5 Presidents who were picky eaters

White House Chefs

The Commander in Chief has it pretty good when it comes to food. The in-house chef is so good that
Harry Truman bragged about the service and Ronald Reagan said it was like “living in an eight-star hotel.”

However, even great service doesn’t mean the President likes every type of food. We aren’t talking about mild distaste for certain foods, like the Obamas and beets. These are the foods Presidents refuse to eat, no matter what the circumstances.

1. Grover Cleveland hated French food

Some people would consider a personal French chef to be a perk. Not Grover Cleveland.

Cleveland stayed true to his humble roots as one of nine children in New Jersey. When he moved into the White House, he preferred practical meals to the fancy stuff.

“I must go to dinner,” he wrote a friend. “But I wish it was to eat a pickled herring, Swiss cheese, and a chop at Louis’ instead of the French stuff I shall find.”

2. James Garfield got sick Of oatmeal (though he had good reason)

James Garfield hated oatmeal. The reason? He was put on an oatmeal diet to recover from being shot.

When Garfield was shot by Charles Guiteau, he was bedridden as doctors tried to help him recover. His diet included a large amount of oatmeal, which he quickly began to hate. When his wife updated him on the day’s news, she told him that Sitting Bull was starving. Garfield replied that they should send Sitting Bull some of his oatmeal as punishment. Though Garfield’s diet improved (he later chomped on reed bird breasts for breakfast), Garfield died 80 days after he was shot.

3. Harry Truman thought onions stunk

Harry Truman had simple, down-home tastes. He loved eating fowl, corn bread, and Ozark pudding. Onions didn’t make the cut.

He hated onions so much that if he detected the smallest amount in a dish, he shoved the plate aside. His wife once said, “I don’t dare serve onions in any form!”

4. George H.W. Bush won’t eat broccoli ever again

Of all the Presidents, George H.W. Bush might be the most famous picky eater thanks to his public declaration that he hated broccoli.

“I do not like broccoli,” Bush told reporters. ”And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!”

The disdain may run in the family. Years later, son George W. Bush broccoli a thumbs down in favor of cauliflower.

5. Bill Clinton doesn’t do chocolate

It might be unfair to call Bill Clinton picky for refusing to eat chocolate—he has a serious allergy to chocolate and dairy.

“Talk about keeping the marriage together,” Hillary Clinton said in a 1992 interview. “One of the serious issues of our marriage is that Bill Clinton does not eat chocolate…I know. I know. I probably should not have repeated that. Chelsea and I love chocolate. One of our favorite things is rich, rich, rich chocolate cake with thick chocolate icing.”

Though Clinton’s refusal to eat chocolate is a matter of health rather than taste, there are some signs he’s particular about what he eats. He’s currently vegan for health reasons, but in the 1990s he was very demanding of the White House staff.

Former Chef Roland Mesnier said Clinton loved dessert, though the allergy “made it very difficult for a pastry chef.” Mesnier resorted to special strawberry cakes. Clinton ate half of the cake himself, and when the cake went missing the next morning, Mesnier says, “Clinton was pounding on the table and shouting, ‘I want my goddamned cake!’”

Start a Conversation

Which President seems most picky to you?