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    Description

    Jacqueline Kennedy Two Typed Letters Signed To René Verdon. The first letter is one page, 5.25" x 7.63", November 28, 1966. A brief note thanking him for a photograph "of the display at the museum in Vileneuve - Loubet..." Both the greeting and closing are in her hand: "Dear René . . . with my best wishes always dear René, Jacqueline Kennedy". Light creasing and soiling, the letter is accompanied by the original transmittal displaying a New York postmark and Jacqueline Kennedy's stamped franking signature.
    The second letter is one typed page on imprinted letter head bearing the Kennedy coat of arms, 6.13" x 9.25", April 16, 1968. In part: "Dear Rene: How can I ever thank you enough for sending Caroline, John and me the specially bound copies of your cookbook? They are too beautiful for words and we shall treasure them always. Perhaps, one day Caroline and John will become gourmet cooks, and that being the case, I know a great deal of credit will go to you!" Signed "Jacqueline Kennedy". The letter most likely references Verdon's first cookbook, The White House Chef Cookbook: 500 Recipes and Menus by the Man who was White House Chef during the Kennedy Years, published in 1967. Light creasing and center fold, some soiling to the verso. The lot also includes a JFK funeral card.


    More Information:

    Chef René Verdon (1924 - 2011) served as the head chef in the White House from 1961 to 1965. He is praised with having elevated the bland institutional fare previously prepared by naval stewards and caterers.  His menus received much media attention showcasing the sophistication of the Kennedy household and solidifying Jackie's reputation for being a Francophile with refined tastes.  Verdon's presence in the White House corresponds with the revolution in American food culture via the influence of the French culinary tradition as demonstrated by the success of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, also published in (1961).

     

    Verdon first met the Kennedys while working as assistant chef at the Carlyle Hotel, where the Kennedys had a penthouse apartment.  Once the Kennedys moved into the White House, Jackie hired Verdon on a temporary basis to provide additional support for the many special events and luncheons following the election. After a few months, he was given a permanent position.

     

    Verdon is responsible for planting herbs in the East Garden and vegetables on the roof of the White House. His aim was fresh, seasonal ingredients of the highest quality. For Jackie, it was nutritious food for her children.  Their common ground was the French tradition.

     

    Of the many publicized state dinners prepared by Verdon, the 1961 Mount Vernon event for 132 guests and the President of Pakistan won the most praise. Inspired by a dinner at Versailles hosted by President Charles de Gaulle, Jackie Kennedy asked Verdon to move the dinner to Mount Vernon.  In the press following the event, Verdon was hailed by the Washington Posts as "the 36 year old French culinary genius." The same article gave details not only of the venue and entertainment but also described with great detail the menu, including the French wines served and even the techniques used by Verdon to prepare the dishes. 

     

    Rene Verdon was born June 29, 1924 in the town of Pouzauges, in the Pays de la Loire region of Western France.  His parents owned a bakery, where Verdon held his first culinary positions before working his way up from apprentice in Nantes to Chef in Dauville, Paris and finally New York. 

     

    After Kennedy's assassination, Verdon stayed on with the Johnsons for two years.  In 1965, the Johnsons hired a Texas "food coordinator" to bring southern food to the White House and to cut costs.  The new household brought a demand for canned vegetables and dishes like "cold puree of garbanzo beans." Verdon felt his standards were being compromised and quit at the end of 1965.

     

    Verdon's post-White House years including the publishing of several cookbooks and the opening of a highly regarded restaurant, Le Trianon, in San Francisco in 1972.

     

    His cookbooks include: The White House Chef (1967), Rene Verdon's French Cooking for the American Table (1974), The Enlightened Cuisine (1985), Convection Cuisine (1988), and  In the Kennedy Style (2010).



    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2012
    11th-12th Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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