Here’s What’s on the Cinco de Mayo White House Menu

Chef Johnny Hernandez will be cooking up a Mexican-themed feast in the First Kitchen. We’ve included some basic recipes, but his own variations on these traditional dishes are still a secret.

By Becky FogelMay 5, 2016 10:03 am

San Antonio chef Johnny Hernandez will join the likes of Nora Pouillon, José Andrés, Bobby Flay and Mario Batali as one of the many honorable guest chefs to serve at the White House. This evening, the Obamas will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo in style with traditional Mexican fare and some delicious Tres Leches cake.

Hernandez is the owner of several restaurants in San Antonio, with other locations in the Houston airport and one in Las Vegas.

Edmund Tijerina, food and drink editor at the San Antonio Express-News, says guesting at the White House is a huge honor for Hernandez.

“Johnny is the first chef, not only from San Antonio, but I believe he’s the first chef from Texas to cook at the White House,” Tijerina says.

While there have been other Texan chefs that have cooked for White House events, there haven’t been any in the White House kitchen.

Tijerina says the guest chef idea is still pretty new. Other presidents have mostly kept staff chefs, but President Barack Obama broke the mold.

Guest chefs get strict instructions. Hernandez will have every ingredient he needs at his disposal. He won’t be able to bring any of his own tools or foods, but he will get full use of the kitchen.

“Apparently it’s a very small kitchen and not a big staff,” Tijerina says. “But there’s a whole lot of volunteers.”

What’s for dinner? Hernandez shared some of his planned menu with Tijerina:

Chiles en Nogada
This is a classic dish from the State of Pueblo in Mexico, where Cinco de Mayo had its origins, when the Mexican army defeated the French. The dish is more traditionally cooked on Mexican Independence day on Sept. 16. Chile poblanos are stuffed with a mixture of dried fruits and beef, topped off with a walnut sauce.

Fruit gazpacho
Gazpacho is a cold fruit cocktail from the city of Morelia, in the State of Michoacán. It’s often made with mango, piña and jugo de naranja.

Chicken tinga
This dish is shredded chicken in a tomato chile chipotle sauce. It’s a little spicy but very classic Mexican.

Pineapple empanadas
Empanadas are a Central American pastry filled with sweet or savory ingredients. Common fillings include pumpkin, yams, choriqueso and chicken.

Pastel de Tres Leches
This is a moist sweet cake made traditionally with “La Lechera” or a brand of condensed milk. There’s lots of heavy cream, evaporated milk, rum or brandy and butter.

Have your own favorite recipes for these dishes? Let us know by tweeting us @TexasStandard.

Prepared for web by Beth Cortez-Neavel.