Here is a personal remembrance from Adrian Miller, an author and food scholar who knew Walter Scheib, the White House chef who was found dead in New Mexico.
In the coming days, we’re going to learn a lot about Walter Scheib, the former White House
Executive Chef from 1994 to 2005, whose life ended far too soon in the scenic mountains of
New Mexico. I want to share some perspective on the gracious man that was Walter Scheib. I
first got to know Walter in 2010 when I sent an email to him through his website and asked if
he’d be willing to talk to me about African American presidential chefs. Though we both worked
in the Clinton White House, we had never met. The same day he responded with his personal
cell phone number, and we had a good chat. I could tell that he was intrigued by my research
topic, and he encouraged me to call back when I had other questions.
A year later, we teamed up for the first time to do a Black Chefs in the White House
presentation in Washington, D.C. Afterwards, he pulled me aside and he told me that he didn’t
lend his name to many things, but he saw that the value of what I had to share, that he had
learned a lot from my presentation even though he worked in the White House kitchen, and
that I had integrity. He said that if his schedule permitted, he would happily join me for any
future presentations, anywhere in the country.
From then on we collaborated on additional presentations, and he was very enthusiastic about
my work. He was quick to return my calls when I had random questions about how the White
House food service worked, offered to be an associate producer for my forthcoming television
documentary on African American presidential chefs, and helped fundraise for my successful
Kickstarter project to make a trailer for the proposed TV show. He was also willing to write the
foreword for my upcoming book on the same subject. He even called me out of the blue to
congratulate me when I won a James Beard Award.
Walter was a very engaging speaker, had hilarious stories about his time in the White House,
and yes, made some incredible food. He was also a man of faith and he told me that last time
that we talked that “God had been good to him, and he wanted to give back.” I planned to see
him next month in Denver for another event, and I will miss the chance to talk to him one more
time. Thank you Walter for your counsel, enthusiasm, friendship and kindness!
— by Adrian Miller
Adrian Miller is the author of the James Beard Award-winning book Soul Food: The Surprising
Story of an Amazing Cuisine, One Plate at a Time. His next project is tentatively titled The
President’s Kitchen Cabinet: A Hidden History of African American Presidential Chefs.