Cooking for the commander in chief is a privilege, but it’s no big thing.
So says Chris Fischer, chef at the Beach Plum Inn in Menemsha, where President Obama and Michelle Obama dined Tuesday evening amid heavy security and the prying eyes of some patrons who couldn’t help but look on as POTUS sipped a Grey Goose martini and ate lobster.
“We do exactly what we do for every other table,” said Fischer, 33, a Martha’s Vineyard native and culinary wunderkind who has returned to the island after cooking in London, Italy, and for a few years at Mario Batali’s ballyhooed New York restaurant Babbo.
So unaffected by the elephant, er, donkey in the room was Fischer that he didn’t even prepare the president’s meal himself, letting his staff fix the lobster — butterflied and roasted — and the first lady’s dish of Menemsha mussels. Both ordered North Tabor Farm salads to start, and Michelle Obama had a glass of white wine. (The Beach Plum Inn is BYO, so the first couple did just that.)
Because the Obamas had eaten at the Beach Plum Inn during previous Vineyard vacations, it was a good bet they’d be back this time. But they don’t make reservations. The only indications that the president is on his way are the Secret Service and state troopers who begin showing up at the restaurant two hours before his arrival. (They also stand in the kitchen as the food is prepared.)
The Beach Plum Inn, which is owned by Bob Nixon, son of “All My Children” creator Agnes Nixon, is accustomed to supping celebrities. In recent months, the restaurant has hosted food writer Michael Pollan, fashion photographer Bruce Weber, actor Bill Murray, writer/comedian Larry David, and Blue Heron Farm owner Lord Norman Foster. (Fischer’s BFF Jake Gyllenhaal was in for three nights in July, but he was there to help out in the kitchen, not to eat.)
But that doesn’t mean other Beach Plum patrons were nonchalant about seeing the president. A few people approached Obama at his table and one intrepid admirer even took a flash photo from across the dining room.
“I thought it was weird but it’s inevitable,” said Danielle Pattavina, who waited on the first couple. “It’s the president. People are psyched. What are you going to do?”
One diner who kept his distance was Northampton attorney and Obama fund-raiser Tom Lesser, who happened to be at the restaurant with his wife, Maggie Spiegel, and their daughters Grace and Elisabeth. Obama stopped to say hello and, before leaving, took a quick selfie with the girls. Patrons applauded as the president and first lady departed.
Wednesday, it was back to the golf course for Obama. He teed off at 11 a.m. with a group that included World Bank president Jim Kim, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, who later hosted a reception for the president at his Vineyard home.
While Obama hit the links, some on the island headed to the Martha’s Vineyard Forum hosted by Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree. This year’s event, called “Take Two Aspirin: Race, Place and Health in the 21st Century,” paid tribute to civil rights icon Harry Belafonte, and featured a host of academics and medical professionals, including Harvard Medical School professor and former Bill Cosby collaborator Dr. Alvin Poussaint.
Wednesday night, Harvard professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates hosted a private screening in Vineyard Haven of the new film, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”