"Hickory Hill! They ought to call that place Horror Hill!"
That's the lament of a young chef who went to work for Ethel Kennedy during the pope's visit last weekend and lasted from breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Saturday until just before dinner at 7:30 p.m.
Paul Nass, an American University graduate with a degree in business and personnel who decided he preferred a Cuisinart to a calculator, answered an ad in The Washington Post classifieds on Oct. 4. He had cooked previously at historic Gadsby's Tavernin Alexandria and Fiddler's restaurant. He has been written up as a "comer" in cooking circles.
Nass said he didn't want to take the job, which pays $180 a week for six 12-hour days. "The last chef lasted only a month, and I was warned, 'Don't agree to live in, no matter what you do, because then your're on call 24 hours a day."
Because kennedy's secretary "pleaded" that her employer was "desperate," Nass says, he agreed to start the next morning on a "trial" basis.
"A lot of people who go to work out there are just like me," he says. "They all hope they'll meet Ted Kennedy and he'll say, 'Hi, won't you come work in the White House?"
"The kitchen equipment was worn out and the tile on the floor was worn through to the bare wood floor," he said.
He began cooking breakfast after breakfast, short-order style, as Ethel Kennedy and the six of her children home that weekend came down one by one.
His new employer had little to say to him, he says, except "Hi," an order that he close a swinging door that had been left open between the dining room and kitchen, and a question about "who" had dared leave a parked car blocking hers in the driveway.
People were still wandering in and giving their breakfast orders, he says, at 12:15, the time he had been told to serve lunch. Kennedy had sent word that "steak would be nice," but there was no steak in the house.
Another of the servants managed to track down the "governor" -- the Kennedy kids have a male nanny instead of a governess -- and tell him to pick up steaks for eight on the way home. The harried governor was at a department store, trying to outfit 12-year-old Maxwell, who had refused earlier in the day to go to see the pope in hand-me-downs.
When the family finally departed for the White House. Nass says, the staff congregated in the dining room to have an "Upstairs, Downstairs" gripe session.
He picked up pointers on Ethel Kennedy's likes and dislikes. "Be sure and buy plenty of heineken's beer for after her tennis games . . . always put a pink linen placement and napkin -- to match the draperies -- in front of her, but use plastic and paper for the children."
He spent the afternoon trying to clean up the kitchen. "But there was nothing I could do about those two big black [dogs] who sleep underfoot right in front of the stove," he said.
The cupboard was well-stocked with Duncan Hines cake mix, but little else. All he could find in the freezer for dinner was pork chops.
Upon returning, Kennedy was displeased when she heard the evening's menus. Didn't he know she was having a producer from ABC and expected at least a very elegant roast?
She asked for a bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich as a "snack" while she pondered a different menu. It was then 6:30, and dinner was expected in one hour.
Everyone else in the family, again one by one, asked for a "BLT."
"They should raise pigs out there, they eat so many BLTs," says Nass.
Nass sent a servant to "try and find out what Mrs. Kennedy wants for dinner." The servant came downstairs, hurt by a complaint from Kennedy that milk she hadn't ordered had come served in "the wrong size glass."
Shortly before 7, 10-year-old Rory Kennedy came down from her mother's bedroom with dinner instructions scribbled on an expensive, red-bordered note card with "Ethel Kennedy" emblazoned across the top.
"Prepare plates for caviar," the instructions began. "If there is no caviar, find 'Governor' and send him to buy some. . . ."
Nass took off his apron and waved his fingers at the little girl: "Tell your Mommy I said 'Bye.'"
Ethel Kennedy was out of town yesterday. Her secretary, when read Nass' description of his short-lived employment, termed the account "outrageous" and said she could not "bother" Kennedy to give a response.
The secretary declined to say who finally cooked dinner at hickory hill on Saturday night, and whether or not they all ate "BLTs."