Her claim to fame: Cooking for a president
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor
Tuesday, 08 January 2013 08:41
PEMBERVILLE - Earlier this year, hometown girl Brenna Bailey was trusted to cook breakfast for no less a personage than the president of the United States.
|Brenna Bailey of Pemberville with her Malibu liquor reduced mandarin orange crepes. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
So I'm inclined to take any breakfast recipe she wants to offer for the Cook's Corner and run with it - straight to the kitchen.
That's even before tasting her flavor-bursting Mandarin orange crepes, which are the last word in breakfast decadence for a lazy January weekend in your jammies.
Actually, Barack Obama's menu was considerably less exalted when Bailey cooked for him during his Labor Day stay at the Toledo Hilton Hotel, one stop in a busy stint on the campaign trail.
But that didn't lessen the pressure on the 24-year-old one whit.
"I had the White House chef standing behind me the whole time," she noted. "I think his name was John."
Bailey never saw Obama in person. As soon as she had finished preparing his meal of eggs, sausage and toast, the White House chef whipped it straight up to the president who ate in his own suite and not the dining room, of course.
"I made him his over-easy eggs and sausage patty with wheat toast and they (chef and Secret Service personnel) just stood over and watched to make sure everything was prepared how he liked it."
Bailey was surprised that she was required to cook his three separate eggs in three separate pans. "I would normally cook them in one pan and be done with it, but I was not in charge."
The White House chef brought his own eggs and his own sugar packets, which Bailey was instructed to use.
As she fried the main course, the White House chef cut up fresh watermelon and cantaloupe for Obama, and the two chatted.
"He said he had cooked for Clinton and for Bush, too. He was a nice guy; just a little thing."
Bailey's memorable day began early.
"I got there at 4 o'clock in the morning that day. I had to get checked out by security" including having her car gone over by bomb-sniffing dogs. Agents "took everything out of my vehicle, the trunk, and even had the hood up so the dogs could sniff there."
She wasn't actually cooking until 9 a.m., with Obama's first scheduled event a 10:30 appearance at Scott High School.
The run-up to the big day was also pretty exciting for the Hilton employees.
"We had the Secret Service in the hotel for two weeks, scoping out the place, and I cooked for them for breakfast" for the entire time.
The agents weren't fussy; they ordered off the menu.
"They loved our buffalo burgers. They were big eaters; we probably sold 30 or 40 of those a day."
The Hilton has since renamed the room their famous guest occupied the Obama Presidential Suite and Bailey is back to cooking for slighter smaller fry.
"It was a very cool experience to cook for a sitting president. I may not have voted for the man, but it was cool, nonetheless."
For truly royal - not just presidential - treatment, give Bailey's Mandarin orange crepes a try.
"They're different than other crepe toppings."
She invented the recipe two years ago and has made it for family and an ex-boyfriend. Her parents, sister and two brothers were all highly enthusiastic.
"Mandarin oranges are one of my very favorite things. I wanted to do something different with the crepe topping. I had a bottle of Malibu coconut rum sitting out and I thought 'what if I combined that with the mandarin oranges and some sugar?' It turned out pretty good."
Bailey had it for her own birthday dinner, she loved it so much. "I made everybody eat my pancakes."
She promises that the crepes are "easy enough that anybody can do it. You just have to be old enough to buy the alcohol."
They rank "about a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10" for difficulty. "I cook more difficult dishes, but at home I like to keep it pretty easy."
A 2006 Eastwood High School graduate who is currently living back in the family's historic Front Street house, she started her formal training at the Columbus Culinary Institute.
"I'm a college dropout, but I have continued in my field," cooking at several places prior to the Hilton, including at Levis Commons in Perrysburg.
"With what I do, I get instant gratification. I go out into the dining room and I see I have happy customers. That's what does it for me."
Mandarin orange crepes
1 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
Blend until smooth and creamy
1 12oz can mandarin oranges (drained)
1/2 cup Malibu coconut rum
1/2 cup sugar
Cook down together until you have a loose jelly-like consistency.
1 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
Let sit for half hour, stir before using.
Heat crepe pan. Lightly grease. Measure about 1/4 cup batter into pan. Tilt pan to spread batter. Once crepe has lots of little bubbles, loosen any edges with spatula. Flip crepe over. This side cooks quickly. Slide crepe from pan to plate.
Put filling in center of crepe, roll up and ladle topping over. Enjoy warm.