first priority on ingredients. In addition to guidance on the menu, Mendelsohn also had to do a trial run, hosting a handful of officials on Monday afternoon, to make sure the food fit the visit.
“I can’t remember the last time I did a tasting for anyone,” he joked. “People just usually trust me.”
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He’s certainly had his skills tested before, as a competitor on Top Chef in 2008 and then appearing in The Next Iron Chef in 2011. And he knows a thing or two about performing under pressure.
“I just don’t want to disappoint,” he says, then corrects himself, “we’ll nail it, we’ve got a good team.”
Confidence is key, and knowing your audience. He delivered a resounding no on the question of including an old French-Canadian classic.
“No poutine. I don’t want to touch poutine. We all know there is nothing pretty or fancy about it; styrofoam cup, plastic fork, powdered gravy.”
The White House will be including a poutine inspired canapé as part of their selection of hors d’oeuvres for the state dinner Thursday night, but it will be sprinkled with Hudson duck shavings, perhaps a little more presidential.