Wednesday, May 19, 2010

White House Guest Chef in Hot Water

From Lynn Sweet:
Rick Bayless, the Chicago superstar chef, was Twittering from the White House kitchen about today's Obama White House state dinner honoring Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his wife, Margarita Zavala. Until the Tweets stopped. The White House kitchen is for cooking, not Tweeting.

He was given the unpaid honor of being a guest chef, working the state dinner -- the second of the Obama administration -- alongside of White House House chef Cristeta Comerford.

The White House press operation wanted to downplay the glamor aspect of the state dinner; these are tough economic times.

Bayless talked about the dinner in interviews -- he gave up a few facts about what he may be cooking -- his Oaxacan mole, for example. "He's been blabbing," wrote the Washington Examiner "Yeas and Nays" column. "He's done interviews with the New York Times and NPR, revealing bits and pieces of the menu."

On Tuesday morning Bayless, an inveterate Tweeter wrote, "Thanks 2 the 100s of well wishers! Ready 4 day 2 n rather small White House kitchen. Chef was challenged by some ingred, but last arrive 2day."

He flew to Washington on Monday from Chicago and when he arrived, he Twittered, "Just arrived in DC. Headed to the White House kitchens. I have to say: I'm a little nervous."

After he checked out the White House kitchen -- which is fairly small -- Bayless Twittered, "The White House staff could not be nicer&more professional! Most worried about ingredients, but all will b here 4 big day!"

But after his Tuesday Tweet early in the morning, Bayless was shut down on Twitter.

Last year, when the Obamas entertained the prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, the guest chef, Marcus Samuelsson, a big name in the cooking world, was neither seen nor heard from and asked not to give interviews about the dinner in advance. He was not allowed to appear at the press preview of the dinner.

The White House at first was keen on limiting reporting opportunities from the state dinner, but Tuesday eased up on a restrictions. Michelle Obama and Mrs. Zavala will visit an elementary school in the Maryland suburbs of Washington with students from Central and South America on Wednesday morning. That is the picture of the day the East Wing wants.

At first, the White House was not planning any advance event to preview the dinner. Last year on the afternoon of the India dinner, the East Wing set up sample table settings; the first lady arranged for a briefing on the history of state dinners for the group of girls she is mentoring.

In a reversal, the White House now will allow a pool to see the dinner set up in the East Room "for a few minutes" and to see "for a few minutes" the tent on the South Lawn where more guests will be invited for dessert and entertainment.

UPDATE: Bayless wants an apology. He tweeted this message about Sweet's story:
"Lynn Sweet @ Sun Times made up this very offensive story.I NEVER Tweet from WH, which I KNOW is not permitted.Apology?"
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