Local woman tells what it was like to eat at the White House

You’re looking at Mary Mazzeffi in the midst of decorating the White House for the holiday season. Mary, a display artist at Toms-Price Home Furnishings in Wheaton, was one of 89 volunteers from 35 states chosen to help deck out the halls and rooms of the historic building.

Thousands of people applied for the coveted positions. You can find out more about her fascinating experience on the Toms-Price blog.

As I said, Mary was a volunteer. For the six days she worked at the White House, Mary and her fellow volunteers met at 6:15 a.m. and did their design magic until about 4 p.m. Mary loved every minute on it!

Still, there was one perk to working there I would absolutely trade a free meal at Alinea for:


Look at the photos in the gallery below so you can get a glimpse of the food, the over-the-top holiday decor and of course, Mary.

In between performing the tasks involved in putting up the beautiful decorations, Mary and the rest of the volunteers were served lunch prepared by the White House staff in the East Dining Room and the East Colonnade.

It was usually served buffet-style. Mary says there was always a homemade soup, salad and fruit on the menu. The soups varied each day and included: roasted tomato, pumpkin and chili.

One day, the entree was roasted chicken breast with a medley of roasted vegetables: acorn squash, string beans, sweet potato and beets.

Another day, there was a pasta bar with three different toppings: eggplant, marinara and meat sauce. The volunteers were treated to a taco bar on another occasion.

Mary described the meals as “fresh and wholesome.”

Sugar Buzzers will be happy to know there were always “outstanding” desserts–and lot of ’em–ice cream and “awesome” pastries such as made-from-scratch apple turnovers, a delicious fruitcake-like sweet bread and a selection of cookies.

Mary also had the opportunity to see Susan Morrison, the White House executive pastry chef, in action. Morrison and her crew of five constructed an incredible gingerbread house for the holiday display.

According to Bon Appetit, the house is made from 250 lbs. of gingerbread dough, 150 lbs. of dark chocolate, 25 lbs. of gum paste, 25 lbs. of handcrafted sugar poles, and 25 lbs. of icing.

Click on the Bon Appetit article or this Huffington piece, and you can see the 475 lb. dark-chocolate-covered-constructed-to-scale masterpiece, which is based off of actual White House blueprints.

The last day of Mary’s visit, she was invited to a reception in the East Dining Room.  The “fabulous” fete had a full bar and was held for the White House volunteers. Hundreds of people were in attendance, said Mary, including those who volunteer to answer White House correspondence.

They were served by waiters in tuxes and tails. Among the offerings at the event were: champagne, wine, shrimp, crab claws and lamb chops as well as an array of cheeses, fruit and nuts.

There was also a pastry bar with, among other goodies, hand-painted cookies that resembled ornaments, nutcrackers, holly leaves, and the White House dogs, Bo and Sunny.

“It was so exciting, so overwhelming that I was there. A dream come true!” said Mary. “It’s definitely something to cross off my bucket list.”

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Filed under: interviews, opinion/essay

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