Mesnier's Influence Beyond the White House
Wednesday, June 2, 2004; Page F04
Roland Mesnier has not only transformed desserts at the White House. Through his pastry program at L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, he's had a lasting impact on the local restaurant scene.
Soon after he came to Washington in 1979, Mesnier was invited to dinner at the home of Francois Dionot, the founder of L'Academie de Cuisine, and his wife, Patrice. Mesnier had enjoyed regular teaching at both the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Va., and at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs W.Va. And L'Academie de Cuisine, which was in its early years, did not have a pastry program. So when Mesnier mentioned he'd like to teach again, Dionot quickly signed him on. Taught on Saturday afternoons and Monday evenings, the class was an immediate success. "There were waiting lists all the time," says Dionot.
"It was a very high level of exploration," says Mark Ramsdell, one of Mesnier's early students there, who now heads the school's pastry program. (Mesnier left after the second Reagan administration. ) "He was the best lecturer- demonstrator you could possibly have. Even in a non-verbal way, he got you to understand things like what a dough is supposed to do, or the best way to use a rolling pin." Mesnier's classes made their mark not only through his students but also through Ramsdell's program, which takes six months to complete and is taught four times per year. "To this day, I have discussed every major change to the program that I have proposed with him," says Ramsdell. Students have gone on to many externships locally and to jobs in restaurants such as Maestro, 2941, Kinkead's and the Colvin Run Tavern.
Peter Brett, an early Mesnier student, is executive pastry chef at the Park Hyatt Hotel. Franette McCulloch, another Mesnier student, worked with him at the White House and became his assistant pastry chef there. (In 2000, McCulloch sued Mesnier, citing sexual harassment. The suit was dismissed in December 2001.)
-- Judith Weinraub
© 2004 The Washington Post Company