Pioneering vegan chef Nina Curtis makes ‘Herstory’

Chef Nina Curtis
Chef Nina Curtis

Cooking with the primary feminine govt chef at a historic plant-based dinner on the White Home


The White Home made historical past with its first-ever vegetarian state dinner, which was in honor of the go to of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a strict vegetarian.

This monumental event was additionally marked by the truth that the primary contributors to the occasion have been all girls. First Girl Dr. Jill Biden invited celebrated vegan chef Nina Curtis to curate the menu, marking a milestone in selling sustainable and inclusive culinary practices.

The White House's first official plant-based dinner menu for 2023
The White Home’s first official vegetarian dinner menu as of June 22, 2023

Chef Curtis has been an avid proponent of the plant-based life-style for over twenty years and has labored with Marriott Group, Hilton Motels, Pure Meals and Wine in New York, Springs Restaurant and Wine Bar in Los Angeles, The Ranch Malibu, and Adventist. Well being Company Campus, California. Holding positions as Supervisor and Government Chef has led Chef Curtis to efficiently put together and lead kitchen operations.

Chef Nina Curtis collaborated with White Home Government Chef Christita Comerford and Government Pastry Chef Susan Morrison, combining their skills to create an unforgettable mix of American and Indian flavors. From the marinated millet salad and scrumptious grilled corn to the stuffed portobello mushrooms and creamy saffron risotto, every course showcased ingenuity and innovation in vegetarian delicacies.

The night culminated in a mix of Indian spices with a traditional American dessert – rose-and-cardamom-infused strawberry shortcake with coconut whipped cream.

To get perception into what it is wish to play a key function in such an unprecedented occasion on the White Home, I had the respect of interviewing Chef Nina Curtis about her first-hand expertise.


Chef Nina Curtis, are you able to share with us the way you obtained the invitation from the First Girl to curate the menu? What ideas and feelings ran by means of your thoughts?

The First Girl’s social secretary, Dr. Jill Biden, was the primary to succeed in out to me about Dr. Biden’s invitation to arrange the dinner. At first I assumed, who’s kidding me? very humorous! As our dialog continued, I shortly realized that she was actually reliable and listened intently to what was being requested of me. My thoughts jumped into gear and I instantly started formulating my first ideas.

The principle purpose, as requested by Dr. Jill Biden, was to showcase the perfect of American delicacies, by means of the lens of vegetarian delicacies, as Prime Minister Modi is a strict vegetarian. After all, seasonal, native (as a lot as attainable), sustainable, with touches of flavors and components of Indian delicacies, is what first flooded my thoughts. I created a number of menu choices after which shared my concepts with the Government Chef crew and we have been in a position to collaboratively work on a tasting menu to current to Dr. Jill Biden and her crew.

Curating the first-ever vegan state dinner menu whereas collaborating with the White Home Government Chef and Government Pastry Chef should have been an thrilling endeavor.

Are you able to stroll us by means of your inventive course of and the way you labored collectively to create the record?

Chef Nina Curtis White House Executive Chef Christita Comerford
(L-R) Chef Nina Curtis with White Home Government Chef Christita Comerford

As talked about earlier, I initially created a number of menu choices, together with millets because the United Nations has declared 2023 the 12 months of Millets, and India is main the best way on this promotion. I then introduced my menus to Government Chef Chris Comerford, Government Pastry Chef Susan Morrison and different members of the manager crew.

We had a number of discussions to slender down what would greatest be served to Dr. Jill Biden and her crew whereas tasting the menu. We served dozens of various dishes in complete. We have been anticipating 400 visitors and we knew the usual was to create the ‘wow issue’ and so we had to consider what would maintain up and current properly.

Generally you may have nice concepts however can they be executed the best way you need and arrive on the desk wanting and tasting the identical as what was served in the course of the tasting? If meals have to be saved for longer intervals of time, you may count on to take all of those elements into consideration. Most cooks perceive this. I am on the West Coast so I began recipe testing and despatched recipe opinions and images to the White Home EC crew. We have been in a position to tighten all the pieces up in preparation for the tasting and had a really profitable session.

Working within the White Home kitchen should have introduced distinctive challenges. What have been a number of the main obstacles you confronted, and the way did you overcome them to make sure the occasion ran easily?

The White Home’s crew of govt cooks are masters in the case of welcoming visitor cooks into their kitchens. This is not their first rodeo. They run a really tight and arranged ship, whereas being very versatile to the nuances and wishes of various cooks. I run the kitchens I oversaw in the identical means – organised, managed however with an eye fixed and suppleness for the surprising.

Since we have been curating an all-vegan menu, I created a listing of components and gadgets that I knew won’t be frequently stocked within the White Home kitchen, and if an merchandise wasn’t accessible to order, I had choices. Communication is all the time key, considering forward and having choices made my expertise really feel actually seamless.

I adapt shortly to new environments, so I believe that helped me lots. I took lots of notes, was very hands-on, and total, it was a really enjoyable expertise.

It is clear that your culinary experience and dedication to vegan delicacies have left a long-lasting influence on the White Home.

If you happen to have been invited to curate one other vegan menu sooner or later, what facets would you strategy in another way, and what new concepts would you convey to the desk?

I gained lots of expertise from this state dinner and my success got here from listening intently, remembering that I used to be there to serve and to make sure that I executed Dr. Jill Biden’s imaginative and prescient for this dinner to the perfect of my potential, whereas being a crew participant.

I’ve held many management positions within the kitchen, and this occasion was a collaborative effort between CEO Chris Comerford, Government Pastry Chef Susan Morrison, and myself, and we labored properly collectively. Although we’re all leaders in our personal positions, there was no ego within the combine and it was an amazing expertise. I actually felt like we made “her story” that night and the lead as much as it.

Now that I’ve an excellent place within the White Home kitchen and operations, if I’ve the chance to return, I’ll do what I did, be very hands-on and let my inventive juices movement, whereas I have a good time this second.


To be taught extra about Chef Nina Curtis, go to her web site

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