For many Americans, the thought of a Donald Trump presidency is the stuff of nightmares. From mass deportations and sinking markets to troubling foreign policy and legislative agendas, people in the #NeverTrump camp fear the worst. But, rendering America as we know it as a shell of its former self might not be the biggest concern. Think of the terrible reputation President Trump would give American food.
Trump is on record as a fan of Big Macs and Quarter Pounders with cheese at McDonald's and well-done cuts of beef at steakhouses. He's marketed his own brand of steaks, wine, and vodka, to dubious reviews. According to at least one former White House kitchen employee, all of this would make for an uneasy Trump presidency.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Roland Mesnier, ex-pastry chef from the Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush administrations, believes big changes would be in order. "I think the White House as we know it and the kitchen will be totally different," Mesnier told VF. Like many residency staff members, who are government employees, the chef served a long tenure at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But, he's afraid a President Trump, who has an army of service-industry pros working in his various hotels, would be quick to dismiss employees and bring in his own people.
"I would be worried for my job, that maybe my job as I know it will disappear," Mesnier told VF. "If the pastry chef quits, with one phone call he will have five chefs from his restaurants ready to replace him."
Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema has analyzed Trump's eating habits, and his findings give credence to Mesnier's anxiety that the Republican frontrunner would lower the bar for White House cuisine. Sietsema notes Trump mentions things like Oreos, Diet Coke, "generic pasta," and meatloaf when discussing his favorite foods.
"Flavor and nutrition appear to be afterthoughts, while food safety is a priority," Sietsema writes. "Trump, a reluctant hand-shaker who has been known to chew out double-dippers at parties, told CNN that the fast-food chains' cleanliness is part of their appeal. 'One bad hamburger, and you can destroy McDonald's," said Trump, ever the businessman with an eye on the bottom line.'"
And that seems to get to the heart of Trump's love for processed, over-cooked foods that have gone out of fashion for America's trendy eaters. Sietsema's assertion that food safety is Trump's biggest concern when eating hits the nail on the head. In an interview with CNBC's John Harwood last fall, Trump, a supreme icon of '90s excess, borrowed from one of the decade's television icons — and perhaps showed how up to date he is on popular culture — to express his heightened distaste for other people and their germs.
America's dining culture has greatly improved in recent decades. Trump and his supporters want to make the country great again by somehow returning it to an idealized, bygone era. Should he win the White House, it seems President Trump would try to do the same with American cuisine.