Someone’s in the kitchen with ... Bush
February 2, 2009 · Updated 11:28 PM
Ian Anderson, presidential chef, fires things up at Foundation House
At the time, Ian Anderson said he was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
He remembers one occasion where his boss sent a helicopter to pick him up during the middle of his son’s football game.
“Crazy, stupid stuff like that, but that’s how it went,” Anderson said.
Anderson isn’t a doctor who was needed for a medical emergency. He’s not a politician who was suddenly faced with some sort of crisis.
But he certainly worked for a politician who no doubt faced a crisis or two. And apparently got hungry along the way.
Beginning on Dec. 24 1999, when former President George W. Bush was still Texas governor, Anderson became the executive chef at Bush’s then-newly purchased ranch in Crawford, Texas, a spot that eventually became famous as Bush’s home away from the White House.
Anderson spent the next six years preparing meals for the Bush family, but also a few visitors such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Mexico’s Vicente Fox, along with plenty of U.S. dignitaries, including household names like Colin Powell.
After his time at Crawford, Anderson was invited to take a job at the White House. He opted for something a little quieter, returning to Bothell where he has had a home for 20 years and family a lot longer. He spent some time working for a cruise tour company, grilling a quarter-million pounds of salmon during the six months he spent every year in Alaska.
In December, Anderson decided he wanted to stick closer to home and took a position as the head chef for the retirement community Foundation House at Bothell.
“This could not have been a better fit for me,” Anderson said, adding he is looking forward to the challenge of maintaining culinary creativity while serving residents who may eat 600 to 700 meals a year in the community’s upscale dining room.
Born in Seattle, Anderson’s first real professional job was with a cruise line. A co-worker went to Washington, D.C. for a job and that connection led Anderson to apply for the Crawford position. The move was somewhat of a natural, as his wife at the time had family in nearby Waco.
The application process took six months, Anderson said, and involved a bit of a background check.
“They found, they talked to people I hadn’t even seen in 20 years,” Anderson added. Visiting for an interview, Anderson was stopped well outside the ranch by two men in SWAT gear who knew exactly who he was.
Once he got the gig, Anderson said he spent most of his working time taking care of Bush and his immediate family. Anderson added that among recent presidents, Bush probably spent more time away from the White House than any other. And Crawford was his retreat, his place to relax. Anderson talked about the president fishing for perch or driving his truck around the ranch, the latter being something that apparently made the omnipresent Secret Service a bit nervous.
Anderson also mentioned Bush in jeans, joining him to grill steaks on the patio.
“He was a meat-and-potatoes guy,” Anderson said, adding the Bush family in general wanted simple foods during their Crawford visits.
The family were fans of Anderson’s deep-fried jalapenos.
Anderson said one of the most amazing things was watching Bush and his inevitable entourage arrive. Usually flying in by helicopter, Bush would land at a spot about 16 miles from the ranch. Anderson said a small army of military and Secret Service worked to move Bush and his family from there to Crawford.
“It was unbelievable,” Anderson said. “You see it on TV but ... I can’t even really describe it.”
Besides cooking for Bush and his family, Anderson prepared meals for Secret Service or maybe the occasional commando squad about to head to Nicaragua. Naturally, he also oversaw his share of state dinners at the ranch. But he said there were often casual affairs for visiting dignitaries. Russian President Putin was a bit of a regular.
“He was very comical,” Anderson said. “One-on-one, he was this gem.”
Talkative and amiable, Anderson clearly has plenty of stories he could share about his presidential experiences. But his first comments were on how the Bush family and the Secret Service treated his wife and two children.
“They were always looking out for my wife and kids,” Anderson said.
Unannounced to the Anderson family, the Secret Service went to their children’s schools, presenting them with signed Presidential certificates and Secret Service badges.
“They didn’t have to do that,” Anderson said. “The kids were just blown away.”