The White House kitchen is going American. While the word is not out yet officially, Spokane, Wash.-born Jon Hill is reported to have been chosen as the next executive chef of the White House, pending Secret Service approval.

The current chef, Swiss-born Henry Haller, who was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson, has announced his retirement, effective Oct. 1. Haller plans to publicize his book, "The White House Family Cookbook," and consult with food and beverage companies, including Cointreau and Grand Union supermarkets.

The two-month search has apparently culminated with Hill, currently executive chef of the Westin Cypress Creek in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. After graduating from the Greenbrier Culinary Apprentice Program in West Virginia about 10 years ago, he was sous-chef at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Hawaii for about five years, then worked at the Arizona Biltmore, another Westin Hotel, before he left to open the Westin Cypress Creek.

"He was the best of the 18 graduates his year," said Herman Rusch, the Greenbrier apprentice program's founder and Hill's teacher. "He was one of the best students I had. He is very well educated, a very sincere chef." Rusch described Hill as exacting, and recalled that as a student Hill had specialized in sauces and cold exhibits.

Other chefs have described Hill similarly, as especially pleasant and very bright -- "an exciting young man." As one chef, who preferred to remain anonymous, said of Hill, "There's something about him -- if you met him you would understand." Kim Dietrich, who was executive chef of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel during Hill's years there, portrayed Hill as interested in everything, a perfectionist and an all-round chef, extraordinarily skilled in decorative work.

"He is extremely loyal; goes not only the extra mile but maybe the extra 10 miles. He never watches the clock, and never goes stale," said Dietrich, who summed up Hill as "a very enthusiastic young professional culinarian" who is "sort of tailor-made for a job like that."

At Westin Hotel headquarters in Seattle, food and beverage programs administrator Jen Campbell also waxed enthusiastic about Hill. "He's a wonderful person, gregarious, carefree, very relaxed," she said. "He's just delightful."

Hill himself, reached yesterday in the kitchen of the Westin Cypress Creek, was not gregarious, carefree and relaxed when asked about his reported new post. "I'll just refer you to the {White House} usher's office," he said when asked his age. (Others have estimated that Hill is between 28 and 35.)

The White House was equally taciturn. Wendy Weber of the East Wing press office said only, "We will put out an announcement when it is to be announced."

Several chefs who had heard the rumor of Hill's appointment expressed strong approval of Hill and particular pleasure in the hiring of an American chef, the first since before the Kennedy administration.

"I thought it was a fantastic choice to have an American again," said Albert Schnarwyler, chef of the Homestead, a resort near the Greenbrier, and another admirer of Hill. Dietrich, too, stressed that the choice of an American chef for the White House is "exciting for our profession.