If you interview someone like Bill Yosses, who was the White House pastry chef for George W. Bush and Barack Obama, you hope and pray that you can shake loose some dirt to titillate your listeners. But when you listen to part 2 of my interview with the ever thoughtful Bill, the only dirt he dishes is about actual dirt, as in the soil in the White House Garden.
Here’s Bill on the cruel honeymoon that every garden has in its first year: “It [gardening] is addictive. You get your first year free. You go and you turn over the dirt, and you plant a bunch of things. They come up. It’s beautiful. It’s magic. But the reason is the pests haven’t discovered you yet. The fungus, the bacteria, the pests, the nematodes, I don’t know what they are, but they don’t know you’re there. They don’t care. All that was there before was just dirt and grass. They’re just trying to get you hooked on gardening. Then the next year, all chaos breaks out. There are monsters everywhere.” It turns out that pests don’t regard the White House lawn as off-limits, and even the Secret Service can’t stop them from doing their thing.
Bill also lays to rest the rumor that he left his gig at the White House because of a disagreement with Michelle Obama. That turns out to be an actual example of fake news. “That whole thing came about because Marian Burros, a great writer, started her story out with a line, “Bill left the White House because of Mrs. Obama” in the Times. She announced that I was resigning. The next line was, “He was so inspired by her Let’s Move initiative that he wanted to have greater impact outside the White House.”
Bill returns to President Obama’s fondness for pie for his next presidential dish on the podcast: “At the end of 100 days, there’s a press conference. That is where all the press come in and they grill the President about, ‘Well, this is the 100 day mark. Now, what have you accomplished?’ One of the questions was, ‘What was the most enchanting thing about your first 100 days at the White House?’ I saw him later that day and he said, ‘Bill, I swear to God. I was tempted to say the pastry chef.’ But he said, ‘I knew I’d have to call a second press conference if I said that.'”
I think we hit many a sweet spot with this episode, which is only fitting given the title of Bill’s new book, The Sweet Spot: Dialing Back Sugar and Amping Up Flavor.
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