President Trump’s reluctant foray into culinary diplomacy

May 19, 2017

President Donald Trump does not like going out for dinner.

“As far as we know, he’s only dined out twice as president," says Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema, “and both times at his own restaurant in the Trump hotel, where he inevitably orders steak, which he inevitably gets well-done.”

Trump might be forced out of his comfort zone soon, though.

On Friday, he embarked on his first foreign trip, with stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican City, Belgium and Italy all on the itinerary. This nine-day journey will likely involve more than a few state dinners, banquets and working lunches.

It’s already been announced that Saudi Arabia will accommodate the president by serving his favorite meal: steak with a side of ketchup.

“Of course, if he wants the local food, he can have it,” says Sietsema, “but there is meat set aside, or prepared especially for him, in case he would like to eat as he prefers to eat.”

But Trump’s pickiness isn’t just about taste, it’s also about hygiene.

“I think he’s a bit of a clean freak,” says Sietsema. “Food safety is a big priority for him. In fact, he ate a lot of fast food on the campaign trail because cleanliness was something that was associated with fast food chains. You know, 'One bad hamburger, and you can destroy McDonald's,’ he said.”

The other reason Trump might not like dining out much is because he likes to eat quickly.  

“He hoovers his food. He’s not someone who really enjoys the pleasure of the table,” says Sietsema. “He likes to sit down, eat and be done in under an hour.”

In the next week, the president will most likely be spending more time around a table than he's used to. Sietsema, who breaks bread professionally, has some tips to help get him through. 

“For the sake of diplomacy, world peace and everything else," he says, "I would advise him to chew slowly, and listen.”

From PRI's The World ©2017 PRI