Hail to the Chef!

Matthew Wendel’s new book is an engaging and entertaining glimpse into the his time cooking for the Bush family in Texas and Washington, DC

Photography courtesy The White House Historical Association

Matthew Wendel describes himself as a man whose story is rooted in humble beginnings,
hard work, perseverance and a desire to fulfill his call to duty. From working as an investigator with the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners and the Texas Attorney General’s Office,
he made the leap to the White House, the U.S. Department of State and Blair House. Matthew has entertained and cooked for the first family during the George W. Bush administration, for world leaders at Camp David and the Bush family’s Prairie Chapel Ranch near Crawford, TX, as well as on staff for the U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic.

In his new book, Recipes from the President’s Ranch: Food People Like to Eat, he and The White House Historical Association invite readers on his personal journey through his professional life — most notably his time spent with the Bush family. Through captivating photography and storytelling from behind-the-scenes of George W. Bush’s presidency, including September 11th, family holidays and cooking for world leaders, Wendel has brilliantly and caringly crafted a must-read for history lovers and food lovers alike. And that’s before he shares a host of personal recipes and cooking tips.

Thanksgiving Turkey

Serves 10-12

“Don’t be intimidated by cooking a turkey. It is easier than you think. First, find the size turkey that is right for your family. I usually cooked a turkey of about 15 pounds to feed 10-12 people. There are several ways to cook a turkey, but here is the method that has worked the best for the Bushes’ Thanksgiving turkey. Consult a guide to let you know exactly how long your turkey should be in the oven.”

1 15-lb fresh, free-range turkey
Kosher salt and black pepper, freshly ground
½ small yellow onion
1 celery stalk, halved
1 carrot, halved
4 garlic cloves
3 sprigs each: fresh parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage
½ apple, quartered
½ lemon, quartered
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp seasoned salt
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp powdered ginger
6 slices smoky bacon
1 turkey-size cooking bag

Prepare turkey the night before by removing any giblets that are inside the cavity. Under cold water, rinse turkey thoroughly inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. Next, place turkey in a baking pan with a rack so that air can move all around.
Cover with paper towels and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to start cooking the turkey, preheat oven to 350°. Salt and pepper the cavity of the turkey and then stuff the cavity with onion, celery, carrot, garlic, herbs, apple and lemon. Season all sides well with the four seasonings. Lay the bacon across the breast portion of the turkey.

Bake according to the directions listed on the cooking-bag box. When turkey is done, let it rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.

Sweet and Spicy Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Serves 6-8

Adapted from a recipe by Bobby Flay

“This recipe was a Bush family favorite and one that I often made as a side dish for Thanksgiving dinner at Prairie Chapel Ranch.”

4-5 lbs of sweet potatoes, washed well
⅓ cup maple syrup
¾ cup Greek yogurt
3-4 tsp purée from canned chipotles
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
Kosher salt to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Place sweet potatoes on a large baking sheet and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until soft.
Or bake in microwave.

3. Combine syrup, yogurt, chipotle purée, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl and whisk together until smooth.

4. When potatoes are done, cut in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh out into a mixing bowl.

5. Add the liquid mixture and mash together.

6. Season with salt and serve.

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