SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD / THE WHITE HOUSE
Ronnie Seaton meets First Lady Laura Bush at Willie Mae's Scotch House in 2007.
grandson of the late New Orleans restaurateur Willie Mae Seaton, claims to have served five U.S. presidents in White House kitchens. He writes about his life in his new autobiography, Sir White House Chef
. He says he also was knighted by the Queen of England and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice — once from President George H.W. Bush.
Seaton also claims to have been drafted into the Vietnam War in 1973 while a senior at "St. Augusta High School," which he describes as an "all white school" and home of the Purple Knights. He says he was a prisoner of war, broke free from his captors and finished eight years in the military before receiving a scholarship from the Culinary Institute of America.
President Ronald Reagan hired him in 1982, he says, after dining on his cuisine at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, and he began a long career at the White House — from cooking for former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev and former Prime Minister of England Margaret Thatcher to witnessing Monica Lewinsky's infamously stained dress heading to the dry cleaners.
But the White House denies Seaton ever worked there, according to the New York Post
. The National Personnel Records Center has no record of his military service in Vietnam.
And now Seaton's California-based publisher, Heritage Builders, has pulled the book. In an email to Gambit
, Brian Mayes of the Nashville Publicity Group, which was coordinating press for its publication, wrote "The publisher is pulling the book, and we have ceased all promotion. Very disappointing."
So here are some highlights from Sir White House Chef:
• In Vietnam, where Seaton was captured 10 days after landing and was urinated and defecated on:
"Tell us the plans of your Army!" The Vietcong soldier screamed at me. ... They had gotten mad at me for something I had said to one of the camp guards.I would give no information except my name, rank, and serial number. I wouldn't tell them what they wanted to know, so they shot me in the knee."
• Seaton speaks lovingly of Reagan and George H.W. Bush:
President Bush was a real good and honorable president. You had to respect him because there was nothing coming out that would create any other feeling about him. He was consistent, and you never saw him wavering from his firm decisions. He was known as one of the best negotiators of modern times. When he left, we hated to see him go.
The cover of Sir White House Chef, which has been pulled by publisher Heritage Builders after questions were raised about the authenticity of its author, New Orleans resident Ronnie Seaton.
• Bush and Reagan’s favorite cookies were oatmeal cookies with golden raisins. The Bush grandchildren loved french fries: “They were the best fries you could eat. Much better than McDonald’s, who used to be known for great fries but not any more.”
• Bush, then-Vice President Dan Quayle and First Lady Barbara Bush went to Seaton's house to personally promote him from working in the cafeteria to "Kitchen 2" — and to give him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
• Seaton defended Quayle's famous "potato/potatoe" gaffe: “The media made a big deal out of his correcting a child’s spelling of the word. We spelled it both ways in the kitchen.”
• Chapters on each president conclude with recipes for a three-course meal inspired by the meals he cooked. He also goes into detail about each president's favorite foods, like “foie gras, which is a sauteed duck recipe."
• Bush: “He said one time that more deals are made on golf courses than in boardrooms. I don’t know if was talking about United States deals, but I bet he was.”
• Barbara Bush loved spin-art dip: “Mrs. Bush used to serve this to lady friends she would have over for tea.”
• Among the dignitaries he met at the White House were celebrities like Denzel Washington and Robert Redford. He also met Arnold Schwarzenegger:
He grabbed me and instead of shaking my hand, he picked me up, and that frightened me. He’s a big man.
“Please put me down governor,” I pleaded.
“I just wanted to show you how strong I am,” he said.
• For Clinton and Lewinsky, Seaton made “one of the most seductive meals" he ever made. The following morning, the room looked like “a wild party went on in there.” A Secret Service member later carried a blue dress through the kitchen, telling Seaton, "It’s got a stain on the chest."
“‘A stain?’ I didn’t think much about it.”
• Seaton will not support Hillary Clinton or gay rights.
"I've seen her erratic and unexplainable behavior. ... I've seen pieces of the broken vase she hurled at the president. ... I am Catholic, so I don't agree with her views on pro-life. ... She pushes the wrong ideas about abortion in my opinion and influences a lot of people to murder children.
I don't respect her views on alternative lifestyles. I do not support Gay Rights or anything about forcing laws on the public that make you accept something I believe is fundamentally against human nature and the Laws of the Bible."
• Seaton also never hired a black person in his kitchen.
All my chefs were Caucausian, and I couldn't get an African American chef a job in my kitchen. There were two reasons for this: 1) they couldn't pass the drug test, and 2) they didn't have the credit report score needed to get hired. My entire staff in Kitchen 2 of twenty-two was all white folks.
Seaton also says Oprah Winfrey is sponsoring a culinary school he is opening in New Orleans. That school is a part of the controversial Holy Cross condominium development
from Perez APC. Seaton touts his career highlights in the firm's PR campaign
to gather support for the project.
Seaton also has spoken about his time in the military and working at the White House in numerous publications, including a moving video interview with Essence
and in several New Orleans outlets, where he often is referred to as a longtime White House chef.
Seaton could not be reached, and the book has no photographs of him with any presidents. When the New York Post
asked for proof of his claims, Seaton said, “I can see what my wife has in the file cabinet.”
He is scheduled to sign and discuss his book at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19 at Barnes and Noble in Metairie. A representative for the store told Gambit
tonight that the event was still on — for now.