The Houstonian Hotel has been whipping up Barbara Bush’s chocolate chip cookies since 2016.
“They’re sweet and firm,” Catherine Rodriguez, head pastry chef at the Houstonian, recently told CultureMap—two adjectives many would use to describe the former First Lady herself.
Following Bush's death at the age of 92 last week, the Houstonian has been treating guests to her “famous” chocolate chip cookies in her honor. “We’ve been baking and giving away thousands of Mrs. Bush’s cookies since her passing,” Rodriguez said.
The cookie recipe was a favorite of the Bush family matriarch, who reportedly got it from a dear friend. In 1992, she even submitted it to Family Circle’s “presidential bake-off” competition. Years later, Houstonian staff discovered the recipe and approached Bush one day while she was visiting.
“She was having lunch here at our restaurant, Olivette,” Rodriguez recalled to CultureMap. “We asked her if we could use it at the hotel. She said she would be honored and she was flattered that we even asked.”
Now, the cookies are given as holiday treats to visiting children, dignitaries, and hotel clients. Their label reads: “These cookies are made with gracious permission from Mrs. Bush.”
Rodriguez has worked at the Houstonian for 11 years, and says the secret is in the oats and the Valrhona chocolate chips—which she called the “best chocolate chips available.”
“They’re great because they have a distinct taste, with the oats and specialty chocolate chips,” she noted. “But they’re not a soft, fluffy, cookie.”
Rodriguez says Barbara and George Sr, who called the hotel home for some time during the 1980s, became like “family” to the Houstonian staff. “This was a special place for them; they would come in all the time. I found them to be so down-to-earth. They knew every server by name. I’ve been thinking a lot about her this week, and what great role models she and her husband were. They were humble, really wonderful people.”
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