Waynesville resident recalls being personal chef for Bill and Hillary ClintonMilroy: "Hillary Clinton was political powerhouse behind Bill Clinton"
When now Waynesville resident Mark Milroy was a 15 and living in Yorkshire, England, he was offered an executive chef apprenticeship. He jumped at the golden opportunity. However, as a sprite and ambitious 15-year-old, he had no idea that his cooking experience would one day cook up some interesting life adventures he would never have dreamed of.
At only age 20, he earned his “black cap” as an executive chef in Manchester, England, which opened doors all over England, France and Spain to gain even more experience as a chef. In Cumberland, England, he cooked for Bob Hope and Bing Crosby before eventually moving to the States in 1972, originally to San Diego before making his way to Waynesville in 2007.
Some of the famous people he has cooked for over the years in the States include Jenny Craig, Clint Eastwood, Alfred Hitchcock and Ted Kennedy.
However, he is most known in the States for serving as a personal chef for former President Clinton and his family for three years in the mid 1990s at the Clinton’s personal vacation home on Coronado Island in San Diego. At this sprawling home complete with a hair salon, massage parlor and an Olympic-sized swimming pool, Milroy cooked for 100 people at a time including the Clinton’s FBI team members plus the Clinton family and their friends.
“My first impression of the Clinton’s was that they were very, very nice and down to earth,” observed Milroy. “The first morning I cooked for them, I expected that they would come down and eat breakfast in the dining room but, instead, they came into the kitchen with me and ate with me and talked with me. They didn’t want anything fancy.”
As the Clinton’s ate eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, omelets and fresh fruit, they would look over the newspaper and chat with Milroy about what was happening in the world. Usually, though, they didn’t discuss politics and seemed to Milroy to be business people relaxing on vacation.
“I guess they were on vacation so they had enough of politics and seemed to just enjoy normal life,” he said.
Often they joked with Milroy.
“One time I had cooked lunch and his butler said they were ready to eat. When I went into the dining room to serve the food, I couldn’t find anyone and they had hid in the secret doors in the dining room as a joke on me,” he recalled.
When a political situation did arise during their vacations, Milroy remembers Hillary Clinton being a very strong politician.
“She was definitely the political powerhouse behind Mr. Clinton and was always two steps ahead of him – scrutinizing all the speeches and everything like that,” said Milroy.
“I also remember her being a real good mother and a good wife,” he added.
He recalls former President Clinton as an extremely nice man who got along with him as his buddy. He wasn’t a fussy eater according to Milroy, but he absolutely loved his Mexican food like enchiladas, tamales, refried beans and cheese, tacos and salsa. In fact, the first time Milroy cooked up a Mexican dish for dinner, Bill Clinton joked with Milroy when he asked him, “Now where is the Mexican who cooked this food?" and "Do you have him hidden in the house?”
One time when the presidential team was headed back to the White House, Mr. Clinton sent one of the FBI members back into the house with some direct, strict orders. “I remember the FBI man said to me, ‘President Clinton says that we absolutely cannot leave the airfield until he gets some more of your Mexican food to go,’ so I fixed him a huge array of Mexican food for his return flight,” said Milroy with a laugh.
“I missed them very much when my time with them was over,” he added, noting that former President Clinton gave him one of his tie pins and a presidential cap as memorabilia.
Although Milroy is now enjoying retirement in the North Carolina mountains, he does often miss the hustle and bustle that comes along with being an executive chef and still enjoys cooking scrumptious meals like his favorite meal of prime rib, roasted potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, brown gravy and sweet peas, topped off with a dessert of raspberry, blueberry and blackberry pie. He can also often be seen working out at the Waynesville Recreation Center where he stays active as a senior.
“The people down there at the Waynesville Recreation Center have really welcomed me to the area and I have appreciated them a lot,” Milroy said.
Looking back on the 52 years of being an executive chef – from age 15 to age 67 – Milroy says his favorite part of those 15-hour days and cooking for up to 500 people at a time was when customers were served and completely satisfied.
“When I was on the job, I was totally involved in it – I liked the excitement and even the pressure and the overall achievement of it all and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat,” he said.
To chat with Milroy, call 452-9314.