Jessica Sidman’s piece at The Washingtonian shares “four years’ worth of stories about VIP visits and grooming protocols, palm-greasing, rotten vegtables, and that time they lost Steve Mnuchin’s coat.” It’s a very interesting and revealing essay.
Here is a taste:
As soon as Trump was seated, the server had to “discreetly present” a mini bottle of Purell hand sanitizer. (This applied long before Covid, mind you.) Next, cue dialogue: “Good (time of day) Mr. President. Would you like your Diet Coke with or without ice?” the server was instructed to recite. A polished tray with chilled bottles and highball glasses was already prepared for either response. Directions for pouring the soda were detailed in a process no fewer than seven steps long—and illustrated with four photo exhibits. The beverage had to be opened in front of the germophobe commander in chief, “never beforehand.” The server was to hold a longneck-bottle opener by the lower third of the handle in one hand and the Diet Coke, also by the lower third, in the other. Once poured, the drink had to be placed at the President’s right-hand side. “Repeat until POTUS departs.”
Trump always had the same thing: shrimp cocktail, well-done steak, and fries (plus sometimes apple pie or chocolate cake for dessert). Popovers—make it a double for the President—had to be served within two minutes and the crustaceans “immediately.” The manual instructed the server to open mini glass bottles of Heinz ketchup in front of Trump, taking care to ensure he could hear the seal make the “pop” sound.
Garnishes were a no-no. Melania Trump once sent back a Dover sole because it was dressed with parsley and chives, says former executive chef Bill Williamson, who worked at the restaurant until the start of the pandemic. Trump himself never returned a plate, but if he was disappointed, you can bet the complaint would travel down the ranks. Like the time the President questioned why his dining companion had a bigger steak. The restaurant already special-ordered super-sized shrimp just for him and no one else. Next time, they’d better beef up the beef.
“It was the same steak. Both well done. Maybe it was a half ounce bigger or something, I don’t know,” says Williamson, who had previously run the kitchens of DC staples Birch & Barley and the Riggsby. The chef had always prepared a bone-in rib eye or filet mignon for Trump. After Steakgate, he switched to a 40-ounce tomahawk. Trump would never again gripe that he didn’t have the greatest, hugest, most beautiful steak.
Regulars such as Florida congressman Matt Gaetz and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell were always around the lobby taking selfies with fans. In the restaurant, some top White House officials including Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders preferred more private booths in the back. But generally, the place to be was a table along the balcony rail on the mezzanine, overlooking the lobby and its soaring ceilings. That’s where you might spot Meadows, or American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp, or then–Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler. Though if you didn’t have political pull, looks could get you there, too. “I was told to just put the pretty people on the rails one time,” says a former employee. “And the ones with Birkin bags.”
Read the rest here.