INDEPENDENCE, Mo. –On Thursday, three fascinating individuals with remarkable connections to the White House took center stage at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence.
“I just kept telling myself to stay calm and collected,” Charlie Redden said.
Redden is proud of a special achievement: He’s the first Certified Executive Chef of the White House. From 1995 to 2001, the man known as Chef Charlie enjoyed preparing and serving food to President Bill Clinton.
“He mostly loved breakfast especially. His favorite were the granola bagels and papaya juice. He really kept it light and for lunch he at all Caesar salads with chicken breast. I never really wasn’t nervous or felt any pressure because President Clinton was very friendly and nice. He treated me like I was part of his family,” said Redden, who’s now retired and lives in Delaware.
Redden estimates he prepared nearly 300 catered events during his time in the White House.
As a young boy from South Carolina, he never went to culinary school. He said everything he knows about cooking he learned from his mom and grandma. He never dreamed those skills would take him all the way to the White House.
“My mom and grandmother taught me how to cook from scratch. They also taught me the importance of cooking with the right seasonings. Cooking in the White House and traveling around the country to prepare for President Clinton was definitely an honor, and you really can just take your life and put it on rewind and remember where you came from” Redden said.
He wasn’t the only one with presidential ties at the Independence library Thursday.
“It’s just a dream come true for me,” Wanda Joell said.
Ever since she was a little girl growing up in Bermuda, Joell had her eyes set on becoming a flight attendant. She did that and more.
Joell joined the Air Force and in 1990 she later became a presidential flight attendant and the first African-American woman to serve on Air Force One. She retired in 2010.
“To know that I accomplished that brings me joy,” said Joell, who currently lives Atlanta.
Her fondest memory?
“He came out of his office on board the presidential plane and I just gave him a hug,” Joell said.
She gave President George W. Bush a big “hug” on that fateful day we now know as 9/11.
“And I just said, ‘President Bush we’re gonna be OK.’ We were safe that day, but that’s the memory I won’t ever forget,” Joell said with a huge smile.
Attendees also got to meet Adrian Miller.
He’s traveling around the country, promoting his popular book, “The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families.”
From George and Martha Washington to the Obamas, Miller highlights black chefs, butlers and cooks he said paved the way for him and others.
“One thing I hope people take away from my book and us speaking here at this event tonight is that black history is american history and even though my book focuses on these talented, African American cooks, these people did a lot to shape our history today in the United States,” Miller said.