White House seeking an official food taster... maybe?

The Obamas and the Bidens eating in a diner
“Are you sure it’s not poisoned?”
Photo: SAUL LOEB (Getty Images)

Some job opportunities are so rare, so special, that you have to snap them up immediately before they disappear. Such was a post that appeared yesterday on LinkedIn with the headline “Uncle Joe needs you!” It turned out to be a help-wanted ad for a professional food taster in the White House with a starting date of January 20, 2021, aka Inauguration Day.

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The post has since disappeared. But Washingtonian has a summary:

The LinkedIn job post asks applicants if they “want to join the front lines in the war against terror, but not a fan of guns?” Daily responsibilities are listed as “eating the finest foods and the occasional corn pops to ensure they are safe for the leader of the free world.”

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Mimi Matthews, the writer of the Washingtonian post, had reason to believe the post was a hoax, mostly because of a 2013 interview the magazine conducted with Walter Scheib, the former White House chef during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Scheib insisted that there was no official Presidential food tester. He explained that all food that was fed to the President went through a strict screening process and that all White House kitchen staff and the Navy chefs and stewards who feed the President when he’s traveling have “top secret presidential proximity clearance,” which means that they are officially trustworthy and don’t have to be watched constantly by Secret Service agents. Scheib said that during his 11 years in the White House, he never saw a foreign dignitary send a personal taster into the kitchen, either.

Matthews, however, was not satisfied with that. Going back further in time and newspaper archives, she found references to food tasters, one from 2001 (the George W. Bush years) and 1988 (Ronald Reagan). The 2001 article, from Bush’s first inauguration, reads:

The president’s tasters were on the job by 6 a.m., not just to make certain no one was trying to poison him, but to make sure the mushrooms that were to decorate the tenderloin of beef at the inaugural lunch for teetotaler George W. Bush were not cooked in wine. The tasters, Navy mess specialists who travel around the world with the president, watched the preparations in a makeshift kitchen just off Statuary Hall in the Capitol.

Hmmmm.

But given all this talk of Navy mess specialists and chefs with security clearance, I do have to think that if there were an official Presidential taster, the White House would not be advertising for the position on LinkedIn. Too bad, ice cream lovers.

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Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

Maybe not food tasters, but back in the 90s I was staying at the Banff hotel in Canada at the same time that Prince Philip came to stay. My wife and S-I-L tried to sneak up to his floor to check things out but were stopped by his security. They did get to chat them up and were told that all the food the prince would eat during his stay was brought with, and stored in a separate fridge in the kitchens, and the fridge had its own guard.