WASHINGTON All eyes will be on new social secretary Juliana Smoot tonight, as she executes the first state dinner of her tenure, which began back in February when former secretary Desiree Rogers left the position following the infamous crasher scandal from the administration's first state dinner. Being held at the White House for guest of honor Mexican President Felipe Calderon, this dinner is said to have 200 guests (smaller than the last state dinner's 320 headcount) and to be taking place indoors in the East Room, with noted Chicago chef (and Top Chef Masters winner) Rick Bayless helming the menu.
Leading the decor charge is New York-based producer David Monn, whose past work includes the Library Lions benefit, the Met's Costume Insitute gala, and the Plaza's 100 birthday celebration. In addition to creating the dinner's look, Monn will also be producing the dessert and entertainment portion of the evening, held in a tent on the South Lawn.
Bayless follows chef Marcus Samuelsson, who prepared the meal for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's November state dinner. Bayless is already receiving some flack for posting details about the event to Twitter with musings like “The White House staff could not be nicer&more professional! Most worried about ingredients, but all will b here 4 big day! Super excited” and “Thanks 2 the 100s of well wishers! Ready 4 day 2 n rather small White House kitchen. Chef was challenged by some ingred, but last arrive 2day.”
The Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet picked up the story, commenting, “The Chicago cooking superstar is so big the White House cannot muzzle him and force him into the background.” (To which Bayless responded via Twitter, “Lynn Sweet @ Sun Times made up this very offensive story. I NEVER Tweet from WH, which I KNOW is not permitted. Apology?")
Though the White House has issued a “no comment” policy regarding any state dinner details, ABC News reported that Bayless has leaked that he'll be preparing a mole that requires more than 20 ingredients, herbs and lettuces sourced from the White House garden will be incorporated, and strawberries from a local farm are on tap for dessert.