Let them eat pie.
Bill Yosses, the White House executive chef to the Obamas, has opened his first New York restaurant this week on the Upper East Side. Palais by Perfect Pie is a French-American bistro, where you can order the same pies President Barack Obama loved on the menu.
Seasonal pies such as apple and pecan are currently available, but diners can also expect to find pumpkin, blueberry and even savory ones as the options expand. On the savory side, Chef du Cuisine Marcos Gonzalez adds American touches to a menu focused on classic French fare. There’s snapper Provençale, coq au vin and roasted duck breast to showcase the more traditional bistro items. But there’s also grilled flatbread pizza, the Palais burger and cavatelli pasta. Palais, which is French for palate, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The bi-level space seats 75 and is still awaiting a liquor license.
But it’s the fresh pies that take center stage. As a pastry chef, Yosses baked countless pies for the Obamas. At one Thanksgiving, the Obama family famously served about half a dozen types of pies.
“I feel like I passed some test of mastery. Obama said that it was basically the only dessert he liked,” says Yosses, who added in an interview with Time Out New York that the former president’s favorite was banana cream pie at the start of his first term but that he later ate more fruit pies.
After leaving his White House position, Yosses launched an online business in 2015 called Perfect Pie. Oprah was an early fan and more recently, he went on to cater several Broadway shows, from the meat pies served in Sweeney Todd to the more recent play Network starring Bryan Cranston. Now he’s found a brick-and-mortar with Palais by Perfect Pie, which he opened with his husband Charlie Fabella Jr. and pastry chef John Wu.
Yosses’ restaurant is located in a storied space. It’s been a French restaurant for more than 70 years and was also home to Jean Jacques Rachou’s Le Lavandou, which Yosses dined at in the 80’s. Rachou, who later also opened the legendary fine-dining French restaurant La Côte Basque, helped develop the menu here.
“It’s like having Escoffier in the kitchen with you,” says Yosses, referring to the famed chef widely credited for formalizing traditional French cooking methods used in kitchens across the world today, including Rachou’s former New York restaurants.
French cooking played a significant role in Yosses career. He spent the early years of his career in France before becoming the White House Executive Pastry Chef from 2007 to 2014. He also worked on Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, which aimed to help improve the health of children through exercise and better diets.
The Obamas were always health conscious, according to Yosses, but toward the end of the presidency, the family “limited the desserts to a couple days a week.”
“The pies were less frequent,” says Yosses. “But you’ve got to have a dessert once in a while.”
Palais by Perfect Pie is located at 134 E. 61st St., New York, NY 10065. It is open 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday.