White House Chef Mystery – Affairs of Steak
By Julie Hyzy
I’m a huge fan of all things White House and even though I’ve been a fan for a very long time, it wasn’t until I started writing the WHITE HOUSE CHEF MYSTERY SERIES that I really got my geek on.
My protagonist, Olivia (Ollie) Paras is the executive chef in my fictional White House. Not only that, she’s the first female to hold the position. Several years ago—just before Ollie was “born”—Laura Bush appointed Cristeta Comerford as the real executive chef of the real White House. As you can imagine, I’ve become a bit of a Cristeta geek as well…
I’ve visited the White House several times on guided tours. Shortly after the first book in the series, STATE OF THE ONION, came out, I was in Washington, D.C. for a conference. I took some time out to wander past the White House (I hadn’t been able to schedule a tour), and found myself getting a little choked up. I stared through the fence thinking about my Ollie. This was where she spent all her time. This was her life. I was overwhelmed by the sense that Ollie was a real, flesh and blood human.
One thing I strive to do above all else is to make Ollie’s stories believable. Now, I recognize that having the White House chef involved in a thriller-cozy where she dodges bad guys, discovers bombs, and thwarts conspiracies isn’t exactly realistic, but I do my best to keep White House details as authentic as possible. I have taken liberties now and then and, when I can’t find specific answers, I hazard a guess. I’ve been happily surprised to discover that quite a few of my guesses have proved accurate. Maybe the fact that I do so much research has allowed me to channel protocol.
Here’s a photo of just a few of the books I own. I’ve read or consulted all of them at one time or another. I didn’t take pictures of the documentaries I’ve recorded over the years, mostly because a photo of black VHS tapes is, well, boring.
What’s very cool is that my family knows how much of a White House geek I’ve become. My brother and his partner found these treasures at an estate sale. They’re reproductions of Presidential china. Aren’t they gorgeous? They’re smaller than average dinner plates, but accurate depictions of the china various presidents authorized during their terms.
Friends and readers are always sending me books, or links, or suggestions. I love every moment of learning about the inner workings of the White House. I keep dreaming that some day I’ll be invited to visit—a real visit, not just a tour with “no purse, no pen, no camera” rules to follow. I’d love to be able to see the areas off limits to visitors, to take pictures. Wouldn’t it be fabulous to be able to observe the kitchen staff as they work their magic? Some day, I keep telling myself. Some day.
In the newest book in the series, AFFAIRS OF STEAK (released yesterday), Ollie is assigned to work with the White House sensitivity director, Peter Everett Sargeant. These two haven’t gotten along since he was hired in book one. He’s smug, persnickety, and thoroughly unpleasant. But when the two enemies become involved in a murder investigation, they learn to grudgingly co-exist. They have to, if they want to stay alive. AFFAIRS also follows Ollie as she pursues the romantic relationship that began in BUFFALO WEST WING. It’s a busy book—but then again, it’s Ollie’s life.
I’m thrilled to have been able to pop in here today and share my White House geekiness with you. If you ever have a link, a book, a DVD, or even contact for a staffer to share, please feel free. I can’t ever get enough!