SECRET AGENT MEN: Windows chef Laurent Lhuillier will create inaugural masterpieces under watchful eyes.
Protect and Serve If you think you’re going to have it tough maneuvering around the Capitol on Inauguration Day, just be glad you don’t have to feed the masses. Top local caterers don’t only have to worry about preparing canapés and pressing linens—they have to navigate the rigid security surrounding Obama’s fête, which means jumping through hoops unimaginable to most party planners. Site managers and catering teams met with the U.S. Secret Service weeks before this month’s ball-a-palooza and staffers and servers have already been vetted to gain the appropriate security clearances. “The Secret Service sets the schedule for the day,” says Susan Lacz, CEO of Ridgewells Catering (ridgewells.com), which has been working inaugurations since Kennedy took office. Security forces dictate the catering timeline by defining when a building will be cleared out for a full-scale safety check. “You work backwards from when they are doing the sweep,” Lacz explains. “It’s all very methodical when you’re talking about protecting the President.” With the T-minus-zero hour in place, the race begins to get all the essential ingredients for an affair into the site. Knowing that many of the streets will be blocked off more than 24 hours before the event itself, some outfitters, such as Windows Catering (catering.com), are planning to begin bringing in supplies as early as the Friday before the Tuesdaynight event. “That includes refrigeration units and every table and chair, piece of china, flatware and linens,” says Andrew Gerstel, Windows’s vice president. And that’s not the minutiae. All of the Windows chefs will be sending their knives to the site the night before, many in locked cases, as
| By Janelle Nanos | Photography by Patrick King |
they obviously wouldn’t pass through the magnetometers on the day of the event. A big part of the day is “making sure we don’t have the need for extra deliveries or missing items,” Gerstel says. Frederik de Pue of 42nd Degree (42cateringservices.com) underscores the plan-ahead point. “There’s no way you can say ‘Let me run and get it,’” to the Secret Service, he says. “Once we’re inside the building, we cannot get outside again.” Getting the food in is another hurdle. Because no commercial vehicles will be allowed in alleyways or loading docks, Gerstel’s team plans to bring in about 20 massive refrigerators in advance to prepare for the arrival of the perishables. Anticipation is key. One of de Pue’s sites is so close to the White House, his team will be pushing carts laden with filet mignons, lobster tails and other A-list entrée items through the streets at 4. A strange sight for sure. But it comes a close second to what happens later in the kitchen: Secret Service agents will be overseeing the preparation of the President’s meal and tasting the food to ensure it hasn’t been tainted. And you thought restaurant critics were tough. And you gala-goers will get a taste of such treatment when you line up to pass security, regardless of the climate on January 20. “When we were doing Kennedy’s inauguration it snowed like crazy,” Lacz recalls. The snow was so bad that Clarence “Slim” Ellis, husband of Fifi Ridgewell, had to carry Mrs. Kennedy over a snowbank into the DC Armory, where Frank Sinatra was waiting to perform for the inaugural ball, says Lacz. “No one would be able to get that close to a president’s wife today.”
MODELS: ALI ZAKA AND DARRON MAKROKANIS, T.H.E ARTIST AGENCY; MAKEUP BY KATHY ARAGON, T.H.E ARTIST AGENCY, USING MAKEUP FOREVER; ON ALI, SUIT, SHIRT AND TIE BY Z ZEGNA; ON DARIN, SHIRT AND TIE BY Z ZEGNA, SUIT BY DOLCE & GABBANA, ALL AVAILABLE AT SAKS FIFTH AVENUE THE MEN’S STORE, CHEVY CHASE. SUGAR SCULPTURE BY LAURENT LHULLIER OF WINDOWS CATERING
Inaugural catering is hardly a piece of cake