BUFFALO, N.Y. – Attention admirers and followers of
Western New York cuisine: The University at Buffalo’s
students, its affordability and overall warmth weren’t the
only things on campus to grab national attention during President
Obama’s dramatic visit.
Also attracting network kudos: UB’s presidential cake.
For sure, this was not just any cake. This one, displayed and
served subtly in the national press area – adjacent to the
obligatory wings and more progressive healthy choice roasted
vegetables – was a cake fit for a president. “Welcome
President Obama,” the culinary calligraphers at UB’s
Three Pillars Catering wrote with patriotic-colored frosting.
In the forefront of the commemorative 24-by-18-inch cake
(chocolate and vanilla marble with ample buttercream frosting) was
UB’s baked version of the presidential seal – in
frosting, of course -- complete with an eagle with a shield at its
breast and holding ceremonial arrows in its talons.
Included in the steady stream of the stories and dispatches
filed by the scores of reporters attending Obama’s speech was
one on the cake. It left a deep impression on CNN Senior White
House Photojournalist Mark Walz, who entitled his CNN political
ticker post “In the eye of the cameraman: This takes the
“In all my years of covering the President,” Walz
wrote, “I've never seen a caterer present a sheet cake like
this one pictured here. At lunch, Three Pillars Catering brought
out a marbled cake with a welcome message and the Presidential
Seal. The decorating alone took them an hour and a half, according
to Laurie Richeal of Three Pillars. How'd it taste? While it looked
good enough to eat, I stuck to my diet and took a pass… the
‘road food’ covering this beat adds up.”
Walz’s discipline over not tasting the cake
notwithstanding, his approving blog post was a sweet treat to
Campus Dining, who supervises Three Pillars Catering and won kudos
for their staff’s hospitality as well as its hot meal.
“It's not every day that Three Pillars Catering gets to
make a cake for a Presidential visit to the University at
Buffalo,” said Raymond Kohl, marketing manager for UB Campus
Dining & Shops. “So when the opportunity arose, Laurie
Richeal, bakery manager, and her team went to work to create a
The cake wasn’t the first time UB’s catering service
notched national attention. A few years ago, culinary celebrity
Rachel Ray featured a farewell meal for the departing high school
graduate who is college bound in her Every Day with Rachel Ray
magazine, with UB pennants and admissions office stationery
adorning the layout. In tribute to the magazine spread, UB Campus
Dining immediately put together a special campus meal featuring the
dishes Ray used in her magazine, and invited students and members
of the community to a one-time-only, dining experience.
And the campus’ newest facility, the Crossroads Culinary
Center, has earned accolades both on campus and off campus for its
scope, selection and style.
Walz’s musing about Three Pillars’ catering
didn’t stop with the cake.
“I first started covering the White House beat for CNN in
1988, during President Reagan's last year in office,” he
wrote. “Ever since then, through all 50 states and 80
different countries, I've followed the man that lives at 1600
Pennsylvania Ave. At most of those presidential events, a local
caterer is hired to supply meals for a hungry press corps as we
have little time to run to get anything (paid for by the news
organizations) and as a result we are well fed.
“Most of the time local fare is highlighted. In New
Orleans, I have had jambalaya and ribs in Memphis and Buffalo wings
in Buffalo, New York. Yes, today I am in Buffalo, at the University
at Buffalo. It's the first stop of President Obama's two-day bus
tour through New York and Pennsylvania.”
For Kohl, seeing the full-color picture of his staff’s
cake on the CNN site was a perfect ending to an exhausting but
memorable and successful day.
“I certainly felt very proud for our bakery and catering
department,” Kohl said. “Just to create something that
drew national attention from someone who is experienced, been
around and who travels with the president so much. For him to make
those comments, it was fantastic.”